GSA considers creating a cloud services brokerage

By Katherine McIntire Peters

July 18, 2012

The General Services Administration is asking vendors to submit ideas for creating new acquisition vehicles for Web-based storage and computing services.

“One emerging concept in cloud computing is that of a ‘cloud broker’ or an entity that manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers,” GSA officials wrote in a request for information posted on on Tuesday.

GSA currently offers cloud services to federal, state, local and tribal governments through the infrastructure-as-a-service blanket purchase agreement and the email-as-a-service BPA. A cloud brokerage would provide an alternative to these offerings.

Among the many issues GSA must consider in creating a cloud services brokerage is ensuring the neutrality of the broker. Officials noted a couple of the options and requested industry feedback on those and others. “A broker could be a neutral intermediary prohibited from providing their own services in direct competition with [cloud service providers]. Alternatively, a broker could be permitted to introduce their own services into the brokerage environment and offer their services in competition with the [other providers],” the RFI stated.

Another significant challenge in creating a brokerage will be that of incorporating security requirements embodied in the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. FedRAMP must serve as the security baseline for authorizing all cloud services.

The cloud broker would bridge functions between the customer agency and the cloud vendor, “and may result in a blurring of the security responsibilities between the entities involved,” the RFI noted.

“Careful consideration of security zones and the resulting risk assumptions by the entities will need to be identified and assigned during implementation. Ideally any implementation of a cloud brokerage contract vehicle would provide significant baseline security to streamline customer agency effort in obtaining a security [authorization to operate] for the services provided,” the RFI stated.

Federal officials estimate that $20 billion of the federal government’s $80 billion in IT spending is a potential target for migration to cloud computing solutions.

Vendors have until Aug. 17 to respond.

By Katherine McIntire Peters

July 18, 2012