Kundra's great experiment: Government apps 'store front' opens for business

GSA launches portal where agencies can buy cloud computing services

The White House has opened an online storefront where federal agencies can purchase cloud computing services. Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, said that the new service -- called Apps.gov -- is designed to reduce redundancy and costs by pooling information technology resources across government organizational boundaries, Kundra said.

The General Services Administration assembled an interagency team to build Apps.gov, GSA officials said. Creating a way for agencies to share resources, rather than operating separate and distinct IT systems, was a priority of the team, Kundra said.

Initial cloud services available from Apps.gov are simple and straightforward, Kundra said. It will take up to 10 years to fully realize the potential of the program, he said.

The store is organized under four categories: business apps, productivity apps, cloud IT services and social media apps. Various vendors offer their services in the appropriate categories. It costs $45.94 a year to purchase access to Google Apps Premier for one user, for example.

Under the social media category there are several free offerings. Agencies can acquire UserVoice, a tool that lets communities vote and make comments on ideas, for example.

However, government's move to cloud computing is still a cautious one. It involves making some serious changes in the way agencies have traditionally viewed information technology. Instead of owning applications, agencies pay to use them, while other entities -- in many cases, private companies -- actually host and run them. That saves money for the agencies, but it also creates security issues, said Mark Amtower, an industry consultant.

Amtower also said the store had launched without a lot to offer and needs to add more services fast. “What they are offering here is pretty bare-bones,” he said.

Apps.gov is managed by the GSA development team, which is led by Casey Coleman, GSA’s CIO.

“Through Apps.gov, GSA can take on more of the procurement processes upfront, helping agencies to better fulfill their missions by implementing solutions more rapidly,” Coleman said. “We will also work with industry to ensure cloud-based solutions are secure and compliant to increase efficiency by reducing duplication of security processes throughout government."

Besides encouraging better collaboration among agencies, Kundra said he expects cloud services to reduce energy consumption because agencies will be able to share IT infrastructures.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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