Email as a Service: A Clear Vision into a Cloudy Future

NOTE: Mary Davie is serving as the Acting Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). Her Deputy, Kevin Youel Page, has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Commissioner of the Integrated Technology Service (ITS) during this period.

GSA’s mission is to help save the government time and money, and as acting assistant commissioner of ITS, I take that to heart.  There’s been a lot of talk recently about what GSA is or isn’t doing to help government IT move to the cloud so I thought I’d weigh in.  Helping government move to the cloud is a priority for GSA. Cloud has the ability to transform the way agencies do their work by making them more agile, effective, and efficient. At the end of 2010, OMB tapped GSA to help lead the way in introducing cloud systems to the federal government. The key was understanding how government could take advantage of the cloud’s transformative power.

Along the way, there have been growing pains for both government and industry; however, the transition to cloud is already saving agencies time and money because of GSA’s ongoing efforts to be innovative, collaborative and creative.

Creating comprehensive solutions

We strive to deliver best value and have been working closely with government and industry to create a comprehensive cloud solutions portfolio for use by government agencies looking to save millions of taxpayer dollars typically spent on IT programs. Since 2009, our solutions enabling the acquisition of cloud include governmentwide acquisition vehicles (GWACs), Networx and Schedule 70. Over the past two years, agencies have purchased approximately $175 million in cloud services using our Alliant contract.

Last month GSA announced the availability of our cloud email solution, the Email as a Service (EaaS) BPA, which will allow agencies to order pre-approved cloud- based tools for email, office automation, and electronic records management, as well as the migration and integration services necessary for a swift transition leading to rapid savings. The BPA offers recurring purchasing options at a reduced cost that is also convenient and efficient.

Cloud based email services support the Obama Administration’s mandates and initiatives to bring cloud services into the federal government and reduce the number of federal data centers, which save taxpayer dollars. We estimate that agencies will save 50 percent, about $1 million, annually for every 7,500 users migrated. Last year GSA was the first federal agency to make the move to the cloud using our Alliant GWAC to migrate 17,000 email accounts, saving $2 million to date, with an estimated savings of $15 million over five years.

What makes EaaS even more exciting is that it will leverage GSA’s innovative security program, Federal Risk Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which uses a “do once, use many times” approach to save agencies time and money by providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring. This process allows agencies to avoid the need to conduct its own security assessment, which can cost more than $100,000 and take up to nine months. This could potentially result in $10 million in savings across the government.

Recognizing Innovation

With all the great things GSA is doing, there is still more work to do. I have echoed the challenge of our administrator: when you think you’ve thought big, think bigger. Our cloud team responded by releasing a Cloud Brokerage RFI in August.  This RFI will allow us to pool government and industry’s collective knowledge around cloud acquisition to formulate future innovative and cost-effective solutions.

Cloud Brokerage and our EaaS BPA are already receiving accolades. In fact, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) gave GSA’s collaborative approach to solving the cloud challenge its innovative thinking in government recognition three weeks in a row.

Cloud Migration represents a major shift in the way government conducts business, which means that our acquisition models must continue to evolve. There is a long road ahead, and GSA will be there to support our customers. Our cloud portfolio and efforts to facilitate government-wide cloud migration continues to show that GSA focuses on its core efforts of promoting efficiency, delivering better value, and saving taxpayer dollars.