IT comfort food (and no strained soup puns)

Brad Grimes

Must ... resist ... Campbell's Soup ... allusion. And it would be a heck of a lot easier if GCN contributing writer David Essex hadn't come to the conclusion that SEWP, NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement contract, is so down-home, wholesomely ... good (allusion resisted).

In this edition of the GCN Technology Acquisition Guide, Essex scours government and industry for a bad word about the IT vehicle that counts 400,000-plus products in its catalog'and he's hard-pressed to find one. Part of the reason, say those in the know, is something called the SEWP BOWL (their pun, not ours), which stands for the Business Operations Workstation Laboratory, NASA's highly effective group of customer service reps that support SEWP. Says one vendor, 'The ability of the SEWP BOWL to work with the customer community and vendor community is really what's made it such a successful contract.'

Haven't used SEWP lately? Maybe that's because you think of it as a nerdy, high-performance computing vehicle that caters to engineering types (SGI, for example, has done a lot of business through the current SEWP III contract). But as Essex explains, SEWP is a soup-to-nuts (ugh) IT contract that has something for everyone, plus a transaction fee under 1 percent. Fans also like its complete online catalog and rapid product refreshes.

And it stands to grow even more useful in 2006: When SEWP IV is awarded later this year, Joanne Woytek, the program manager, envisions a contract that offers more services, making it better suited to enterprise systems. In the meantime, agencies can get in on this feel-good story of IT procurement today. Essex gives you the lowdown.

Speaking of the lowdown, we at GCN have been reporting for a while now the universal concern that networks are no longer the only IT systems under attack from hackers and other malcontents'applications are vulnerable, too. What we think you need is better information about the solutions that actually protect at the application level. In this issue of the GCN Tech Acquisition Guide, contributing writer J.B. Miles tackles that wide-ranging product category. Is the firewall on its way out? Miles introduces you to the idea of 'integrated application assurance platforms.'

Also, flip through the following pages for the latest on storage arrays (they're more cost-effective than ever) and integrated development environments (they're increasingly open source). And are you still in the market for a fun, secure way of navigating the Web? The GCN Insider describes what's new in that other Web browser, Opera 9.

As we wrap up this, the third of four 2006 Acquisition Guides, we want to thank everyone for their positive feedback. We'll keep honing our coverage to give you the best buying advice we can deliver. Next month, we'll take a look at the General Services Administration's Millennia and Millennia Lite IT services contracts. How are these new vehicles shaping up, and when should you turn to them for your IT needs? We'll also explore tablet systems, application servers and network appliances. And we promise, not a food reference in sight.

Brad Grimes is GCN's chief technology editor.

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