Grants.gov is seeking information from companies capable of providing a “cloud computing” solution to support its needs, as this sources sought notice shows:
The core business of Grants.gov is: forms (development with business rules, testing, and deployment); the data residing on or within the form; and the transmission of said data between customers (applicants and grantor agencies) via Grants.gov. At the present time Grants.gov owns and manages the information technology system that ensures the fulfillment of its core business. Grants.gov is re-aligning its business efforts to allow it to focus principally on its core business. This means that Grants.gov will no longer be in the ownership and management of IT. As a consequence, Grants.gov anticipates pursuing the acquisition of a “cloud computing” environment to include but not limited to service-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capability to fulfill its mission needs.
Grants.gov currently runs its own hardware and software, end-to-end, with the support of a variety of contractors, primarily General Dynamics (née Anteon). This notice appears to indicate that Grants.gov wants to move away from directly managing their technology infrastructure to focus on programmatic control and business requirements.
By happenstance, “cloud computing” is discussed in this week’s Washington Technology magazine. The article discusses the use of a third party provider to smooth mail service provision, and that highlights one interpretation of “cloud computing” — a resource that can be pulled upon as-needed to meet a requirement. That view, however, is predicated on the resource being a commodity service, which mail processing most certainly is. Once you get beyond server and bandwidth provisioning, however, Grants.gov’s functionality is anything but a commodity service. So I suspect they are shooting for a different interpretation of “cloud computing, ” on in which the “cloud” is really synonymous with “managed services” or — a dirty little word in political circles these days — “outsourcing”.
In this interpretation, a vendor takes responsibility for an entire operation, end-to-end, leaving the customer (in this case the Grants.gov PMO) to manage and interpret customer requirements. All service delivery is done by the vendor.
Either interpretation has massive advantages, as long as they are managed correctly and with a clear understanding of expectations and requirements. Until now, Grants.gov has been a service organization and technology developer and provider. It now appears to want to be only a service provider.
One final note on the cloud computing idea: Our friend Shahid Shah posted a timely note on FederalArchitect regarding the need for a Federal Cloud Architecture, so agencies could use cloud computing infrastructure while meeting security and policy requirements. Check that out here.
What are your views on this development at Grants.gov?