back to article Stop asking for Amazon, Google and Microsoft cloud with 'no justification': US Library of Congress told to drop its 'brand-name'-tastic RFP

In a decision [PDF] issued yesterday, a US public watchdog said the Library of Congress needs to stop asking contractors to supply brand-name-only commercial stuff for a five-year $150m cloud hosting contract. Congress's library, which is a federal agency, had required that suppliers must offer Amazon, Google and Microsoft …

  1. raving angry loony

    Standard practice

    When you get the sales reps from Amazon, Google and Microsoft to write your RFPs for you, they're not going to be "neutral" RFPs. At all. I've seen FAR too much of that in various government organizations in the UK, US, and Canada. Vendor lockin is something governments should be assiduously working against, not aiding and abetting.

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: Standard practice

      Agreed, and this is for the "big boys". An RFP from a smaller but more innovative company doesn't stand a chance and is only ever used by these guys to help bid down the big-name brands or to convince them to provide more "hand-outs".

      But like many governmental policies, It is like watching a bunch of clowns roll around on the floor in their own excrement.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Standard practice

        Your last sentence breaches patent law, and is an unauthorised penetration/leak of security. Our client D. Cummings is prepared to sue on behalf of his agency, and his clients who commissioned this work, for spoiling the final phase of 'Brexit Funday IV: The Final Reckoning'.

      2. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Standard practice

        like watching a bunch of clowns roll around on the floor in their own excrement.

        Bravo Sir, may I license that one....?

    2. LDS Silver badge

      'Vendor lockin is something governments should be assiduously working against'

      All cloud systems are designed like Hotel California....

  2. Terry 6 Silver badge

    I don't understand....

    How any organisation, but particularly any govt. owned one, can have the sheer brass neck to put out a contract that specifies a random subset of potential suppliers. I can understand a quality threshold e.g. "Must have a successful history of supplying x", ironically seems to be missing from UK requirements (Capita et al). Or a national security one, such as only companies owned within its borders. Or an ethical one, that the companies must meet some specified threshold. But not simply listing a subset of the various ones available because it wants to.That's just an entry level pathway to corruption and back handers. As well as simply being transparently perverse.

    1. Jon 37

      Re: I don't understand....

      If I was a big organization, and I was going to put my data on the cloud, then I would want a big established cloud that I trust is not going to be arbitrarily shut down when the owner is bought / goes bust / decides to exit the business.

      That leaves 3 choices - the ones in the RFP.

      Now the LOC could have tried to reverse-engineer some "impartial" scale and/or stability criteria to ban all but those three clouds, but just specifying the 3 is simpler and saner. And of course, being a simpler and saner way to do the bureaucracy of purchasing, it's not allowed.

    2. Jonjonz

      Re: I don't understand....

      Having written RFPs and RFBs for a number of government agencies I can tell you the "brand name" issue here is just plain lazyness by the bid writer who could not be bothered too write of specifications for services or products that only specific businesses currently provide.

      Trust me, bid writting is not a fast track position in any government, so you get good ones and lots of reallly bad ones, while Admin is too busy to even care.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    Usually when an RFP is rigged

    It will specify something that only the companies they want will have, like maybe "must have at least x datacenters in the US, y in Europe and z in Asia" or something so that the small fry can't meet the criteria. It is harder for them to challenge the reasonableness of such criteria than a short list of companies.

    More typically it is rigged to a single company, but if the Trump administration has infected the decision making process for this RFP like they did the DoD one they will find any reason they can not to select Amazon as the final winner.

  4. Teiwaz

    Even without RFPs

    You are running against the American proclivity to use brand names. 'kleenex', 'Hoovers' etc.

    1. Alister

      Re: Even without RFPs

      I don't think that's an especially American thing is it?

      We commonly refer to the hoover when in fact it's an Electrolux, and have said, "can you get some kleenex", when we just mean Aldi tissues.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Even without RFPs

        That's kind of the opposite. But a lot of Brits we do also do that thing too. Demanding a named brand when any old stuff will do. Notably Paracetamol - requiring, even demanding- Anadin instead of the generic,. Both containing 100% Paracetamol.

        And of course, back in the olden days IT had to be IBM

    2. keith_w

      Re: Even without RFPs

      I think that that is more a British thing. Although we definitely refer to nose tissues as Kleenex, and ASA as aspirin, North Americans refer to most brands of vacuum cleaners as vacuum cleaners, not any specific brand, and we definitely do not refer to an excavator as a "JcB"

    3. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Even without RFPs

      We Brits should be shouting loudly over the Tannoy about this stuff.

  5. Herby

    RFP writers?

    Looks like those vendors haven't taken lessons in RFP writing! The really good ones specify the vendor without specifying the vendor outright. "Must own ajor newspaper", will get you Amazon, etc...

    Some vendors of items actually have the "RFP language" right in the sales brochure. Seems like school got dismissed early!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: RFP writers?

      This is no different to writing job descriptions to get the person you've already selected. Sometimes, of course perfectly validly- as when someone's been doing a temp job for months and you are required to advertise the perm job.

      But open to abuse, too.

      WANTED Support assistant with 19 years experience of being the MD's niece etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seems like school got dismissed early!

      It screams Trump all over the place.

      1. Pennsyjohn

        Re: Seems like school got dismissed early!

        Isn't it amazing how everything is pinned to Trump, even if he had nothing to do with it ?

        Maybe the mud will stick to the wall if you throw enough of it. I doubt the Donald had anything to do with the RFP.

        1. Richocet

          Re: Seems like school got dismissed early!

          The wall is so thickly coated with mud, most new mud won't stick to it.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Seems like school got dismissed early!

        Not Trump but quite likely one of his cabal. Privatizing governement functions is a key plank in ultra-right wing political philosophy.

  6. martinusher Silver badge

    Cloud providers meet Big Users

    The Library of Congress is a good example of an organization who really needs to have this level of storage capability in-house. They are going to be in this for the long term -- the Library of Congress existed well before computers and will exist after the likes of Google, Microsoft and Amazon are historical footnote -- and they have large and ever increasing demands for storage. A cloud provider would be useful for short term backup and overflow provision but its not a good fit for all storage needs -- at best its going to be a large and growing tax, at worst there's going to be a big headache as the providers change.

    The government already owns vast storage capabilities (ask the NSA) so mooching off their data centers would probably be the most cost effective way to provide for long term data storage needs.

  7. hayzoos

    Better not be at Trump's behest

    This is pertaining to The Library of Congress, part of the Legislative branch, not the Executive branch. The office of The President is the top of the Executive branch. Congress is the top of the Legislative branch. The President should have no say over operations of the other branches except those specifically called out in the constitution.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Better not be at Trump's behest

      Irrespective of nation or constitution, that's just not how patronage in govt. works.

      It's not "Trump decided this". (Or whoever)

      It's "The placemen who have been given these roles because the people at the top approve of/expect favour from them decide this".

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