It’s easy to gloss over company news announcements. But we had one this week that IS a big deal. It’s a big deal for the government and anyone in IT who cares about using the Internet as an extension of their core WAN services.
Sprint was one of three companies approved by the U.S. General Services Administration as an authorized provider of Managed Trusted IP Services (MTIPS). What is MTIPS? It’s a new service offering under the Networx Enterprise contract that allows agencies to comply with the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) mandate. TIC is basically a framework that defines the way in which government agencies interact with the Internet going forward. It addresses a major challenge that the OMB defined in the federal space and provides for the reduction, consolidation, and standardization of the number of Internet connections from over 5,000 in 2007 to less than 100 by the end of 2010 (the goal anyhow).
Sure, specific agencies identified and authorized by OMB may still build their own TIC solution. I don’t think many will, though (except for perhaps the very largest agencies). The goal is to provide for a more secure infrastructure for the US government in which the Internet is a legitimate solution for supporting internal and external clients. To achieve this goal, they’re going to need the service providers like Sprint to help to do that.
So, what does this mean for Sprint? Essentially, this award means that Sprint can offer federal organizations a pre-packaged bundle of previously a la carte services that are now a part of Sprint’s MTIPS services (ex: intrusion detection and prevention, secure managed email, anti-virus and managed firewall services). With included integration with the DHS US CERT EINSTEIN program, MTIPS will help agencies fortify their networks against a wide array of threats.
But this deal is bigger than Sprint.
Let me tell you why:
- -The awareness factor. It shows that the government believes the Internet is really important and should receive top-notch protection. They’re worried about the rising number of Internet based attacks, data leakage, spam, etc. These concerns are forcing agencies to rethink all of this. They’re raising awareness—and the bar--around cyber security.
- -The status quo (the way things have always been done) isn’t cutting it. OMB and the federal government are acknowledging there’s a risk to each agency doing their own home-grown Internet security solutions and policies. Agencies have been patching these together for years, using different vendors for different parts (ex: firewalls, VPNs). But it doesn’t make sense anymore to have standalone gateway/services.
- -Integrated over standalone services: The government is acknowledging that there’s a better way: a standards-based, integrated approach where everything is seamlessly part of the agency’s wide area network. In other words, security is now a “feature” of the WAN…not some bolted-on solution.
- -Internet security belongs with the Experts: While this may not be so obvious, GSA made a very specific decision to include the MTIPS offering as part of Networx vs. the enumerable other government contracts. Effectively, they recognize that this job must be done by people who understand the Internet…not people who are simply security minded. (sure, you have to have both--trust me, we do). GSA has also recognized that Internet and Security go hand-in-hand. MTIPS is a natural extension to the other IP services available on the Networx Enterprise contract.
This all makes sense when you step back and think about it. Why does a firewall have to stand alone? Why shouldn’t you be putting controls (where, how, who, and what happens) when the Internet connects to the WAN? Why should security stand alone? The feds know that to deal with the new cyber threats, they have to embrace a better approach.
For me, this is another sign that convergence is getting traction. Companies everywhere are wrestling with this same issue. They’re looking at moving away from this stand-alone model to services that are inherent to the network, all the way up to cloud computing. The MTIPS award announcement should be a good model for everyone to look at and consider in each enterprise’s network and solution.
After all, it isn’t like “scary” Internet issues go away. MTIPS gives the federal government a new way to approach and solve these problems.