The General Services Administration (GSA) is launching a new initiative that will set up the agency as the prime destination for cloud solutions, a GSA official said on April 6 at FCW’s Cloud Summit event.

Sonny Hashmi, the commissioner for Federal Acquisition Services at GSA, explained that the new initiative will roll out a new blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to provide Federal agencies with commercial cloud offerings. The new Ascend BPA is a multi-purpose, multiple award agreement that will allow agencies to acquire and implement secure commercial cloud services offerings.

Ascend BPA is designed to “enable agencies to plan and execute cloud acquisitions, and it will have in-built minimum thresholds for security, data ownership, and common terms and conditions,” Hashmi said.

The goal behind the initiative is “to reduce the burden on agencies because instead of [every] agency having to figure out the different nuances of cloud solutions … all those things will already be baked in,” he added.

“There’s always going to be a way to buy straightforward, fixed-price cloud solutions, just the way agencies have today. But there’s a lot of, kind of pain points and use cases that are not being addressed, and that’s what we’re envisioning this marketplace to approach,” Hashmi said.

Agencies have gone from buying single-cloud environments to solve a particular problem, to now being able to acquire multiple cloud service solutions that are working in an ecosystem along with the services needed to integrate, deploy, secure, monitor, and manage them.

“Ascend BPA will provide agencies with the best means of acquiring and subsequently managing their cloud solutions in one place,” he added. “The award will be designed to optimize for payment by consumption and feature new insights on government spend data for cloud consumption.”

However, Hashmi emphasized that Ascend BPA will not be a mechanism to serve all cloud needs for all agencies, and said that kind of mechanism would most likely fail. Hashmi said he understands that frustration all too well, recalling the frustration he experienced while working in the private sector when agencies all had different needs for cloud services, different security requirements, reporting requirements, price expectations, etc.

“What we’re trying to do is bring all those expectations to a common baseline,” Hashmi said.

“It’s a big task, going to require some movements, going to require some rethinking of business models on the industry side, and it’s going to require some rethinking on how we articulate our expectations and requirements on the government side,” he said.

Ascend BPA is currently in the market research phase, and an exact award date has not determined.

However, according to Hashmi, the agency will release a draft solicitation during an upcoming industry day to receive input from the private sector. Hashmi also added that GSA is still looking over the responses it received from a request for information it released last fall.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.