The goals set by the General Services Administration (GSA) through its Enterprise Infrastructure Services (EIS) contract are high – and rightfully so. EIS, which will serve as the government’s primary vehicle for telecommunications-related services, is designed to enable agencies to modernize their networks, particularly through new technologies such as software-defined networking, 5G wireless services, and managed services.
EIS has two additional end goals: greater efficiency with taxpayers’ dollars and, ultimately, greater effectiveness in carrying out agency missions.
The EIS contract was awarded in 2017 to nine companies offering, at minimum, virtual private network services, managed network services, voice services, and ethernet. Agencies had been required to transition away from the previous contract vehicle—Networx—to EIS by the Spring of 2020. GSA extended the deadline to May 2023 to provide agencies with more time.
Three years into the effort, with many delays and three years to go, what should we expect to see when the deadline approaches?
Modernization through the cloud
First and foremost, we’ll see a dramatic shift to cloud computing and the implementation of technologies to enable and enhance the move. According to Allen Hill, director of the Telecommunications Services Office at GSA, “Today’s network is not what we need to support the Cloud Smart initiative. We have to create a network that is based on cloud technology.”
As a function of this shift, most agencies’ highest priorities will focus on modernization, as this shift will provide dramatic cost saving and improved quality of service. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, “IT infrastructure modernization—particularly improvements in networks and the hosting of compute and storage through the cloud—has been a major driver of value in private-sector industry. … The public sector, however, has struggled to modernize its infrastructure and has not realized the same [benefits].”
Zero trust is paramount
EIS also serves as a catalyst for agencies to implement a zero-trust model, helping enhance network service delivery and data protection. Zero trust is a security model based on the concept of maintaining the strictest possible access controls by trusting nobody—not even users inside the network. In doing so, federal IT teams wouldn’t have to configure and maintain various levels of access control, which can ultimately serve as an attack vector.
The blossoming of SD-WAN
Finally, EIS will provide a platform for agencies to implement software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), which will offer easier network management. An SD-WAN is essentially a virtual wide-area network—a network abstracted from its hardware—allowing the federal IT team to remotely manage and quickly scale resources. Because it’s virtual, it’s more flexible and available than a standard WAN.
Patience is key
That said, patience is key relative to EIS. GSA has stated its preference is for agencies to take a strategic approach to modernization, focusing on mission objectives and the technologies to support those objectives, rather than implementing technology for technology’s sake.
So, for now, we wait and see.
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