An Intelligent Path to Network Modernization
The new $50 billion contract vehicle offers agencies the chance to upgrade networks.
After analyzing lessons learned from a delay-riddled transition to Networx, where a 33-month long process resulted in a costly overrun of about $395 million, the General Services Administration (GSA) came well prepared to make the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract transition a much smoother process.
EIS is a 15-year, $50 billion consolidated follow-on contract vehicle that merges three previous programs: Networx, the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System and the Local Telecommunications Services contracts. This award is among the first to launch under the GSA’s Network Services 2020 initiative, which seeks to modernize the government’s ability to connect an increasingly mobile workforce using the latest telecommunications innovations.
This time, agencies essentially have two approaches for transition. The first option is “like for like” transitions, which allow agencies to transition their existing contracts to the EIS vehicle, maintaining their current capabilities while buying additional time to plan for modernization. However, agencies also have the option to act now and use the three-year transition period as an opportunity to upgrade legacy network technologies to more cost-effective, scalable and flexible systems. So, the question becomes: What primary benefits agencies can expect from transitioning now?
The first step to network modernization is to reassess the networks holistically via requests for information. By citing high-level necessities like site locations, service-level agreements and performance requirements, agencies will have the opportunity to evaluate the latest technology options available, including managed service providers in addition to carriers. The managed services approach can deliver new cost-effective models that get agencies away from having to design the network and then select the best providers to implement their plans.
The do-it-yourself (DIY) approach could be ill-advised as it may not include the latest network technologies and innovations, which leverage the growing availability of broadband. It also could lead to potential cost and performance inefficiencies throughout the network architecture.
The EIS contract will usher in a new era of telecom with a diverse set of new solutions for upgrading to the next-generation of network technology, with offerings such as software-defined wide area networking, which improves network availability, resiliency and cloud-based application performance. EIS will also enable agencies to take a strategic roll-out approach by implementing hybrid networking architectures that intelligently blend existing multiprotocol label switching with managed broadband to deliver critical improvements at the network edge, where remote sites still struggle for adequate bandwidth.
As agencies continue to leverage more and more cloud-based applications in their missions, they need to think about the network first. MPLS T1 lines are not going to deliver efficient cloud access. By leveraging broadband—regardless of whether the transport technology is cable, fiber, 4G or satellite—and new optimization and security tools from managed service providers, agencies will see two primary returns: increase in bandwidth for better application performance and decreased service costs. Needless to say, there is a big opportunity here for agency enterprises.
Now is the perfect time to confront longstanding network challenges and procure the latest technologies in network systems that are comparable to the high-performing networks of commercial enterprises. This new generation of network solutions will benefit all involved—the agencies, the vendors and most importantly, the taxpayers who deserve the most effective and efficient government operations.
Since joining Hughes Network Systems in January 2006 as assistant vice president, government solutions, Tony Bardo has been responsible for providing Hughes managed network broadband solutions and applications to federal, state and local governments.