Does cloud computing represent a new and chaotic “Wild West” for federal acquisition professionals? The answer is No, according to the people at ASI Government, a consulting firm specializing in government acquisition and training.
According to their recent editorial in FCW, ASI polled acquisition personnel at 110 government organizations. 64 percent of respondents were not confident in their technical expertise relating to cloud, and doubted their ability to effectively structure contracts for cloud services.
The primary stumbling block according to the piece is the consumption-based pricing of the public cloud model. ASI uses the analogy of water – customers don’t produce or process the water, they simply pay for how much they consume. Fixed price contracting can’t easily accommodate this model.
There are things acquisition professionals can do with cloud however, and ASI lays out how knowing your Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) inside and out and lasso the rowdy cloud. Since cloud is a commercial service, FAR Part 12 can help guide purchases.
Alternatively, FAR Part 39 can be instructive for government buyers who look to carefully dip their toes into the cloud via a pilot program supporting a limited, well-defined IT requirement. Yet another possible option is FAR Part 16.503, requirement contracts in conjunction with IDIQs. These are usually single award and use fixed unit prices.
The GSA is considering adding more clarity around cloud by adding a new item number specifically for cloud in its IT Schedule 70. The agency says this would “increase visibility and access of cloud computing service to customer agencies,” according to a July 9 request for proposals on the new SIN.
The cloud certainly would seem to warrant its own SIN. But in the meantime, ASI reminds us there is plenty of flexibility to be found in the good old FAR – if you know where to look.