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10/26/2010
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Feds To Access Email From Cloud

GSA to issue an RFQ for SaaS email services so that federal agencies eventually can leverage cloud computing.

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The General Services Administration plans to offer federal agencies access to cloud-based email as a service via multiple commercial vendors, the agency announced in a notice Friday.

According to the notice, the agency will issue a request for quotation for SaaS email services by the end of March 2011 but will probably do so sooner, as the notice says the current plan is to issue the RFQ by the end of the calendar year. It remains unclear when the offerings will become available to federal agencies.

For now, GSA considers this to be a pilot approach or prototype to show how e-mail in the cloud can work for government agencies and to rate the industry's interest level in offering email in the cloud, Dave McClure, GSA's associate administrator of citizen services and innovative technologies, said in an interview. "We want to make sure we have viable solutions that meet the security requirements first, and then we can offer it up on a government-wide basis," McClure said.

However, the services will eventually end up on the federal government's cloud computing storefront Website, Apps.gov. Specifically, the forthcoming RFQ will result in the award of multiple blanket purchase agreements and offerings of email, email migration services and email integration services.

The email offering grew out of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative Email Working Group's work, which began this summer, on a strategy to deliver SaaS email acquisition capabilities via blanket purchase agreements, and a subsequent request for information to learn more about how the federal government might replace current on-premises email with cloud email.

"We know there's an agency interest in email as a service, and we think there will be more small agency interest down the road," McClure said.

On Nov. 1, the government will hold a day-long briefing for vendors and government agencies interested in the blanket purchase agreement, with speeches from a number of key GSA officials and others.

The plan to offer email follows an agreement to make infrastructure as a service offerings from companies like Amazon and Microsoft available to federal agencies on apps.gov. E-mail will likely be followed up with a request for geospatial services sometime next year, McClure said.

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