David Young oversees sales activities in the federal government market for Level 3 Communications in his role as a vice president at the multinational telecommunications and Internet service provider company.
Broomfield, Colo.-headquartered Level 3 operates a Tier 1 network worldwide and its work for federal agencies includes network security, Internet connections for large enterprises and cloud computing infrastructure.
Young recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for this conversation to discuss his outlook for the General Services Administration‘s upcoming telecommunications contract vehicle that has garnered much industry attention, cloud and Internet connectivity trends at agencies and how Level 3 seeks to apply its commercial sector identity in the federal market.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the most significant change in the market since 2010?
David Young: There have been a lot of changes, but perhaps the most significant shift I've seen is in the types of money the government has access to. For a period of time after 9/11, there was a lot of capital available to build systems. Now we've seen a change to an operational budget with very little capital.
Customers aren't looking to piece together a solution themselves. They want a company to provide a best-in-breed solution packaged together. That shift is altering their view of project buildouts. When that begins to occur, we see a change to more contracting for a level of service. Scope-of-work contracts that existed in the past are transitioning to SLA-based contracts where services guaranteed to be available and the onus is on the contractor.
ExecutiveBiz: What are government agencies spending more of their time and effort now with regard to telecommunications?
David Young: It's all about transition versus transform. For example, GSA’s Networx contract is being revised and extended to 2020. The follow-on contract is called EIS, or Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions. Some agencies are simply looking to transition from Networx to EIS, moving what they already have deployed because of tight budgets; however, some agencies see EIS as an opportunity to truly transform their network infrastructure.
They are looking at new technologies and how they can enhance their enterprise architecture to manage and anticipate current and future technology needs. And often what this means is moving from a government-operated environment, where they may have brought from multiple contracts to operate their network, to an environment where the contracting company owns and operates it.
ExecutiveBiz: How does Level 3 apply its commercial identity to the public sector?
David Young: From a technology standpoint, we're providing all the same products and services, whether we're collaborating with an enterprise or a government agency. The nuance is on the procurement side because the way the government procures technology services is so different from the commercial enterprise space.
From the leadership standpoint, Level 3 is unique to the marketplace because our government channel exists in the same organization as our enterprise organization. Whatever happens in the enterprise is part of what happens in government because we are all under the same umbrella.
When I meet people for the first time, I explain that at Level 3, we service government in nearly the same way as we service the commercial enterprise market. Sometimes it's easier to think about the government as Fortune #1A because of its size.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see more potential for commercial technology adoption by agencies?
David Young: From what I've seen there are four commercial technology areas that are top of mind within the government realm — security, cloud, hybrid wide area networks and software-defined networks. Security has been talked about extensively, so I'll focus on Hybrid WAN, SDN and cloud.
In the enterprise space, agencies are beginning to look at a variety of technologies at the edge of the network. These technologies must work in conjunction with data center connectivity, regional sites and main sites. Although they might be adding a virtual private network, there are edge sites that don’t require a higher class of service and bandwidth.
That's when Hybrid WAN comes into play because it can combine many access technologies into a single enterprise network such as wireless 4G, cable access and public Internet.
An example might be an agency located in the airport and there's public Internet available. Because they are at the edge of the network, the agency is able to live with a class of service that doesn't require much priority and or bandwidth. An agency is able to connect using a variety of technologies and provide that same type of experience to your users back to the core of the network. Of course, with all the same level of network security.
Hybrid WAN is about understanding the needs of the network throughout the tiers of the network so one can pick and choose the right access methods.
On SDN, as the carriers begin to understand and use the technology not only in the core, but also in their edge, it is going to provide a significant level of control and flexibility for customers to shape their networks as demand dictates.
The next step will be to understand how to procure it. The government traditionally likes fixed cost, but SDN is about turning up or down networks which changes costs frequently. This poses a challenge to how the government will manage their budgets.
Regarding the cloud, all agencies have different needs, so it is about determining what is best for the agency. For some agencies, the public cloud will be a great fit because it is very easy to use, access and deploy. For other agencies, the information they have needs to be secure and wouldn't ever be housed in the public domain.
That information will need private access and require private clouds. There is also going to be everything in between with different hybrids that mix public and private. The key for Level 3 is to helping agencies get to and from these clouds in a secure and quick manner.
ExecutiveBiz: Which technology trend do you plan to watch closely over the next year?
David Young: I am watching the Internet of Things. Specifically, how the government is going to evolve in order to use the technologies employed by our consumer and enterprise markets. In addition, procurement is a trend I find really interesting.
As a person who has been closely watching technology evolve for almost 30 years in the government space, I am watching how the GSA or agencies are going to use the contract vehicles and how those contract vehicles are going to be structured in order to procure technology five or ten years from now.
It is interesting to see how the government will evolve its procurement methods to keep up technology. We will see how the government will incorporate the foresight into their contracts so they have the flexibility to buy these solutions five years from now because we know technologies are adaptive and ever-changing.