Got an App for that? Not quite yet

Government's App Store launches with sparse offerings

One of the main goals of the new Apps Storefront launched by the General Services Administration last week is to let agencies buy cloud-computing services as easily as a consumer can acquire a Gmail or Facebook account.

However, that envisioned experience will largely have to wait, said Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer. A few offerings are available, but vendors will have to pass a review to verify their compliance with federal regulations such as the Federal Information Security Management Act. 

The initial applications that will receive certification will be for low-risk services such as public blogs and public-affairs announcements, said Casey Coleman, GSA's CIO. Vendors that pass the review will be allowed to offer their services on Apps.gov. The reviews will be public and transparent, so vendors won't have to repeat the process to satisfy new customers, Coleman said.

There a few cloud services available for sale on Apps.gov now that have not gone through the certification process, Kundra said. The store is organized under four categories: business apps, productivity apps, cloud IT services and social-media apps. Some of the subcategories are empty while others have offerings from Google and Salesforce.com.

Under the social-media category there are several free offerings. Agencies can acquire Wordpress, a blogging tool, for example.

In a separate effort, Google plans to offer a government version of Google Apps in a dedicated environment within undisclosed Google facilities in the United States, according to Matthew Glotzbach, Google's director of enterprise product management. The federal version of Google Apps should be available sometime in 2010, he said.

Glotzbach said the facilities used for the government version of Google Apps will be separate from business customers and will meet the security requirements of FISMA. To comply with FISMA, Google will have to put the employees who oversee the operations through specific background checks mandated by agencies. Government services would have to reside on their own servers and be accessed only by approved personnel.

Even for low-risk services, the certification process might be challenging, said Bruce Hart, chief operating officer for IT infrastructure provider Terremark’s federal practice.

“From the perspective of security, GSA was careful, in its recent request for services to be sold via the storefront, to ensure requirements for two-factor authentication, FISMA low-impact standards, background checks for service-delivery employees, and assurance that all federal data and applications remain in continental United States,” he said.

Apps.gov is the administration’s latest step toward developing more useful tools for agencies to do their jobs, Kundra said.

Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said Apps.gov is the first version of many similar purchasing Web sites to come. GSA’s other online store, GSA Advantage, can’t offer everything. Apps.gov won’t overshadow Advantage though, he said. Agencies largely buy commodities off of Advantage, so it has its place for now at least.

Adjusting to a new way of buying technology will also be a challenge for federal agencies, said Venkatapathi Puvvada, a vice president at Unisys Federal Systems.

“Cultural barriers will be continual challenges, but we can help to address this through proactive education on the benefits of cloud computing,” he said.

About the Authors

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.