Will agencies cotton to industry trend of outsourcing basic apps?

Will agencies cotton to industry trend of outsourcing basic apps?

'The timing for ASPs is good,' Transportation CIO George Molaski says.

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

As agencies try to cope with the shortfall in systems workers, outsourcing some or perhaps all the work done by their information technology shops could become more alluring.

One approach that has gained favor in industry is the use of application service providers. ASPs are carving a growing niche in the private sector, but the concept is fairly new among government agencies.

In a way, the advent of ASPs harks back to the days when most information was stored in large, centralized data centers. ASPs offer facilities where they maintain the data and the applications.

'The timing for ASPs is good,' Transportation Department chief information officer George Molaski said.

Agencies are facing difficult issues in the race toward electronic government, he said, citing the shortage of IT workers, shrinking budgets and the rapid pace of technological advancement.

'IT is no longer the core business of government,' Molaski said at a forum last month sponsored by the IT Association of America, an industry group in Arlington, Va.

'One of the things that drives this market is technological expertise,' said Richard Terhorst, vice president of federal sales for USinternetworking Inc., an ASP in Annapolis, Md.

USinternetworking came to be when the company's founder, chairman and chief executive officer Christopher R. McCleary, found that 75 percent of his company's IT problems were out of his control, Terhorst said.

Similar in concept to a vendor taking over an agency's PC operations through a seat management contract, an ASP acts as a single contractor responsible for running and supporting an agency's applications.

It's a service

An ASP arrangement lets agencies regard their applications as a service. The software is owned and maintained by the ASP.

ASP vendors tout their services as state-of-the-art, and most offer 99.9 percent uptime for systems running at their data centers under tight security.

ASPs could drive agencies toward thin-client environments, Molaski said. For many of the day-to-day business functions, agencies don't need to run the applications, he said. Federal workers' primary apps are e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet programs, he said.

USinternetworking is working on ASP projects for two agencies: the Federal Aviation Administration and the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service.

Under a contract with Andersen Consulting of Chicago, USinternetworking is hosting a financial application from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., for the Minerals Management Service.

The Interior agency uses the PeopleSoft application to manage the sale of resources originating on American Indian properties.

USinternetworking is also working with FAA on an ASP project under a contract held by Arthur Andersen & Co.

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