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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Reader comments

Thu, Oct 1, 2009

I was excited about it for my office so I looked into it and had the same conclusion as MattH. There is very little description of what the program is or what it does. They need a tutorial page for each different app to go over all of its functions and uses, or at least have a 30 day free trial version!

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 Ken RRB

Very encouraging to see efforts on the part of Government to tap into resources that have tremendous potential! It is a start and the persistence on the part of Government to polish the effort and clean up the deficiencies will greatly determine its success and effectiveness.

Thu, Sep 17, 2009

How could something like this be released when so few vendors are listed? Google and Salesforec??

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 Northern Virginia

I am kind of ambivalent about the whole cloud computing 'paradigm shift'. I think it is mostly fluff. Yes, I realize that you can run apps in your browser, etc, etc. It's just another idea of a 'computing utility' where everything runs on one giant 'thing' out there and all your data is there too. In my own business I would never trust a third party with my applications' data. This is just another incarnation of 3270 terminals connected to a mainframe. The industry seems to be permanently stuck in the cycle of client server distributed computing. Around and around we go. Facts are: - virtualization is slow and I don't want to run all but the most trivial apps on a giant computer utility mainframe - cloud computing relies on a slow browser on the client, a slower than directly executed programs, and uncertain storage location and security.

Wed, Sep 16, 2009 matth san francisco

Great idea--but have you looked at the website? It starts out pretty, but when you want to consider purchase of an app you have only a hint of what you are buying. The descriptions must have been limited to 140 characters. For example, as Doug says, you can buy Google Apps Premier for $46 a year (and get it 30 days after you order!). But where is the link to show you what you are getting with Google Apps? What is the value added with a third party reseller? At the end of the day, it looks like a repackage of tired GSA policies...a good step, but failed in execution.

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