General Services Administration

FAS Acquisition Logistics CONnect (FALCON)

Modernization of Federal Supply Services (FSS)

The Challenge:

With portions of GSA’s legacy FSS-19 system consisting of costly Unisys mainframes from the 1970s, maintenance was too costly, and the operations and maintenance (O&M) technical debt insurmountable. Smartly, the GSA published a directive that all legacy mainframe systems would be retired.

The Solution:

Octo was called to establish a modern, refined, and mature solution platform to support long-term, strategic GSA initiatives, including broad cloud adoption and migration. Octo collaborated with the GSA on several solution options and eventually chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) serverless design principles and architecture that reduce infrastructure costs and adapt easily to meet future needs.

Octo’s two Agile teams and one project team have built cloud constructs as microservices, promoting flexibility in design and reuse of existing functions. Together, the teams developed a robust data exchange process that supports streamlined data sharing between the old mainframe and new AWS cloud environments. Numerous systems now connect to FALCON through APIs, and FALCON shares data with other GSA systems. Within GSA’s ecosystem, FALCON serves as the source of truth for data being consumed by other systems.

  • GSA now has its first full-scale serverless Virtual Private Cloud as a Service (VPCaaS) environment using AWS FedRamped services, including AWS Cloud Development Toolkit, which allows for "one-click" deployments.
  • Octo has delivered five of nine fully modernized system components within 12 months, with the remaining components projected to be complete by December 2022.
  • Automation testing (regression) and API/web service testing through Postman and SoapUI using Groovy scripting reduced time for manual testing by half.
  • The design and architecture of the VPCaaS environment, AWS services, and CDK Infrastructure as Code (IaC) pipeline provide capability to resolve open system defects in real-time without system outages. Previously technical debt/defects required downtime and would only be scheduled during quarterly system maintenance periods.
  • To date, FALCON O&M has resolved ~10 high and one critical defect and/or security vulnerabilities in under 12 hours on average.
  • Octo successfully completed a lightweight Authority to Operate (ATO) review in five weeks, as opposed to the typical eight to ten weeks usually required.
  • GSA was recognized by AWS at the 2022 Public Sector Summit where GSA described implemented solutions and successes of adapting legacy mainframe systems to modern cloud-based serverless technologies.

The Benefits

Reusable cloud designs and constructs have reduced GSA’s time to market, while leveraging of cloud-based tools and infrastructure such as Amazon Web Services Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) Infrastructure as Code has further reduced delivery time. Additionally, because FALCON has no server management requirements, there is no operating systems or hardware to install, maintain, or administer. The app team can scale FALCON automatically by adjusting capacity through toggling units of consumption rather than through units of individual servers. Because of this, FALCON will incur no charge when code is not running. And with built-in availability and fault tolerance, FALCON does not require an app team to architect for these capabilities because the services running the application provide them by default. GSA now enjoys 100x savings in existing production operational costs, a reduction from the average cost of ~$1M to ~$100K.