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Cloud Empowerment at USAID: A 10-Year Success Story

When it comes to information technology modernization efforts, agencies have to develop holistic strategies that match their evolving needs without compromising their ability to carry out their mission. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) mission is to help others, but when it came to technological transformation, USAID had to start by helping itself.

Let’s take a look at how USAID became the vanguard for smart cloud adoption in support of a complex, global mission.

A Legacy of Innovation

For nearly a decade, USAID has strategically deployed cloud technology to enable and scale its operations both at home and abroad. Working in some of the more challenging locations around the world, USAID often operates in low network connectivity bandwidth environments that present their own unique security vulnerabilities.

To operate in these harsh operational conditions, USAID adopted cloud technology early. In 2010 they moved to cloud-based email, messaging, and collaboration tools. In 2012, USAID completed nearly all of the goals of the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) when it consolidated to a single enterprise data center.

Data Consolidated, Optimized, and Secured

Most recently in 2018, USAID successfully migrated the enterprise data center to a hybrid cloud solution with full disaster recovery capability. The new USAID Enterprise Data Center/Disaster Recovery (EDC/DR) solution provides government Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as well as redundancy for USAID’s network and business-critical systems.

USAID can now use more modern technology like scalable, on-demand resources; no restrictions for memory, processing, and storage; and the ability to restore data in several hours versus days or weeks. Using tagging in the cloud environments will enhance USAID’s ability to comply with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) and Technology Business Management reporting requirements. Finally, the cloud solution is FedRAMP-authorized, ensuring the new infrastructure services meet rigorous security standards.

Working with GSA

USAID used IT Schedule 70 for its EDC/DR infrastructure acquisition.

USAID sought to acquire public and government IaaS as standardized, highly automated infrastructure services owned by cloud service providers (CSPs) and offered to USAID on demand.

Before the award, the USAID engineering team performed an analysis of alternatives (AoA) backed by thorough market research. The AoA recommended a hybrid cloud solution to meet USAID’s EDC/DR requirements.

A high-level design that could connect to both public and government IaaS CSP was proposed in the AoA by the engineering team. It suggested two co-locations on opposite ends of the country to ensure operational and geophysical redundancy. A RFQ (Request for Quote) guided by the AoA and EDC/DR requirements was released for competition. The acquisition was structured so that the co-location IaaS solution was purchased as a commodity owned by the CSP. In this modern virtual data center, USAID leverages high availability system components as a Disaster Recovery solution without additional costs.

Solution Acquired, Results Analyzed

The result is a fully scalable virtual data center, with dynamic policy-driven services and improved performance. All of this comes at a 30% lower cost for operations and maintenance.

With cloud, USAID now can use multiple data centers’ hosting systems, services, applications, and storage without relying on any particular geographic location.

This is critical given that USAID leads the U.S. government’s international development and disaster assistance work in over 80 countries around the globe. These efficiency gains have enabled reinvestment in more advanced and innovative technologies. USAID has matured to being 100% cloud-enabled, using all service models. With no legacy systems to support, the agency can move to new, modern solutions in a much more agile fashion than other federal departments that are weighed down by aging systems and infrastructure.

What Does Your Mission Require?

As a facilitator of USAID’s cloud accomplishments, GSA is here to help your agency use the cloud to achieve its long-term mission and strategic goals. This includes aligning with federal mandates like the new CloudSmart Strategy and leveraging government-wide tools to modernize your IT infrastructure.

To help discover ways that GSA can enable your agency’s mission through cloud, contact cloudinfo@gsa.gov, visit our Cloud Information Center at gsa.gov/cic, or use our IT Solutions Navigator to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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GSA, Customers, and Vendors Meet in Texas for 2019 ITC Acquisition Summit

This August, we brought nearly 300 representatives from government and industry together for our 2019 IT Acquisition Summit. Collaborative events like this are critical to our success in supporting agency missions across government.

We met in Fort Worth, home of GSA’s Greater Southwest Region 7, which spans Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. We used a human-centered design approach to generate open communication and collaboration between GSA and our industry partners. Learning through use-cases and sharing information helps us better understand the challenges and constraints both government and industry have.

The summit was held in coordination with the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC) and moderated by its president, Tom Suder. During the first day, attendees heard from various GSA and industry representatives on popular topics such as cybersecurity, mobility, 5G, emerging tech, and IT modernization. 

Dennis Shingleton, member of the City Council and mayor pro tempore, opened the summit with a boisterous Texas-style welcome.

I moderated the kick-off session with panelists Bill Zielinski, Assistant Commissioner of the IT Category; Anahita Reilly, Chief Customer Officer of the Office of Customer Experience; and Dominic Sale, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Operations for Technology Transformation Services. They discussed GSA’s approach to IT modernization, category management, and shared services.

An afternoon panel from the Mobility Services Category Team discussed the 5G rollout, how it will shape public-sector adoption of Internet of Things applications, and its implications for supply chain security. Allen Hill, director of the Office of Telecommunications, opened the session, and Sam Navarro, program manager of the Enterprise Mobility Program, moderated the panel. Representatives from AT&T, Verizon, MetTel, and T-Mobile discussed the state of mobile technology and how consumers of 5G determine the new ways they will use the technology.

Our summit concluded with opportunities to attend one-on-one sessions with GSA acquisition professionals and an interactive use-case workshop.

We plan on hosting the IT Acquisition Summit again in 2020 — slated for Washington, D.C. The open communication and collaboration in a focused setting foster the type of game-changing ideas we need to continue enhancing IT acquisition for the whole of government.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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*Photographs above by James Wronski, Carahsoft

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GSA Leading the Way for 5G

In July, we gave you a first look at the possibilities of 5th generation wireless technology (5G) in the public sector.

Commercially, 5G devices will deliver voice, video, and data to consumers with unparalleled efficiency for broadband mobility. Providers will upgrade their networks, manufacturers will develop new types of devices, and industry will market products and services around connectivity and mobility.

For the government, a 5G future is more complex since we’ll be tasked with making these technologies useful for everyone. That’s why we’re publishing a white paper on 5G — watch for that after our 5G Technology Customer Event on Oct. 3.

What’s Next for Government 5G

As new technology comes to market, we work with agencies and industry to pair the right wireless solutions to mission needs — focusing on wireless solutions security and cost efficiency.

Schedule 70 SIN 132-53 shows the robust capabilities we bring to the government market:

  • Wireless Carrier Services
  • End Point infrastructure
  • Mobility as a Service (MaaS), a.k.a Device as a Service (DaaS)
  • Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
  • Mobility Backend as a Service (MBaaS)
  • Telecommunications Expense Management System (TEMS)
  • Mobile Application Vetting
  • Mobile Threat Protection
  • Mobile and Identity Management
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

10/3 GSA 5G Event

To learn more about the possibilities of 5G, join us on Oct. 3 at the GSA 5G Government Symposium. We’ll cover:

  • how 5G can help agencies meet their mission,
  • the challenges facing government as we implement this new technology, and
  • how 5G will integrate into today’s networks.

View the agenda. Join us online or in person.

Stay Tuned to 5G

For our next 5G post, we’ll explore how unlicensed and lightly licensed spectrum could affect campus networks.

Until then, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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New OMB Policy Puts Identity Management in Perspective

Identity, Credentialing, and Access Management (ICAM) is the set of security disciplines that allows agencies to manage, monitor, and secure access to protected resources. These resources may be electronic such as files or computer systems, or physical resources such as server rooms and buildings. 

In May of this year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released an updated policy on Identity, Credentialing, and Access Management (ICAM). The policy provides ICAM guidance for the federal government and outlines specific responsibilities for federal agencies.

As one of the agencies that leads governmentwide ICAM efforts, GSA is committed to ensuring the federal government’s long-term viability, security, responsiveness, and efficiency. To do so, we have specific responsibilities regarding the ICAM acquisition solutions we make available to agencies.

ICAM Policy

This ICAM policy comes at a crucial time. The discussion around defining identity is evolving rapidly. Identity is now more than just a person; it is a unique representation of a subject and can include devices like cell phones, tablets, TVs, or any network connected item. Ensuring the right people (or device) have the right credentials and access are paramount.

OMB’s ICAM policy gives the federal government direction by first clarifying what it considers to be identity. The policy further defines what it means to:

  • manage those identities, 
  • provide credentials to not only government employees and contractors but the public as well, and 
  • allow access to the right information systems and physical access to buildings. 

Agency-Level Responsibility

ICAM is now an agency-level responsibility. Agencies’ approach to ICAM should consider governance, architecture, and acquisition. The ICAM policy lays out agency responsibilities to meet policy outcomes accordingly. 

What must agencies do? Here’s a high-level list:

  • Develop an agency-wide ICAM office, which may require more resources. 
  • Assess current ICAM capabilities, identify gaps for new capabilities, and develop plans to transition obsolete capabilities.
  • Use acquisition vehicles such as Best-In-Class, Tier 2, or federal shared services to procure new capabilities.

Also, the ICAM policy specifies responsibilities for agencies that lead governmentwide efforts in identity management. GSA, along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will update to the ICAM guidance and develop ICAM roadmaps. The other agencies’ responsibilities are described within the policy.

GSA is specifically tasked with ensuring all current ICAM solutions and shared services are immediately available for agencies to use to begin meeting policy requirements.

Also, GSA will ensure ICAM acquisition solutions comply with this OMB ICAM policy as well as other relevant laws, standards, and guidance.

GSA’s ICAM Solutions

Agencies can visit GSA’s eLibrary to see the current ICAM SINs on IT Schedule 70 available, which includes the PKI Shared Service Provider (SSP) Program (132-61), HSPD-12 (132-62), and PKI Professional Services (132-60f).

Another important ICAM solution is the USAccess Program. GSA’s USAccess program provides federal government agencies with identity credential solutions. This shared service provides an efficient, economical and secure infrastructure to support agencies’ credentialing needs. Currently, the program supports over 600,000 users and continues to add more users.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the most recent large federal agency to choose USAccess for its identity credentialing solution. When fully operational, this will bring over 500,000 additional cardholders onto the USAccess system.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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