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TOP 100: Lumen shapes the public sector landscape through partnerships and innovation labs

TOP 100: Lumen shapes the public sector landscape through partnerships and innovation labs


The communications network modernization effort, the contracting vehicle through which the federal government procures most things, is approaching the halfway point of its life cycle, but the agency in charge of it is already looking ahead.

In February, the General Services Administration began previewing a successor contract to the current Enterprise Solutions Infrastructure Vehicle. GSA launched EIS master contracts for businesses in 2017 with a maximum limit of $50 billion for up to 15 years, and has nearly completed awarding subsequent task orders.

Jason Shulman, national vice president of federal sales for EIS Prime Lumen Technologies, acknowledged that it's “hard to believe” that GSA is working on a new strategy called Next Generation Network Infrastructure, because the launch of EIS still feels like so recently.

“NGNI's goal is to help government keep pace with the massive changes that come with technological advances, but also to set the pace,” Schulman said. “Requests for proposals take years to develop, take years for industry, and then take years to award contracts, so all the up-front work starts now.”

Lumen earned No. 38 on the 2024 Top 100 rankings with $1.02 billion in unclassified prime technology and professional services obligations.

Much of Lumen's work to capture federal market opportunities and enterprise-wide insights in the global communications provider's federal government market is taking place in the company's Integration and Enablement Lab.

Schulman positioned the lab as an environment where Lumen can work with industry partners to test and deploy multifaceted technology solutions for customers, and interoperability is a big focus for Lumen as it manages that aspect, he said.

“Many government customers face a variety of challenges designing, implementing and managing a variety of capabilities,” Schulman added, “so we can provide managed services to ease the burden on the government in these labs.”

Take network protection, for example, as we move forward with the concept of zero trust across government. Zero trust is the idea that anyone trying to access an employer or customer network must vouch for their identity.

Schulman said core networks and security are typically a focus of modernization conversations with government agencies, as time and technology advances and agencies start thinking about more ubiquitous connectivity and resiliency.

Software-defined networks and software-as-a-service tools can act as an overlay for wireless and satellite broadband networks, which Schulman described as one way to extend underlying connectivity technologies.

On the security side, cyber and supply chain risk management have become major legal and policy themes, with government agencies constantly looking at their own posture.

“Zero Trust touches everything. We understand the challenges that government agencies face as the attack surface continues to expand,” Schulman said. “You have hybrid cloud environments, legacy systems and an ever-growing number of applications. The challenges are many, but so are the great possibilities.”

The best word to describe the journey agencies have taken in transitioning from up-front contracts such as Networx to EISs is “challenging.” Supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have also hindered the transition and modernization.

But now in 2024, many agencies have completed or are close to completing the transition, Shulman said.

“Seven years is a long time and a lot has happened in that time,” Shulman said. “GSA is looking at ways to add new technologies to the EIS contracts so agencies can see the benefits.”

As for the road ahead for network modernization, Schulman said much of that activity will be tied to a global economy that is now highly digitalized — almost everything in the economy runs on applications, and applications run on ever-growing amounts of data.

This comes as Lumen has launched a digital team, bringing together a group of innovators charged with developing a vision for the company's physical network in 2023. Cloud services are also a key area of ​​focus for the team, Schulman said.

One of the team's achievements that Schulman highlighted was the ExaSwitch, which Lumen created in collaboration with hyperscale cloud partners, which he described as a “toll road” for government agencies to connect to cloud environments with ultra-low latency.

“That's where I see the future for Lumen — how we work with our partners to truly disrupt the communications industry,” Shulman said.

(A future episode of WT 360 will feature the full conversation with Shulman.)




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