All Bets Are Off if Congress Reviews GSA Decision

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-09-23 Print this article Print

If there's one company that leads in this group, it's IBM. Despite the fact that IBM is primarily a computer hardware, software and services vendor, this company is good enough at federal contracting that it's won systems integration contracts for everything from helicopters to spacecraft. The fact that IBM is also the incumbent, that federal employees are already used to IBM's Lotus product line, and that IBM should have the easiest time in migrating existing Lotus users to Lotus-in-the-cloud won't be lost on the people evaluating the proposal.  

But that doesn't mean that IBM will have an automatic win. The GSA does pay attention to the proposed cost, and if a company proposes a credible solution that's significantly more cost effective than the company with what might be seen as the best technical solution, they might win anyway. As unlikely as it may seem, the GSA really does try to keep a tight hand on the purse strings, and has been known to be flexible about technical requirements if it will substantially lower the price. 

But to win, the proposed solution will have to be credible. IBM probably can demonstrate that it can meet the government's needs in terms of responsiveness, security (even if this product isn't yet FISMA certified) and the ability to meet the needs of very large organizations. Microsoft, which has a long history in government contracting, although not as long as IBM which won its first government contract in the 19th century, can point to vast installations of desktop, server and Web software throughout the government. But Google might have problems in this area. In addition, all of those Gmail outages, the occasional security breach and the Google cloud's growing pains could give the government evaluators pause. 

Or they might not. Google might be able to convince the GSA that it can deliver everything the federal government wants, and the GSA might be in a mood to take a break from IBM and Microsoft. But whatever solution gets chosen will have to be justified, and that's where we'll see exactly what made the difference. And then if anyone is still paying attention, we'll learn more during the appeals. Or we might not. 

The only thing you can really count on with the GSA cloud services contract is that it won't really be over at the end of September. There's no assurance that whatever company gets the win will really be the winner. There may not even be one winner or even a winner at all. The arbiter of what's best for the government is the GSA, and ultimately they'll decide using their own criteria what's best for the federal government. Unless, of course, Congress gets involved. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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