The acquisition arm of the General Services Administration (GSA) – the Information Technology Category (ITC) specifically – is looking to make federal cloud purchasing a little less complex. For the past year, GSA ITC has been planning Ascend, a streamlined contract vehicle for federal agencies to purchase cloud solutions that meet standardized requirements.
If your company sells cloud solutions to the government, you may benefit from pursuing the upcoming Ascend Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). To help you understand and evaluate this new governmentwide cloud BPA, let’s dig into the specifics to uncover:
- What is Ascend?
- Who can you sell to through Ascend?
- What types of cloud offerings can you sell on the Ascend BPA?
- How can you compete for an Ascend BPA contract?
- What is the anticipated timeline?
What is Ascend?
Ascend is a multiple-award, multiple-agency GSA Schedule BPA for cloud solutions. What does that mean? Blanket Purchase Agreements are established to meet a recurring need for products or services. Because this is a GSA Schedule BPA, as opposed to a traditional BPA, guidelines developed specifically for the GSA Schedule Program apply. With a GSA Schedule BPA, the terms and conditions of a company’s GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Contract will flow down and apply to the BPA.
The goal of the Ascend BPA is to establish minimum baseline requirements for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and cloud related IT services. According to GSA, this will serve the “Cloud Marketplace vision of empowering agencies to develop and implement enterprise-level cloud acquisition strategies through a modernized and simplified approach to meet their IT and cybersecurity requirements.”
Since Ascend will be a GSA Schedule BPA, the contract can be used to sell to any ordering entity authorized to use the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). That includes local, state and federal government agencies, along with tribal governments and educational institutions under 40 U.S.C. § 502(c).
What Types of Cloud Services Can You Sell through Ascend?
The Ascend BPA will include commercial cloud service solutions divided into three primary independent pools:
Pool 1: IaaS and PaaS
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions help government agencies process and store data, maintain networks, and deploy consumer-facing applications.
Pool 3: Cloud IT professional services
Cloud IT professional services support the government’s digital transformation and management of commercial cloud services.
How Can Companies Compete for the Ascend BPA?
All products and services sold through GSA are broken down into Large Categories, Subcategories, and Special Item Numbers (SINs). To compete for the Ascend BPA, your company must first hold a GSA MAS contract with the:
- Information Technology Large Category;
- IT Solutions Subcategory; and
- Cloud Computing and Cloud Related IT Professional Services SIN 518210C
Currently, approximately 500 companies hold a GSA MAS Contract with SIN 518210C. Nearly 80% of these companies are classified as small businesses. You can view the list of Cloud SIN holders on GSA’s eLibrary website here.
With GSA Cloud SIN sales approaching $2 billion in 2021, federal buyers are increasingly turning to the GSA MAS Contract to meet their cloud needs. The Ascend BPA will likely expand awareness and create additional opportunities for cloud service providers as it streamlines the government cloud purchasing process.
What’s the Anticipated Timeline for the Ascend BPA?
As of today, there is no firm timeline for the award of Ascend. GSA originally planned on issuing the Request for Quote (RFQ) for Ascend in December of 2021. They then planned on awarding Pool 1 in January of 2022. However, those dates have come and gone without the release of even a draft RFQ.
The delayed timeline is good news for companies that do not yet hold a GSA MAS Contract or the Cloud SIN, but are interested in competing for the Ascend BPA. There are options to fast-track GSA proposals and modifications. However, in general it takes a minimum of 3-4 months to obtain a GSA MAS Contract. While we have yet to receive an estimated release date for the Ascend RFQ, time is likely running out for interested parties.
Below is a timeline of Ascend BPA updates so far:
- 09/30/2021: GSA released a market research RFI for a Government-Wide Cloud BPA
- 10/27/2021: GSA posted a special notice for companies interested in pursuing the Government-Wide Cloud BPA. The notice stated that companies must hold a GSA MAS Contract with SIN 518210C prior to the release of the RFQ.
- 11/5/2021: GSA posted a supplemental special notice with information regarding the BPA pools.
- 12/15/2021: GSA walked back their estimated timeline with a statement that the timing has yet to be determined.
- 4/18/2022: During FCW’s Cloud Summit event in April, GSA introduced the Cloud BPA as Ascend, which was later confirmed in an Interact post.
- 05/23/2022: GSA posted a Draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) and requested feedback.
- 07/29/2022: GSA released another market research RFI for companies interested in the Ascend BPA.
Prepare Your Company for the Ascend BPA With FEDSched
Is your company ready to compete for the Ascend BPA? FEDSched can help you quickly obtain a GSA MAS Contract and the Cloud SIN, so your company can access and respond to the upcoming RFQ for Ascend.
To learn more, contact our team today.