GSA recently released a draft statement of work as part of their latest effort to give agencies an easier way to buy cloud services. They are calling it Ascend.
At a recent ACT-IAC sponsored conference, Sonny Hashmi, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service within GSA, said “I don’t want to make the presumption that we’ve figured it out. The process to get to an endpoint on Ascend is going to require a lot of dialogue, and I don’t want us to move forward without it. It goes back to how we were talking about user-centric design. There’s got to be a user need, and in this case, it’s got to be an agency need that Ascend will address. That will dictate what the vehicle looks like, how it’s going to be designed because, without it, it is not going to be successful.”
“At this point, we’re being very deliberate about making sure that there is an actual need on the other side of this. Adoption is going to happen not just because it’s going to be a forcing function, but because there’s actually a need that we’re solving. If we’re not, if it turns out that we’re behind and agencies don’t have a need, then I would rather actually not do this. While we’re excited about this program, ultimately, its job is to solve a problem and help agencies to deliver on their mission. If there’s a better way or different way to solve the problems that we are facing, we’re happy to change tactics on it.”
The draft statement of work for Ascend creates three separate buckets of vendors to deliver infrastructure – platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, and cloud professional services.
The draft solicitation states, “the Ascend BPA is part of GSA’s cloud marketplace vision of empowering agencies to develop and implement enterprise-level cloud acquisition strategies through a modernized and simplified approach to meet their IT and cybersecurity requirements. The BPA will emphasize cloud smart/security smart objectives and establish minimum baseline requirements for the acquisition, business operations reporting, and technology capabilities provided by commercial cloud service providers (CSPs) and cloud-focused labor service providers that are not currently accessible under other GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) or governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs). The Ascend BPA will focus on enabling support for both vertical (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and horizontal capabilities across the ecosystem and will provide more effective system integration and managed support services for the delivery of flexible, diverse, and secure cloud solutions.”
Hashmi said, “we’re hoping this will be one mechanism or the primary and most usable mechanism for agencies to think about when they’re thinking about modernizing their digital stacks.” Hashmi feels Ascend will allow agencies to buy “by the drink”. This gives GSA the ability to on-ramp new cloud service providers as they become available. It also gives contract holders the opportunity to bring innovation to the federal sector as required and needed.
Hashimi feels this gives agencies greater flexibility. Hashmi said, “the other thing for me is creating a marketplace that is competitive. It can’t just be a small number of highly capable cloud companies. If you don’t create continuous opportunities for new companies to join the marketplace, then we have failed because this market is changing very rapidly.” From past experience, GSA found agencies didn’t want to just contract for cloud services, but a full range of support from the cloud itself along with integration services and ongoing support.
The first versions of Ascend came under scrutiny by industry associations. However, Hashmi said these concerns and other questions concerning the BPA are exactly why GSA put out a draft statement of work. The draft statement of work allows for feedback from agencies, associations, and anyone critical to Ascend’s success.
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