The General Services Administration’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract is designed to help agencies modernize their networks, especially via technologies like software-defined networking and 5G wireless networks.
Agencies had been required to transition away from the Networx contracting vehicle to EIS by the spring of 2020. However, earlier this month, GSA extended the deadline to 2023 to give agencies more time to switch.
Bill Zielinski, the acting assistant commissioner of the Office of Information Technology Category at GSA, told FCW that the extension was designed “to remove a timeline barrier” for modernization planning and not make those efforts a “race against the clock.”
To qualify for an extension, agencies must incorporate four modernization ideas, including moving away from time-division multiplexing technology, moving away from legacy services and adopting VoIP or unified communications, tapping cloud and managed services and improving overall network cybersecurity.
While a great deal of focus has rightly been placed on the potential for network infrastructure modernization under EIS, the contract will also enable agencies to upgrade their mobile device portfolios. Moreover, agencies will be able to refresh their device portfolios more quickly so that they stay up to date with modern mobile technologies.
EIS Will Enable More Customized Mobile Services and Devices
EIS suppliers have the ability to offer wireless and managed mobility services to agencies through an innovative catalog approach, according to a GSA representative.
“The use of catalogs allows suppliers to offer agencies the most current mobile devices and service plans as soon as they become commercially available,” the GSA representative says. “This also allows suppliers to offer an integrated enterprise network approach, which benefits agencies by providing a natural extension of services via a secure, all-digital network to any device, anywhere, at any time.”
Essentially, new mobile devices and their corresponding service plans will not be offered in a “one size fits all” approach. Rather, agencies will be able to pick and choose what works best for them, according to the GSA.
Additionally, suppliers will not limit their services to specific devices or periods of time, ensuring holistic coverage around the clock.
GSA Encourages SDN Adoption via EIS
As part of the modernization effort, agencies are being encouraged to adopt SDN via assistance from the EIS contract. The basic goals of SDN implementation are to simplify and streamline operations to create a more efficient and higher-performing network.
The GSA representative also says that they are encouraging “suppliers to offer new technologies as soon as they become commercially available. SDN and network function virtualization are examples of such evolutionary advances in network deployment and management capabilities.”
Agencies are “already investigating the potential benefits that technologies such as software-defined wide-area network can offer in terms of management efficiencies, network resilience, and improved cybersecurity,” the GSA representative says.
GSA is pushing agencies to upgrade their networks to counter the growing sophistication and frequency of cyberattacks. GSA wants agencies to move away from outdated network architecture and processes that potentially can leave them to unable to detect, prevent or recover from a cyber incident.
Beyond helping agencies better combat such threats, the EIS contract also has the goal of maximizing their productivity. In order to assist with this process, GSA is offering “multiple tools to federal agencies that need transition assistance,” and is providing dedicated agency managers to help answer questions specific to each agency.
Although GSA wants to help agencies meet their upgrade requirements, the number of agencies expected to make significant network modernizations as a result of the EIS contract is, for now, unclear. GSA says that, per the President’s Management Agenda, the Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization, and the Modernization of Government Technology Act, all agencies are required to modernize their infrastructure.
How the GSA Views the EIS Extension
GSA officials tell FedScoop that the agency had “learned of challenges our customer agencies have encountered when transitioning to EIS,” and that “to facilitate a smooth transition to EIS while still encouraging agencies to modernize, we will be offering a one-year extension with two option years on approximately 90 legacy telecommunications contracts.”
However, GSA says agencies should not see the extension as an excuse to dawdle on their transitions. Agencies required to issue fair opportunity solicitations by March 31, 2019, followed by task order awards by Sept. 30.
“It is imperative agencies maintain their current EIS fair opportunity solicitation and award schedules, and continue to timely award their EIS contracts, so their new contract is in place with enough time to effectively transition to the new services,” GSA officials say, according to FedScoop.