Federal News Network: GSA rises to the occasion with ASCEND, its new cloud acquisition vehicle

“The only thing more numerous than the number of commercial cloud services providers is the number of ways to buy from them. Now the General Services Administration has dubbed a blanket purchasing agreement for cloud services with the name ASCEND. Is GSA rising to the occasion? Federal Drive with Tom Temin got one view from federal sales and marketing consultant, Larry Allen…”

“Larry Allen: What GSA is trying to accomplish here is putting together a set of very flexible blanket purchase agreements that aren’t contracts, new contracts in and of themselves. They’re based on existing in this case, multiple award schedule contracts, which the agency believes will allow them to provide a new level of flexibility to tailor solutions specifically to different customer needs. In talking with GSA officials about what’s now known as ASCEND, they had feedback apparently, from agencies that said, what they didn’t want is an out of the box cloud solution. They wanted something that they could tweak and be adjusted to be their own. So GSA is trying to meet that stated need through ASCEND, and from that standpoint, you understand why they’re doing it. Customer agencies come and say we don’t want an out of the box solution. GSA says, “Hey, we can put together a blanket purchase agreement that allows you to customize things and we can work with you on that.” So there’s a role for the agency. Contractors, however, I think are going to be left scratching their head going, “Another one?”, because as you pointed out in the intro, there are many existing ways to acquire cloud services today. Some of which have their own degrees of flexibility. Ironically, the GSA schedule is one of those and the BPAs are going to be based on contractors, GSA Schedule contracts. So maybe this is a little added, extra piece of work to get the BPA. But if a customer agency is looking for a tailored solution today, or cloud, they can get it. I guess the idea is that GSA, through setting up ASCEND, is going to provide a storefront that makes it a little more obvious for agencies to know, hey, you can get it and you can get it here.

Tom Temin: Does the BPA cover the GSA Schedule contractors? Is that pretty much the entire cloud industry as we understand it available there in the first place?

Larry Allen: Well, I think that’s a reasonable question. Certainly the number of cloud solutions on the schedules is very robust and wide. I’m not sure that it’s going to take in some of the specialized DoD requirements, Tom. Particularly those that have high level certifications for security, but there are a lot, it may. I just haven’t gone into all the detail with GSA. But there certainly will be a number of cloud options that customer agencies can access via ASCEND. A word of caution to contractors. Just because you have a GSA schedule doesn’t mean that you will automatically be added to the ASCEND cloud BPA. Anyone who is going to have to compete for that GSA is going to send out an RFQ. You want to look at that carefully and understand it both in terms of capabilities, and in terms of pricing, so that you’re competitive on all fronts…” Read the full interview or listen here.

Source: GSA rises to the occasion with ASCEND, its new cloud acquisition vehicle – By Tom Temin, April 12, 2022. Federal News Network.

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