Attention shoppers, federal virtual storefront is coming

Industry experts are skeptical about Kundra's plan

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra wants to set up a virtual storefront where agencies can quickly purchase cloud-computing services, but industry experts are skeptical that the model is a good fit for the government unless procurement practices change.

In his previous role as chief technology officer of Washington, D.C., Kundra authorized city workers to acquire and use new cloud services like Google Apps in this way. The initial idea to do so came to him as he sat in a coffee shop one day and realized he had better access to cutting-edge technology with a notebook computer and a Wi-Fi connection than city employees had on their office computers.

But introducing such an approach in the federal market may not be as easy, experts say. For one, the government already operates GSA Advantage, a one-stop-shop Web site where federal employees can purchase products. A new storefront might be redundant, said consultant Mark Amtower.

“This doesn’t sound like it has been well-thought out,” Amtower said. “This is not the District of Columbia, this is 3.5 million federal workers, plus the United States Postal Service and the uniformed services.”

Secondly, the federal government’s software procurement process was originally designed to handle large, complex systems and is still stacked in favor of companies that do business that way, said Roger Thornton, CTO of Fortify Software.

In addition, many cloud companies are new and face the challenge of a long, drawn-out procedure to become authorized suppliers to government. “This mechanism tends to favor incumbent vendors,” said Thornton. “The end result of all this is that government information technology is not only antiquated but expensive.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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