Reach the last mile with Connections II

Posted by Laura Stanton
on September 24, 2020

In today’s high-tech world, finding the right contract vehicle can mean the difference between getting a task done efficiently and tediously searching the procurement landscape.

Much can be said for an existing contract with a pre-vetted pool of qualified industry partners and efficient ordering procedures. Agencies can depend on Connections II, whether focused on present needs like supporting the demands of a 100% mobile workforce, or future goals, like using 5G networks to coordinate a galaxy of devices.

Opportunities like this do not last forever. In this post we will take a look at one of our proven contracts that is now entering its final phase. Agencies that act now can realize some serious savings!

Connections II is a global, multi-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. This contract makes it easy and cost effective for government agency officials to find, acquire, and implement network infrastructure solutions, including:

  • Infrastructure design, installation, and implementation.
  • Professional services to support existing networks.
  • Upgrading network equipment, standards (including IPv6), and systems.
  • Transition planning and integration services.
  • Customized client-specific systems.

All without the need to create a new contract.

After many years of service, Connections II is approaching the culmination of its period of performance. However, task orders in place by January 18, 2021 can extend for up to five years.

Why Connections II?

With Connections II, you’ll have access to convenient, one-stop shopping to meet agency needs for labor, equipment, and solutions to support telecommunications, networking and network-centric applications at the LAN, building, campus, and enterprise level.

Save Time and Money

Use the inter-agency contract to reduce agency costs and acquisition time, allowing your agency resources to focus more on mission-critical operations. Strong competition means competitive prices. Additionally, your agency may be eligible for tiered pricing.

Integrate Your Enterprise, Worldwide

Connections II helps federal agencies integrate building and campus networks as part of a global infrastructure transport telecommunications solution. It also supports traceability of equipment sources to aid in managing your supply chain.

Get Full-Service Contractor Support

Contractors help agencies determine requirements and support their business goals. Incidental construction is permitted, including integral trenching, wall repair, related electrical, and HVAC.

Access Pool of Qualified Contractors and Small Businesses

Customers have access to a highly qualified set of 19 pre-qualified/pre-selected contractors. You’ll also have the choice among 9 small businesses for making socioeconomic set-asides.

Enjoy Flexibility

As a Connections II customer, you’ll have access to multiple types of task orders. You can choose between self service or GSA-assisted task ordering. Choose from priced contract line item numbers (CLIN) or add unpriced items (anticipated and expected) that are within scope. You can also set your own timelines.

Get Expert Help

Our team understands your technical needs. We have documented sample statements of work (SOWs) and other helpful information on our Resources page. We’ll walk you through the options available as your acquisition strategy develops.

Enable Transition

While the window for Connections II is closing, the door to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is open wide. Included among the resources we offer is a SOW dedicated solely to managing the transition of services from one platform to another or from an old contract to a new contract. Agencies can update their infrastructure using the services provided under Connections II and smooth the way for their transitions to EIS.

For assistance anytime, please contact ConnectionsII@gsa.gov. Ask us how your agency can realize savings and reach the last mile with Connections II!

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

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Total Cost Savings Key in Federal Network Connections

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 14, 2016

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY15. Read previous posts at http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Improving and maintaining reliable and flexible basic connectivity continues to be important for government, including a focus on total cost of ownership savings.

Connections II is the GSA contract agencies use to purchase network integration support and communications equipment to ensure connectivity from the user to the network provider.

FY15 Customer Buying Trends

Federal agencies obligated $172 million to Connections II network integration and support services via 292 task orders in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).

While building and campus connectivity remain the primary purpose of the Connections program, as technology continues to evolve we see a shift in what agencies are ordering. For example, traditional building and campus wiring and cabling projects are now becoming wireless.

Agencies are looking to Connections to support engineering, installation, testing, project management, and life-cycle management of Digital Antenna Systems, Wi-Fi, and other wireless technology that become the user interface to the broader networks of the world.

Connections II purchase data tells us that agencies need continued support and resources in this area. Five service types available from Connections II make up almost 80% of demand. Demand for telecommunications, network upgrades, and general network support were higher priority in FY15 than the year before.

Technology Solution Percentage of Total
Telecom Upgrades 20%
General Support 18%
Voice Operations and Billing Consolidation 15.6%
Unified Communications Expansion 13%
Network Cabling 10.5%

 

Connections II contractors offer strong integration skills, which are important during long upgrades or transition, to watch for technology changes and incorporate them into the final result.

Focus on Total Cost of Ownership Savings

Connections II customers are focusing on solutions that save dollars at both contract award and on long-term operational costs (total cost of ownership).

One agency awarded a large task order in FY15 that achieved more than 10% in labor savings and 40% in equipment savings over listed prices. Other agencies are anticipating more downstream savings as a result of consolidation and modernization.

Agencies are able to save millions with more efficient telecom operations and billing management over several years. They also reduce cost of operations and security, and increase network efficiency by modernizing technology such as nationwide Unified Communications Convergence.

Orders Increasing Year to Year

Demand for solutions from Connections II is growing every year. FY15 obligations represent an increase of 31% in obligations from FY14, and 60% in obligations from FY13.

In addition to Unified Communications, we see interest growing for Radio Access Networks (RAN), Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), and Land Mobile Radio (LMR). This is no surprise with the growth in mobile, since these technologies broaden the area signals can be received by mobile devices. They also assist with emergency preparedness.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Trends in Federal Network Connections

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 7, 2015

(This blog post is part of a multi-week series reviewing data and trends from GSA’s IT acquisition vehicles for FY14. Read previous posts at  http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/technology/)

Connectivity is the lifeblood of government. Government investment in improving and maintaining basic connectivity may be a small part of our IT budgets, but an important one. Reliable and flexible connections remain vital as the mobile workforce grows.

Connections II is the GSA contract agencies often come to when they need to purchase support and equipment to provide connectivity from the user’s desktop to the point of interconnection of the customer’s network service providers.

Connections II Customer Buying Trends

Federal agencies obligated $124 million to campus and building networking solutions through Connections II and issued 133 task orders in FY 2014.

What Connections II purchase data tells us is agencies need continued support and resources in this area. Five service types available from Connections II make up almost 80% of demand.

Technology Solutions Percentage of Total
Voice Operations and Billing Consolidation 23%
Unified Communications Expansion 20%
General Support 15%
Telecom Upgrades 11%
Network Maintenance 10%

Customers predominantly look to acquire more consolidated support as it offers advantages for lowering costs and reducing redundancies.

Second, 20% of Connections II customers are seeking to merge Voice/Data/Video (Unified Communications). The emphasis is on need to communicate from any device, anywhere, any time.

Looking for Operational Savings over Time

Connections II customers are receiving solutions that save their operational budget over time.

For example, telecom operations, billing management, and VoIP/UC modernization for one agency is estimated to save $30 million over 3 years over existing operational costs. Another agency is performing a nationwide Unified Communications Convergence upgrade with an estimated operational savings of $25 million over 5 years.

Connections II has always had strong customer loyalty with most projects coming from repeat customers. Now, we’ve added a tiered fee potential for customers with multiple smaller tasks adding up to significant volume, to further reward these customers.

Orders Increasing Year to Year

Demand for solutions from Connections II is growing year to year. FY 14 obligations represent an increase of 29% in obligations from FY 2013 and 34% from FY 2012.

This growth occurred despite sequestration and the government shutdown for two and half weeks in FY 2014. Local connectivity is a necessity for workforce support, internal and external communications and core administrative activities that every agency needs.

Looking into the future, under Connections II, we expect to see more Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as some customers do not want to own all their systems but instead buy the support.

In the world of wireless, we expect to see more about 802.11x technology, local LAN repeaters/amplifiers, etc. In security, we anticipate the need for new solutions for existing networks as well as future wireless networks.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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Fireworks, Festivities, and Connections II Dashboard Launch

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 14, 2014

In July, we celebrate America, our independence, and our freedom. Thousands of fireworks take off one after another across our beautiful night skies and we have fun with family and friends.

This year, we have one more reason to celebrate — at least in the IT and data communities.

Over the July 4th weekend, our Connections II program launched an interactive, real-time Connections II dashboard. The tool allows Connections II users to view and analyze non-classified data on federal IT purchasing activity awarded under GSA’s Connections II.

Data turned into actionable information will allow government to buy smarter, help agencies make better buying decisions, and lead to smoother bid and proposal processes. More information can help agencies better understand purchasing trends, conduct better market research, and be better negotiators. Ultimately, government buying decisions based on consistent, shared information deliver dollar savings to U.S. taxpayers.

We collectively are opening up data, sharing it, and working together to find additional value. At GSA, we look for ways to make government purchasing data more open, transparent, and accessible, and the Connections II dashboard is one way to do this.

The Connections II dashboard creates a single point of access for all data on Connections II task order obligations, number of awards, agency/bureau, and industry partner activity.

Users have quick and easy access to the dashboard. Search results display in easily understood lists, graphs, and charts. The real-time dashboard gives meaningful and timely program information–whether to industry or government–at any time. Users can search for specific items, sort data, and create and download custom reports.

We try to give customers and industry partners real-time data whenever they need it – at both the agency and order level so government can increase data quality and spend analysis, and make better business decisions, and so industry partners can tailor their offerings.

Other Reasons to Celebrate

GSA is just getting the big data explosion started with using and sharing our data to everyone’s benefit. GSA has several other data transparency efforts underway for the government IT acquisition community:

  • Get spend data from our GWACs Dashboard and Networx.
  • Use the Prices Paid tool for GWACs and now Wireless BPAs for aggregate pricing information. (It requires a .gov or .mil login.)
  • Prices-paid pilot programs are underway for Schedules and our satellite program.
  • GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service is working on the common acquisition platform as a critical resource for federal buyers. It will contain even more tools, capabilities, and government-wide data on acquisition vehicles, intelligence, and prices paid.

If you want more information about Connections II, read about Connections II and transitioning to IPv6. We have several Statement of Work (SOW) templates you can download: IPv6 SOW to assist with IPv6 transitioning, DNSSEC SOW to help agencies with security transitioning from DNS to DNSSEC and email authentication based on the deployed DNSSEC, and a Unified Communications SOW template to help agencies combine voice, data, and video.

If you need help or information on GSA IT programs, go to our Need Help Page. Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s IT acquisition conversation.

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The 4-1-1 to IPv6

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 2, 2014

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) year-end FY14 deadlines are fast approaching for the federal government. If you haven’t started, now is a good time to consider how far we’ve come and what we have left to do to complete IPv6 transition.

The CIO Council’s IPv6 guidance tells us where we’ve been and defines the phased milestones we must meet. So how to get there becomes the question: Have you completed the transition? If not, do you have a plan of action to meet the IPv6 FY14 year-end deadlines?

New Resources are Available

Whether you have a plan and just need a bit of additional help or you’re in the early stages and want a lot of assistance, GSA’s IPv6 SOW Template and Connections II IPv6 resources can help.  

GSA’s IPv6 SOW Template, prepared with input from OMB’s IPv6 Working Group, will make the final journey to IPv6 easier to navigate. Our IPv6 SOW and related documents will help guide agencies through the acquisition process to obtain support to meet the full spectrum of IPv6 deadlines and requirements in a standard, achievable way.  

The template covers everything you need for IPv6: planning, systems analysis, hardware, software, labor, test and integration support. Customize it to suit your needs for any contract, system or equipment. We also include sample inventory and pricing charts, and a potential work breakdown structure. Agency acquisition documents will need to include IPv6 specifications going forward.

Besides providing the SOW Template, Connections II connects agencies to companies with expertise in IPv6 transition services and support. In addition, GSA’s:

  • IT Schedule 70 offers commercial IPv6-compliant IT products and services.

  • Networx allows federal agencies to build seamless, secure operating environments through customized telecommunications services, including IPv6 services.

  • Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) provide IPv6 transition services as part of a total IT solution.

IPv6 Enterprise-wide Benefits

Today, both IPv4 (the legacy Version of IP) and IPv6 are in use. Agencies not only need to meet the deadlines to achieve business continuity across the Internet, but must leverage IPv6 protocol capabilities and ensure compatibility with new Internet services.

The CIO in its IPv6 Roadmap states: “There is more to the IPv6 transition than achieving the basic objective of providing additional addresses. As federal agencies integrate IPv6 within their current operations, they also have the opportunity to employ the new technology to optimize and enhance their business functions.”

“The technological advances provided by the new protocol,” the roadmap continues “will enable agencies to significantly enhance their mission capability by removing the limiting technology of the legacy protocol, IPv4, and adopting IPv6 as the new standard for supporting operational efficiency.“ It can also reduce agency network administration and security support costs downstream.

Rundown of IPv6 Milestones

1990s – Due to economic demand of greater “information accessibility” across the Internet, the worldwide community deploys high-performance infrastructure and begins to develop IPv6

2005 – OMB issues Memorandum M-05-22, “Transition Planning for Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)”

2008 – Federal agencies must deploy IPv6 on federal government network backbones

2009 – Federal CIO Council issues best practices guidelines in “Planning Guide/Roadmap toward IPv6 Adoption within the U.S. Government” (the “Roadmap”), which has since been updated

2010 – OMB releases a subsequent memorandum titled “Transition to IPv6”

2011 – Remaining available IPv4 addresses are released regionally for consumption; Asia Pacific region exhausts its supply of IPv4 Internet addresses, and European and North American regions’ supplies being exhausted

2013 – GSA issues IPV6 SOW Templates and documents to assist agencies with looming deadlines for IPv6

FY 2012-2014 – Federal agencies must achieve phased objectives at end of FY12 and FY14

Be sure to also check out the Planning Guide/Roadmap Toward IPv6 Adoption within the U.S. Government from CIO.gov. It gives guidance on IPv6, worldwide implications, regulations and anticipated impact on government initiatives.

Find out how we can assist you through our new Need Help Page. And be sure to follow us and continue the conversation on Twitter @GSA_ITS.

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Government’s Mobile Moment

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 7, 2012

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel recently announced the development of a new Mobile Strategy at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I was there, and was glad to hear his perspective on the potential of mobile technology for government, especially since GSA has been working hard to realize that potential.

Putting mobile IT to the test

GSA has been at the mobile technology frontier for some time now. Most GSA employees have laptops and smartphones so they can work from anywhere. Our systems and internal network are fully accessible via the web. We have implemented rigorous yet manageable security to protect the agency and our employees, including mobile device management and two-factor identification for external systems. We are well on our way to reaching our goal of secure access through any device, anywhere, anytime.

We’ve taken these risks because we’re committed to making government work better, no matter the mission or the location. We say “work is what you do, not where you do it,” because we’ve seen firsthand how enabling mobility has empowered us to better serve other agencies. This experience has prepared us to advise the federal government in using mobility to improve services to citizens, engage citizens in government, reduce costs, and increase productivity.

Our mobile role

We’re closing what VanRoekel calls the productivity gap between government’s traditional methods and mobile best practices. We are working to help agencies address unique mobility requirements through existing, flexible contract vehicles like Alliant and Connections II. We are also tackling commonly shared needs through our new, streamlined programs, like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Email as a Service (EaaS), and a new wireless program.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, VanRoekel highlighted our wireless program as a pocket of excellence, because it can improve oversight and overcome the government’s fragmented mobile IT purchasing. We will soon release a wireless blanket purchase agreement (BPA) under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) to leverage the government’s buying power for wireless services and devices, including smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

The BPA will include requirements to enable enterprise-level management and reporting, and will integrate with planned modifications to our Telecommunications Expense Management Service (TEMS) FSSI. Agencies will then be able to manage their inventory and expenses through a single, secure interface, simplifying and improving the business of government. We are also part of the mGov team looking at opportunities in acquisition, inventory, and expense management to further aggregate and leverage what and how we buy.

I look forward to sharing with you more of our plans and successes in the coming months, especially following the release of the final Mobility Strategy. You can learn more about the Mobility Strategy at the Office of Management and Budget blog as well as the recently completed National Dialogue on The Federal Mobility Strategy. In the meantime, I invite you to share your thoughts and feedback by leaving a comment on this blog or finding me on Twitter.

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