GSA doesn't expect overnight success with apps store
Apps.gov starts with low-risk applications but will gradually add mission-critical offerings
Following the lead of Amazon, the General Services Administration has entered the online sales business, launching a storefront operation called Apps.gov. But instead of books and CDs, GSA will be reselling online information technology services. And the agency is starting small.
The revolution behind Apps.gov
Launched by federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, the new service will allow agencies to easily procure cloud computing services, such as software-as-a-service or infrastructure-as-a-service offerings. The idea is to create a conduit through which federal agencies can tap into new services as quickly as the private sector or a home user can.
"We want to make sure we can leverage innovation as it is happening around the country and throughout the federal government," Kundra said.
By using a cloud infrastructure, agencies also could reduce how much they spend on infrastructure maintenance, although time will tell if a monthly IT bill will truly be less expensive than an outright purchase of hardware and software licenses every three years or so.
Apps.gov is managed by the GSA development team, led by Casey Coleman, GSA’s CIO. "The underlying procurement vehicle for Apps.gov is the GSA Schedule 70," Coleman said. Agencies will be able to acquire these services quickly because GSA has already prenegotiated the contracts with vendors, ensuring that all government mandates, such as the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act, are met.
The store is organized under four categories: business apps, productivity apps, cloud IT services and social-media apps. At the time of the launch, not much was being offered except for a handful of services from Google, Salesforce and some others. The price for a year’s access to Google Apps Premier for one user, for example, is $45.94. In the social-media category, there are several free offerings, such as UserVoice, a tool that lets communities vote and make comments on ideas.
Coleman and Kundra say it will take a while for Apps.gov to have a full line of offerings. "This will not happen overnight," Kundra said.
Coleman said the initial round of offerings will be for public-facing applications that have a low level of security risks but then added that "this is only the first step." Over time, applications that handle more mission-critical duties will be included, and agencies will be encouraged to use them.
Kundra said that as the White House reviews the 2011 federal budget, it will look for agency programs that could be run in a public cloud offering. So program managers might want to bookmark Apps.gov and take a look during their lunch hour — right after their visits to Amazon.
Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.