Interior Storage Heads to the Cloud

A different kind of cloud floats over Zion National Park in Utah.

A different kind of cloud floats over Zion National Park in Utah. Flickr user StuSeeger

Award to Verizon, IBM and others was slowed by a contract dispute resolved in March.

The Interior Department has awarded a slate of cloud storage contracts to companies including Verizon and AT&T, one month after defeating a vendor protest that threatened to delay the acquisitions.

The contracts for cloud storage, secure file transferring, virtual machine operations, and Web and database hosting are all aimed at lowering Interior’s operating costs by moving those services out of proprietary data centers.

Cloud storage is typically cheaper than on-site data center storage because vendors can pack information more tightly and charge for storage space like a utility, with customers only paying for the storage they use. Interior Chief Information Officer Bernard Mazer has described the solicitation as a “one-stop shop for all DoI’s outside, contractor-supplied, hosting.”

The contracts are all indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity, or IDIQ, meaning Interior will purchase an unspecified amount of the good or service based on its needs.

The contract will last at least through 2015 and may be extended through 2022, according to contracting documents. The ceiling for all goods and services purchased through the contract, regardless of how long it lasts, will be $1 billion.

Other vendors listed on the contract are: Lockheed Martin, IBM, Smartronix, Unisys, Aquilent, Automonic Resources, CGI and GTRI.

The comptroller general’s office cleared the way for the Interior contract award in March when it denied a protest from technology vendor Qwest Government Services. Qwest argued the goods and services described in the June 2012 solicitation were too vague and that the terms of the proposed contracts imposed too much risk on vendors.

The comptroller general’s office found Interior had provided adequate information for vendors to compete for the contracts and that the agency was under no obligation to ensure its eventual contracts limited risk for vendors.

A $35 million contract to move Interior to a cloud email system was delayed for more than a year by a legal squabble between vendors representing Google and Microsoft systems. The contract for 90,000 email users ultimately went to Onix Networking, which offers the Google Apps for Government system.