Regional Telecom Extensions Underway

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 23, 2015

Federal government agencies largely order their telecommunications through GSA’s Networx telecommunications program or through our Regional Local Service Agreements (LSAs) for local telecommunications.

As announced in March, we are extending the period of performance for the Network Universal and Enterprise contracts from 2017 to 2020.

We are currently working with our industry suppliers to extend the LSAs, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3 contract in the metropolitan DC area.

In addition, we are working closely with our federal agency partners to begin rigorous transition planning and preparation. These extensions will allow agencies time to develop requirements and evaluate and implement solutions using the follow-on Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract and/or other contracts in the GSA ITS portfolio.

As part of our overall NS2020 strategy, we will also be incorporating services currently available on our regional LSAs into EIS, eliminating the need for many duplicative contracts.  To bring these two programs together and minimize transition time, cost and risk, GSA will extend those LSAs expiring earlier than 2020 to coincide with the Networx contract extensions to 2020.

No Longer Pursuing RIS

GSA originally looked at a Regional Infrastructure Solutions (RIS) strategy to extend service for the expiring Regional LSAs by consolidating acquisitions and awarding interim contracts to provide service continuity until the competitive awards of EIS were made.

That approach would involve three larger geographic interim solutions: Northeast Infrastructure Solutions (NIS), Western Infrastructure Solutions (WIS), and Central Infrastructure Solutions (CIS).

However, in looking further at the approach, we found the schedules for the EIS and RIS procurements began to run parallel, and we questioned the purpose and cost effectiveness of separate RIS acquisitions. Industry partners and agencies were also concerned about RIS running in parallel with EIS and the additional acquisition investments the approach would have required.

GSA found eliminating the RIS acquisitions could achieve significant savings for industry and government and avoid unnecessary duplication and transitions.

Focusing on EIS

With our full focus now on EIS, we have a lot of information to share with you. And we’re also hoping you’ll continue to share your input with GSA as we work to finalize the EIS requirements.  To facilitate the sharing of information, we created the new EIS Interact Community and created a series of Information Exchange Days. Register now for the last Information Exchange Day on June 30.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to hear more about EIS and to join GSA’s ITS’s overall acquisition conversations.

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EIS Takes Big Steps to Collaborate

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 27, 2015

It’s April. It’s Spring. And, it’s the time of year when we do spring cleaning to revitalize our lawns, clean messy garages, and refresh our winter-weary homes.

It’s also a great time to kick off a series of live GSA Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) “Information Exchange” sessions with industry and launch a new EIS interactive online community for federal government agencies and potential industry partners.

EIS is the main component of the Network Services 2020 (NS2020) Strategy. It will replace GSA’s Networx and regional and local contracts, which many agencies currently use to acquire best-value IT, telecom, and infrastructure. Agencies will start to transition in 2017.

Attend Information Exchange Days

We issued an EIS Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) in February. Our partners in government and industry responded with more than 1,500 comments on the Draft RFP. We’re excited about the amount of interest in the Draft RFP and we’re looking forward to good, constructive conversations.

We’ll continue this productive dialog during “information exchange” days before we issue the RFP.  These “information exchange” sessions are open to government and industry and will take place on April 27, May 28 and June 30.

The information exchange sessions will give government and industry a chance to talk about the upcoming RFP and discuss common themes, insights, and issues. Stay tuned to the EIS Interact Community for how to register for the remaining sessions. Space is limited.

Join EIS Interact Community

To make EIS a success, we must ensure continuous collaboration and feedback. The EIS Interact community opened on April 17. This open forum is for GSA, agencies, and industry to continually collaborate and share ideas.

The EIS transition planning process, for example, has started. In order to be successful, we need to share insights and lessons learned. On the Interact community, we can jointly share transition insights and lessons to add value for every agency and make government-wide transitioning smoother overall.

How valuable the open forum will be depends on the value of member contributions. When we share good generic tips, ideas, and helpful insights, we serve our shared needs.

For any non-public discussions, including those related to proprietary information, you should use the EIS mailbox, which is EIS.Mailbox@gsa.gov.

To join the Interact community, visit the site to become a member. You will have access to community postings, including from GSA, and can participate, share and receive helpful information via the discussions.

Collaboration is Shaping EIS from the Start

These efforts mark the next logical steps in our continued emphasis on EIS collaboration.

Government and industry working together has been part of the EIS acquisition effort from day one. This is vital to ensure federal agency needs are met and industry partners have input early into the contract.

Our first step was to gather feedback and input on lessons learned from current contracts and past telecom transitions.

We’ve issued Requests for Information (RFIs) and posted a Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) on FBO.gov to gather EIS input and recommendations from stakeholders and share the planned EIS approach.

We continue to work in partnership with government agencies and industry partners, such as with one-on-one meetings, working groups, advisory panels, and by participating at other government and industry events.

This Spring marks a new season in collaboration. We encourage you to join the EIS Interact Community and come to information exchange days. Let’s keep moving in the right direction together!

If you need help or information on GSA’s EIS acquisition, go to our EIS Webpage.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITS to join GSA’s IT acquisition conversation.

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Big News for Govt Telecom, IT, Infrastructure

Posted by Mary Davie
on March 3, 2015

GSA is taking two key steps in our efforts to establish the future acquisition contract for government-wide IT, infrastructure, and telecommunications.

  1. On February 28 we issued a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contracts. EIS will be the follow-on contract vehicle to the existing heavily-used government-wide Networx and regional telecom contracts.
  2. We are beginning discussions with current Networx contractors for three-year extensions to existing Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. Originally set to expire in March and May 2017, the contracts will expire in March 2020 and in May 2020.

Our goals with EIS are:

  • Simplify the process of acquiring information technology and telecommunications products and services
  • Provide cost savings through aggregated volume buying and price and spend visibility
  • Enable the procurement of integrated enterprise-wide solutions
  • Foster competition and promote participation by small businesses
  • Offer a flexible and agile suite of services that supports a range of government purchasing patterns

Give Us Your Input on the Draft RFP

The draft RFP comes after significant and extensive industry and agency engagement.  We are encouraging comments and suggestions from both industry and government to help us finalize and further shape our program and contract.  We are extremely interested in ideas that will streamline the requirements for, or result in, an expedited transition and allow agencies and industry to transition to EIS in a timely and efficient manner.

The deadline for comments for this draft RFP is March 31, 2015. You can send feedback and comments to EIS.mailbox@gsa.gov.

Next steps will include:

  •  Continue to work with industry and agencies to implement ongoing Networx and regional efficiencies
  • Review draft EIS RFP feedback and make changes when it makes sense
  • Schedule an industry day to go over the draft RFP and updates
  • Issue the final EIS RFP in July 2015
  • Work with agencies and industry in transition planning for Networx and expiring regional contracts prior to award of EIS; in fact, GSA has already begun inventory analysis and validation on all expiring contracts
  • Target award of EIS contracts and issue Notification To Proceed to successful offerors by January 2017
  • Plan for agencies to start transition from Networx and regional contracts to EIS in 2017
  • Complete transition of Networx and regional customers to EIS no later than May 2020

Networx Extensions: Next Steps

Today, most federal agencies purchase network services through the Networx telecommunications program.  In FY 2014, Networx business volume was $1.5B.

The Networx 3-year contract extensions are designed to provide time for a phased and orderly transition to EIS.

We are working with existing Networx Universal and Enterprise contractors to complete the modifications to extend the contracts so they will be available in parallel with the EIS contracts for three years after the EIS award.

The Networx extensions will simplify and make the transition easier by ensuring agencies uninterrupted existing services during this time.  GSA is increasing staffing and support to provide agencies with requirements development, acquisition assistance, and transition assistance.

Staggered agency implementation across government will support strategic deployment of GSA’s and contractors’ resources and expertise to assist agencies.

The three-year extension and transition period will also give agencies flexibility as they balance internal resources between transition activities and other agency priorities.

The EIS acquisition, along with the Networx extensions, are the cornerstones of the NS2020 strategy, which is designed to lower the cost of providing network services and improve acquisition efficiency.

Finally, we are continuing to take a close look at the best ways to continue services provided through existing regional contracts, including WITS 3, prior to also transitioning those services to EIS.

Remember to send feedback and comments on the draft RFP by March 31, 2015 to EIS.mailbox@gsa.gov. If you have any other questions about EIS, the draft RFP, or Networx extensions, check out our Need Help webpage for the ways you can contact us.

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Looking at Year-End Telecommunications Insights from Networx

Posted by Mary Davie
on January 20, 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/.)

Most federal agencies purchase network services through the Networx telecommunications program. Fiscal Year 2014 year-end Networx purchasing data provides a good picture of the federal networking and telecommunications market.

Last June, we talked about mid-year trends in telecommunications purchases. Today, let’s look at the entire year for FY 2014.

In total, more than 136 federal agencies use Networx. Federal agencies purchased $1.53 billion in network and telecommunications services from the Networx contract in FY 2014. This represents an increase of over $179 million from FY 2013, or 13.2%.  (* See note)

Annual Networx Buying Trends

The two largest in-demand core services on Networx continued to be Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (NBIPVPN) and Managed Network Services (MNS), making up 46% and 12% respectively of Networx purchases. NBIPVPN is a mouthful and you can translate that to secure bandwidth services purchased across an agency.

Demand for these two services grew rapidly. Government agencies increased purchasing of bandwidth by 19% and managed network services by 22% in FY 2014 over FY 2013.

We are seeing federal agencies purchase more high-bandwidth services. This represents a clear shift away from traditional digital signal hierarchy services towards Ethernet-based services. While the inventory of DS-1s (1.5 Mbps services) remained flat, the inventory of 200-500 Mbps Ethernet services in FY 2014 was up over 150% compared to FY 2013. And, we expect this trend to accelerate in FY 2015.

Call center services (such as intelligent call routing to agents) were up 46%. Given the recent modernization of some call centers to Networx, this purchase increase is not surprising. In FY 2015, we anticipate call center services growth will taper as large federal call centers complete their modernization efforts.

One of biggest growth services this past year was toll-free service (TFS). It was the third highest demanded service (9%) on Networx, with purchases up 43% compared to FY 2013. We anticipate this growth trend will decrease or end going forward because it was mainly due to one-time needs in FY 2014 within a few large agencies.

FY 2013 to FY 2014 year-over-year purchase increases are shown below for some of Networx core services.

 Highlights of Network Purchases by Service FY13-FY14  Percentage Growth (FY13-FY14)  Percentage of Networx Purchases
 Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network Service  19%  46%
 Managed Network Services  22%  12%
 Toll Free Services  43%   9%
 Call Center Services  46%   3%

 

Consistent with what we found mid-year, increases in bandwidth-driven services more than offset declines in legacy services like long distance voice, which is for the year down 5% from FY 2013. Not surprisingly, long distance voice now accounts for less than 3% of the purchases on Networx.

And, legacy networks based on the Asynchronous Transfer Mode and Frame Relay protocols have largely disappeared from federal purchasing. They now account for about 0.5% of the purchases.

Beyond these core services, purchases of storage services (Network Attached Storage, Storage Area Networks, and Backup and Restoration Services) through Networx had another year of strong growth at 122% over FY 2013.

While storage services account for a small portion of Networx purchases, it is the second year of triple digit growth in storage services.  We expect growth in cloud-based services like this as bandwidth itself grows to accommodate increased government data needs.

Delivering Cost Savings

One of the missions of GSA is to use the purchasing power of government to drive down prices and reduce costs for agencies. GSA closely and continually evaluates how Networx is meeting this mission, especially around the area of pricing.  In FY 2014, the Networx program saved taxpayers and agency users approximately $670 million on telecommunications, compared to best commercial prices.

GSA calculates savings by keeping and using detailed Networx data on both the services agencies purchase and agency usage volume. Third-party market research allows us to compare best commercial rates for these services to Networx pricing.  If you are interested in seeing current year pricing by service on Networx, please visit our Networx Unit Pricer.

In general, purchasing on Networx has become stable. The proportion of services purchased in FY 2014 is fairly close to what was expected. We expect FY 2015 purchasing trends to remain consistent and for Networx to continue to deliver savings.

* The source of the $1.5B is Networx billing data. Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) data may reflect a smaller volume of federal purchasing due to differences in task order and service order reporting as well as differences between invoice cycles and agency reporting on FPDS.

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

 

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Networx Data Shapes our Understanding of Telecommunications

Posted by Mary Davie
on June 10, 2014

Big data is being used to help transform government by revealing information and patterns that can bring innovation, better services, and smarter decisions.

To effectively use big data, we must be willing to collect, analyze, and share the information we discover. You already know about some of the ways we’re helping the government buy smarter through big data: GWAC Prices Paid Tool, horizontal and vertical pricing in Schedule 70, and Reverse Auction pricing data.

Here is something you may not have heard a lot about: GSA’s major telecommunications program, Networx, collects data about what federal agencies are purchasing and how much they are paying. Because most federal agencies make network services purchases through the Networx program, these “big data” details from Networx provide a good picture of the federal networking and telecommunications market — and we’re happy to share it.

We’ve just completed an analysis of the first half of fiscal year 2014. And, it’s a good time to look at how federal agencies are using the Networx contracts and the trends we’re seeing in telecommunications buying.

In total, more than 136 federal agencies use Networx. Federal agencies have purchased $762 million in network and telecommunications services off the Networx contract through the second quarter of FY 2014. During the same period last year, federal agencies purchased $630 million through Networx. After accounting for FY 2013 purchases through now expired legacy contracts, this represents a year-over-year increase of 12.8% on the Networx contracts. The projected yearly increase we’re seeing is an indicator that agencies are utilizing Networx more often than ever to solve their network services solutions.

Networx Buying Trends

GSA attributes this growth in usage to a couple of factors. First, federal agencies are using Networx to purchase more services because of increased bandwidth demand. More applications, more video, and more data all drive the need for more bandwidth. When was the last time you were not online? The two largest in-demand core services on Networx are Internet Protocol Based Virtual Private Network and Managed Network Services. Government agencies have increased purchasing of these two services by 24% and 36% respectively in FY 2014.

Second, due to transition and increased activity at call centers at several civilian agencies, toll-free services and call center services have seen year-over-year purchase increases of 62% and 288% respectively.

 Purchase Increases by Service from FY 13 to FY 14  Percentage of Increase
 Network-Based Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network Service  24%
 Managed Network Services  36%
 Toll Free Services  62%
 Call Center Services  288%

Increases in bandwidth-driven services more than offset declines in legacy services like long distance voice, which is down 5% from FY 2013. Legacy networks that are based on the Asynchronous Transfer Mode and Frame Relay protocols have largely disappeared. They are down 8% and 31% respectively since last year and, combined, now account for less than 1% of federal purchases.

 Purchase Decreases by Service from FY 13 to FY 14  Percentage of Increase
 Long Distance Voice Service  -5%
 Asynchronous Transfer Mode  -8%
 Frame Relay Service  -31%

Beyond these core services, purchases of storage services (Network Attached Storage, Storage Area Networks, and Backup and Restoration Services) through Networx continue to grow. Storage services are a small part of overall use on Networx, but GSA considers this a bellwether for enhancement of traditional bandwidth with cloud services like Infrastructure as a Service.

Buying trends on Networx are expected to continue strong in the second half of FY 2014, but at a decreased growth rate compared to the first half of the year. Demand for bandwidth through IP based virtual private networks is expected to grow as an overall trend; however, the large purchase growth in toll-free and call center services will taper as several large federal call centers complete modernization efforts and roll into steady-state operations.

Savings Compared to Commercial Pricing

In the first two quarters of FY 2014, the Networx program saved taxpayers and agency users $332 million. This is slightly more than the $328 million savings we originally anticipated for this point in the year. Networx is on target to meet our goal of saving federal agencies at least $659 million this year.  We base the Networx savings calculations on a comparison of Networx pricing, commercial pricing for similar services, and Networx usage.

The GSA Network Services Program continues to have a two-pronged focus: deliver today and plan for tomorrow. Our focus for today with Networx and our other telecommunications acquisition vehicles (including FSSI Wireless BPAs, Connections II, Commercial Satellite Program, and a full range of regional and local voice, data, video, Internet and other service offerings) is to continue to save taxpayer dollars and deliver what agencies need in telecommunications services.  For example, we are making Networx process changes to lower the transaction cost of purchases and price changes to lower per unit service costs.

Looking to the future, with NS2020, we are in the midst of developing new acquisitions and service delivery models to help structure and enhance future government telecommunications both globally and locally.

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

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Strides in Government Telecommunications

Posted by Mary Davie
on April 30, 2014

GSA created the first government-wide telecommunications program in 1960. And since that time, we’ve seen technology shift from largely voice-based services to data and IP with the Internet. We’ve seen bandwidth demand increase by orders of magnitude in the past decade.

We’re moving from hardware-based networks to networks operated by software and services, and we’ve moved from owned legacy infrastructure into operating models leveraging cloud and mobile technologies.

Now we’re seeing moves by others than the traditional telecommunications providers into the space, creating even greater changes in the market. This includes leveraging broadband wireless technology for data connectivity and voice service, relying solely on IP data connections for voice and text, and potentially using solar-powered drone technology in place of some traditional satellite capabilities to provide basic Internet access much cheaper to many more people.

Today, many federal agencies depend on GSA’s Networx contracts for their network and IT infrastructure, the backbone needed to support agency missions. The contracts provide agency toll-free numbers; allow agencies to build secure and complex agency-wide networks for voice, data, and video services; and enable access to services like video chat, virtual private networks, and web conferencing. Trends such as cloud computing, virtualization, and the movement toward everything-as-a-service (XaaS) are further increasing the criticality and demand for network bandwidth.

Over the decades, GSA has provided access to state of the art and emerging technology solutions reflecting current and shifting market offerings and government needs. We continually assess the market and work with agencies and industry to add new solutions to our programs and contracts.  If you watch this blog, or have an interest in government telecommunications, you’re most likely familiar with NS2020, our strategy for our next-generation telecommunications and IT infrastructure portfolio.

Let’s take a look at where we are so far.

Evolving Telecom is Essential to Government

  • After conducting a comprehensive market assessment and lessons learned analysis, we’ve just published our Network Services 2020 (NS2020) Strategy. We’ve outlined a portfolio of IT and telecommunications related offerings and services, and are planning new contracts and solutions to replace the Networx program and other contracts.

Cross-Agency and Industry Collaboration Is Critical

  • Agencies, industry, other stakeholders such as GAO, OMB and Hill staff have played and will continue to play a critical role in the success of our next generation program.
  • The NS2020 Interagency Advisory Panel (senior IT and acquisition representatives from a dozen agencies) and our industry partners, including the ACT-IAC NS2020 Working Group and TechAmerica’s GSA Subcommittee, have been actively involved in developing our strategy.

We’re Starting to Execute the NS2020 Strategy

NS2020 Acquisition Activity

  • In December 2013, we released an RFI for a new consolidated Northeast Infrastructure Solution. Comments for the RFI have closed. This is part of a multi-region interim strategy to create three acquisitions (Northeast, Central and Western) to replace local service contracts put into place by 11 Regions.  Expect to see RFIs for two additional consolidated regional acquisitions during 2014.
  • The multi-regional consolidation will allow GSA, vendors, and customer agencies to have an interim strategy driven in part by expiring contract vehicles in regions to cover gaps in regional coverage. It will also allow us to implement and validate some NS2020 concepts in advance of the larger integration.
  • On April 8, 2014, we released an RFI for the Enterprise Infrastructure Solution (EIS), the main contract vehicle expected from the NS2020 strategy. We highly encourage responses to the EIS RFI from all of industry so we can gain more insight on its perspectives towards creating a successful acquisition. Deadline for comments is May 22.
  • The NS2020 strategy’s resulting single global EIS of the future will include the requirements for Networx and the Northeast, Central and Western solutions, plus additional capabilities to meet the comprehensive range of Federal Agency IT/telecommunications requirements through 2028.

What’s Next

  • We continue to work with Congress, the White House, and OMB to ensure the success of NS2020.
  • Stakeholders across government and industry are showing significant interest and commitment to success of evolving telecom.
  • We look forward to everyone’s continued engagement on NS2020 acquisitions, including comments on the recently released EIS RFI, the upcoming consolidated regional RFIs, and the expected release of a draft EIS RFP in FY15.
  • As the EIS acquisition progresses, we anticipate conducting industry days and engaging in other forms of outreach and communication.

As technology continues to shift, GSA will persist to find easy, efficient, and cost savings ways to enable agencies to access and use those technologies.

I encourage you to stay up to date on everything NS2020 and EIS going forward. You can bookmark and regularly check our NS2020 website.

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

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Applying Lessons Learned To Telecom Transition

Posted by Mary Davie
on March 10, 2014

GSA’s strategic network services program is critical to the services and missions of almost all civilian and
defense agencies. Our telecommunications and IT contracts are designed to reduce risk and increase efficiency for government agencies.

The government completed the FTS2001-to-Networx transition about a year ago. The transition took longer than expected, but here’s the great news: In FY13, the Networx contract saved US taxpayers over $678M and agencies purchased over $1.3B using it.

Networx offers significantly better pricing than FTS2001, typically 10% to 40% depending on the service. By leveraging this buying power of government, agencies can procure the services they need at lower prices, and they can avoid the costs and risks of creating and managing their own contracts and support systems.

Networx enables government agencies to save taxpayer dollars, meet many mandates such as Trusted Internet Connections and IPv6, modernize networks, and use advanced technologies as they become available.

GSA did a lot to support agencies in the Networx transition. We performed transition planning and provided extensive transition assistance, including:

  • Transition Credit Reimbursement
  • Direct technical support
  • Inventory and billing systems
  • Operating a Transition Coordination Center
  • Acquisition support for some smaller agencies

Networx benefits and successes are clear, but we can do better! The Government’s transition to Networx took longer than anticipated, resulting in lost savings opportunities. Transitioning an agency’s enterprise network is complex, there are considerable costs associated with transition, and many stakeholders that must work together.

Apply Experience

We recognize the need to apply lessons from the past to enhance future transition success. We’ve analyzed lessons learned over the past few years to plan better for a future transition and follow-on contract and program.

And we are also working on implementing recommendations from the recent GAO report on Networx Transition.

Among the many lessons we and our partner agencies learned from the Networx transition are that improvements are needed in:

  • Project planning
  • Executive visibility
  • Coordination between IT and acquisition personnel
  • Managing complex acquisition processes to avoid duplicative contracts
  • Technical and contracting telecom expertise across government and need for more GSA support

We recently posted the Network Services Programs Lessons Learned Overview and Network Services Programs Lessons Learned Report to gsa.gov and are working to create a Lessons Learned government database for agencies to search and access.

Network Services 2020, or NS2020, is our strategy for our next-generation telecom and IT infrastructure portfolio. We’re applying lessons learned and proactively engaging our stakeholders to define the complete set of service offerings under NS2020.

Successful transition involves many steps that require executive-level attention and dedicated resources:

  • Transition Planning – Establishing a Transition Working Group, recommending a standard process, developing Statement of Work (SOW) and Fair Opportunity templates, developing a Transition Management Plan, creating a methodology to compute transition credit reimbursements, defining transition tracking metrics, and customer education
  • Direct Transition Preparation – Implementing agency education program and developing requirements by agencies, including drafting Task Order statements of work
  • Active Transition – Making Fair Opportunity decisions, ordering services, and transitioning the services
  • Inventory Management – Agencies, with assistance from GSA as needed, must continuously manage and validate their service inventories; it’s not just a one-time event to be conducted during a set transition period

Our Next Steps

  • Develop our successor to Networx and our regional contracts
  • Incorporate lessons learned to fully address improvements for transition, contracts, the program, acquisition strategy, ordering, billing and inventory management – we want to reduce duplicative contract vehicles, and continue savings to federal agencies
  • Establish an inter-agency Transition Working group
  • Establish clear and realistic end-to-end transition schedules and milestones
  • Recommend establishment of a senior-level “Transition Transparency Group” to provide needed visibility, transparency and focus
  • Offer full life-cycle support options to enable agencies to succeed in any transition step
  • Continue to engage IT and acquisition stakeholders (including industry) early and continuously throughout the process
  • Work with OPM to identify skills needed and skill gaps or resource shortages and strategies for
    addressing

As we move into a new phase of government telecom, we take with us applied knowledge and those lessons from the past to aid the transition. We continue to be committed to offer a marketplace that provides agencies with buying options, access to data and information, access to expertise, an improved buying experience, and continue to deliver significant savings.

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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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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FY14: Savings, Savings, Savings

Posted by Mary Davie
on December 3, 2013

In our most recent blog post, we shared how much money federal agencies and taxpayers save by using GSA’s Networx program. And while it’s a significant amount of money, there’s more to the savings story.

Across government we are challenged with constrained budgets and acquisition resources while simultaneously focused on improving procurement and ultimately delivering successful projects and programs. FAS and ITS are drastically rethinking how we can serve our customers by creating a marketplace that will provide agencies with buying options, access to data and information, access to expertise, an improved buying experience, and at the same time deliver significant savings.

Government’s IT Marketplace – Delivering Savings

ITS is government’s go-to source for IT products, services, and solutions. We are committed to helping agencies understand acquisition options and find solutions. This year, we set out with an ambitious goal of bringing $1.35B in savings to our customers and I am happy to report that we were able to meet our goal. Here are some of the savings highlights:

  • The Networx program saved its subscribing agencies $678 million in FY13.
  • One agency is expected to achieve 20% cost savings by using Networx.
  • We helped an agency that needed to connect securely to the public Internet with Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Service (MTIPS) to achieve an estimated 20% cost savings.
  • Most agencies using GSA’s USAccess Program (HSPD-12 Identity, Credentials and Access Management) shared service save between 4 and 9 times the amount it costs to do it themselves.
  • Using the SmartBUY BPAs, agencies saved $775M in software costs compared to commercial prices.
  • The FedRAMP program takes a “do once, use many” approach to Authority to Operate (ATO), which can help save agencies up to a year in time and $100,000 versus conducting their own ATO process.
  • As of September 30, 2013, the new ReverseAuctions.GSA.gov site delivered 17 federal agencies an average savings of 7.27% ($161,549 in savings).

It’s no secret that FAS and ITS focus on increasing the use of GSA acquisition solutions and programs by federal, state, local and tribal governments. By using existing contract vehicles that are flexible and customizable, every agency gets what they need but doesn’t have to recreate the basic procurement process. We aim to reduce the need for duplicate contracts, improve consistency in terms and conditions, improve the chance of successful project outcomes, and of course save agencies money. We leverage the full buying power of the government which gives us the ability to negotiate and drive down prices for everyone.

Initiatives to Reduce Costs in FY14

We’re happy with FY13 results, but this is a marathon and not a sprint, and there is more that we can do. We’re hard at work making FY14 more successful than FY13 with the goal to increase our ability to serve as the government’s marketplace:

  • We want to help agencies make smarter decisions through data: We are piloting prices-paid initiatives for some of our contracts now, including Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) and Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), making prices-paid data available thereby enabling better buying decisions.
  • We have been conducting a full-scale review and “modernization” of the GSA Federal Supply Schedules contracts to ensure they are best suited to meet today’s needs.
  • We are focusing our offerings around “categories of spend” to streamline offerings and channels to the market.
  • In FY13, we set the groundwork to help government through our Managed Mobility Program that includes a managed mobility information center and our FSSI Wireless BPAs to deliver agency savings in FY14. We are reducing price variability on wireless service plans, and less variation will help agencies make better cost-saving business decisions. Agencies can save 15-20% on wireless service annually and eliminate mobile device costs entirely since zero-cost devices are bundled with service plans.
  • And, we just recently launched the Request for Quote on the FSSI Large Desktop Publisher BPAs, part of the SmartBUY program, which will drive even greater savings for government software.

The underlying purpose of each initiative is to allow us to better serve agency customers and deliver more cost savings. And there are more to come. Not only will our FY14 initiatives serve government needs, but prices-paid data, modernization of contracts, and aligning acquisitions to seller buying patterns help industry partners compete, reduce costs, and make it easier to do business with the government.

Contact us via one of our customer service channels if you have questions or need assistance. And be sure to follow us and continue the conversation on Twitter @GSA_ITS.

 

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How to Save More Using Networx

Posted by Mary Davie
on July 9, 2013

If you had to take a course about Networx called “How to Get the Most from Telecommunications,” would you pass with flying colors, fail, or just get by?

If you know what Networx is, what options are available, and your organization has placed orders using Networx, congratulations, you’ve passed Networx 101. If you want to learn how to get the most from Networx for your organization, you’d be advised to take a 200-level course, or just read this blog post.

Today, not every agency is taking advantage of some of the newer Networx technologies that offer savings and enhanced features to support agency missions. Think of this blog as the Networx 201 cliffs notes, outlining acquisition choices you can make under Networx that may deliver more savings, allow you to take advantage of improved technologies Networx partners offer, and add value without raising your costs.

Networx 101: The Basics

GSA’s Networx offers agencies access to major telecommunications companies and industry partners. In total, the federal government buys over $1.3 billion annually in networking and telecommunication services through Networx.

Acquiring services under Networx Universal or Networx Enterprise gives you the ability to focus your agency resources on building seamless, secure operating environments while ensuring access to the best technology industry has to offer to connect your enterprise.

We’ve saved more than $8.4 billion taxpayer dollars (compared to commercial prices) and lowered telecommunications costs for agencies by aggregating and leveraging our collective buying power since 1999 with Networx and FTS2001.  We’ve saved about $350 million through the first half of FY13.  Last year, the Networx program saved taxpayers over $700M.

Agencies that use Networx save 30%-60% over the cost of most services at commercial rates. This money can go back into agency mission areas.

So, how do we do even better?

Networx 201: Unleashing Better Value

Tip #1—Take advantage of our Unit Pricer and Agency Pricer tools. You can call us at 855-ITaid4U (855-482-4348) or email ITCSC@gsa.gov to request we help run some pricing numbers for your enterprise or project. This allows you to view and compare prices across Networx vendors. We can also show you exactly how much you spend, where it goes, and how much you’ve saved.

Agencies can continuously access new services priced both separately and as a customized solution through contract line item number (CLIN) and fair opportunity ordering. You can see pricing by carrier, which drives down pricing up to 80% over the life of the contracts for some technologies.

Tip #2—Most to-date savings with Networx come from a move away from legacy telecom/network services into newer Networx technologies that offer more for less. So what are some of these technologies that offer better value?

I’ll touch on a few here, but there are others. Please contact your Technology Service Manager (TSM) to learn more about how you can optimize your Networx acquisition choices.

Network-Based IP VPN services account for nearly half of Networx usage today. This is expected as voice, data, and video traffic “converged,” or consolidated, into enterprise-wide IP based wide area networks. If you haven’t explored this service yet, you may want to.

Cloud-based services like Web Conferencing, which provides more benefits than an audio service, requires no capital investment, and is more fully featured since it offers the ability to share information via your desktop.

Common Security Services can increase savings and utility, such as Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Service (MTIPS) since it provides a universal platform to comply with government mandates.

Yes, we’ve seen cost savings and value over the years with Networx. But we don’t have to stop here.

Networx includes all the services that FTS2001 did, but it also has some gems not everyone has found yet. Check out your options thoroughly. Ask questions. Call your TSM. When technologies and services available to us do more, do it better, and cost less, our choices become a lot easier.

Please share comments or additional ideas in the comments section below, or follow us on Twitter@GSA_ITS to join the conversation.

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