The Defense Information Systems Agency on Feb. 19 suspended indefinitely a deadline for proposals for a joint enterprise licensing agreement with server-virtualization giant VMWare that would be worth roughly $1.6 billion.
The request for proposals, which covers software licensing and maintenance, was issued Feb. 9, with questions due by Feb. 17 and final proposals due Feb. 23. But on Feb. 19 DISA issued an update to the RFP noting that the final deadline would be suspended "until further notice to allow the government sufficient time to respond to questions received."
The deadline extension comes after multiple bid protests and a heated response within the defense contracting community.
Thomas Sasala, CTO of the Army's IT Agency, will provide an update on DoD's virtualization efforts in a special free webcast on March 10. Click here for more.
The brand-name procurement aims to consolidate under a single agreement Defense Department-wide support for more than 2 million VMWare licenses and "reduce administration of over 9,270 separate VMWare procurement transactions which have occurred in the past five years," according to DISA's documents justifying the sole-source agreement.
"VMWare software is fully implemented and integrated into the DoD's architecture and has been for more than 11 years. VMWare has become the architectural standard," the documents state, redacting the percentage of DoD virtualized environments involved. "The continued brand-name software support is required in order to maintain uniformity, common troubleshooting and service techniques. Given the proprietary nature of software code, it would not be possible for another brand of software to provide software support for the current VMWare license inventory."
But the agreement goes beyond just the server-virtualization business VMWare dominates.
It also includes VMWare software for desktop-as-a-service, desktop virtualization, virtual storage and more, and that's stirred up controversy in the contracting community, according to a Washington Technology report that says four companies have filed pre-award protests with the Government Accountability Office. The protests from Amazon Web Services, Citrix Systems, Minburn Technology Group and Nutanix claim the proposed contract unduly restricts competition.
Sources say the agreement would restrict competition and give VMWare an unfair advantage, and that the tight timelines between the solicitation's release and proposal deadline discouraged questions from vendors.
Large portions of the justification document have been heavily redacted by DISA, including market research, determination of fair and reasonable cost, listing of interested sources, and actions the agency may take to remove or overcome barriers that led to the exception to full and open competition.
Increasingly DISA is looking toward joint enterprise licensing agreements, or JELAs, as a way to improve efficiencies and savings.
"The operational component is part acquisition and looking at acquisition from a total cost of ownership as well as a lifecycle perspective and a simplicity perspective. That's critical as we move forward as a department," Alfred Rivera, director of DISA's business and development center, said in October. "How do we do acquisitions that are benefiting not just a single community, but a whole [range of] communities?"
A decision from GAO on the protests is due June 1.