7 questions to introduce you to Apps.gov

Here are some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions

The new Apps.gov Web site has raised a lot of questions in the technology and acquisition communities, including basic ones such as "What exactly is cloud computing?"

Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

What is Apps.gov?

Apps.gov sells online access to hosted business and productivity applications that are available on the General Services Administration’s multiple-award schedules contracts. Agencies can also access social-media applications, and cloud computing services will be available soon.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing enables on-demand network access to a pool of configurable networks, servers and storage devices that agencies can set up quickly and with minimal management or interaction with the service provider.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently coined a definition of cloud computing, though it expects to refine the definition after receiving input from the public and private sectors.

What does cloud computing look like in its current form?

NIST said cloud computing has five essential characteristics.

  • On-demand self-service. Consumers can use the infrastructure without interacting with each service’s provider.
  • Broad network access. The services are accessed via a network and standard mechanisms that promote use on different platforms, such as enterprise computers, mobile phones or laptop PCs.
  • Resource pooling. Computing resources — such as data storage, processing and network bandwidth — are pooled to serve multiple consumers. Physical and virtual resources are assigned and reassigned based on consumer demand.
  • Rapid elasticity. The services can be rapidly changed, in some cases automatically, based on demand. But to the consumer, the services often appear to be unlimited.
  • Measured service. Cloud systems control and optimize the use of resources through a metering tool.

What is the Cloud Computing Initiative?

The initiative seeks to fulfill President Barack Obama’s objective for modernizing the government’s information technology infrastructure by identifying common services and solutions that could be delivered via a cloud model.

How is Apps.gov different than GSA’s existing online IT acquisition site, GSA Advantage?

Numerous experts say Apps.gov is simply the same products and services offered on GSA Advantage but with a prettier face. However, GSA officials say Apps.gov will soon include a range of cloud computing services, from server processing capacity to data storage, that are not available through GSA Advantage.

What acquisition rules apply to purchases from the Apps.gov Web site?

The products and services under Apps.gov’s business and productivity applications are offered through GSA’s schedule contracts. So agencies can order those applications using the same Federal Acquisition Regulation procedures that they would use when placing an order on a schedules contract or using GSA Advantage, another online shopping mall for agencies. Buyers can place orders with any schedule contractor that can meet their needs. GSA will soon award a blanket purchase agreement for the cloud IT services.

What payment methods can agencies use on Apps.gov?

Apps.gov only accepts government-issued purchase cards.

About the Author

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

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