Networx to give agencies better hold on IP services

Now that the General Services Administration has awarded its multibillion-dollar Networx telecommunications contract, agencies' planned uses will be as diverse as the services the contract will provide.

While agency IT officials readily admit there are no 'wow' or cutting-edge technologies on the surface of the contract, Networx will give agencies the opportunity to tap into functions previously not available under a single, governmentwide acquisition contract.

'It is the management of our backbone that seems to be more beneficial than any technology on the contract,' said Ed Meagher, the Interior Department's deputy chief information officer. 'Networx offers the ability to rethink how you incorporate the technology, who does the integration and how you control it.'

GSA awarded the first Networx deal, known as Universal, last week to AT&T, Qwest Government Services and MCI Communications Services, doing business as Verizon Business Services.

Sprint/Nextel did not win a place on the vehicle that has a $48.1 billion ceiling.

Networx Universal will take over for the expiring FTS 2001 contract as the primary contract vehicle for procuring telecommunications and network services. GSA plans to award Networx Enterprise, a companion vehicle offering a less extensive range of services, in May.

Under the Universal contract, the three vendors will offer similar services to FTS 2001, but also more than 20 new ones that emphasize the future of IP-based networks. These newer services include voice, IP, wireless, satellite and optical connectivity services, as well as such IP-centric application services as hosting, content management and teleworking.

And those IP possibilities are what attracts Meagher and other agency IT managers to the contract.

'Networx forms the core of our OneNet program that will bring together our many networks across DHS,' said Scott Charbo, the Homeland Security Department's CIO. 'EAGLE and First Source [DHS' enterprise IT contracts] complement Networx by providing edge services down to our desktops and handheld devices."

Charbo previously said Networx would help DHS finish consolidating six wide-area networks and move the agency to a managed-services environment.

Meagher has similar hopes for Interior.

Interior initially will consolidate its telecommunications around one vendor and then ask that vendor to move the agency to purely an IP network, he said.

'We will want them to take their circuits back and essentially take us from buying routers and circuits to buying pure IP services,' Meagher said. 'It is our mission to do various things, and we need IP services to get there.'

Robert Suda, the Agriculture Department's associate CIO for integration and operations, said his agency likely will wait until GSA awards the Enterprise contract to make any long-term decisions. But his office is mostly looking for voice-over-IP and wireless services from Networx initially.

'We still are going through an internal analysis and establishing standards for VOIP,' Suda said. 'We are trying to make the workforce more mobile, especially agency employees who are out in'public every day.'

Suda said Agriculture has some wireless services under the FTS-2001 contract, but hopes Networx will be cheaper.

He added that USDA may award its first task order under Networx by late December or early January.

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