Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Rise of the Government App Store

In a recent post to the CCIF mailing list, Bob Marcus outlined the coming opportunties and challenges facing what he described as "Government Cloud Storefronts". In the post he described Vivek Kundra's (US Federal CIO) vision for the creation of a government Cloud Storefront. This Storefront (run by GSA) which will be launched Sept 9th and will make Cloud resources (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) available to agencies with in the US federal Government. (an $80+ Billion a year IT organization).

What's also interesting is the US isn't alone in the vision of centralized access points for procuring Cloud services and related applications. Several other governments including the United Kingdom G-Cloud app store and the Japanese Kasumigaseki Cloud are attempting to do the same with Japan spending upwards of 250 million dollars on their initiative.

Kundra, speaking at a recent conference at the National Defense University on cloud computing elaborated on his GovApp Store concept "Any agency can go online and agencies will be able to say 'I'm interested in buying a specific technology' and we will abstract all the complexities for agencies. They don't have to worry about Federal Information Security Management Act compliance. They don't have to worry about certification and accreditation. And they don't have to worry about how the services are being provisioned. Literally, you'll be able to go in as an agency… and provision those on a real-time basis and that is where the government really needs to move as we look at standardization. This will be the storefront that will be simple."

According to Marcus, "There are strong initial efficiency benefits (reduced procurement time and costs) gained by providing government projects with controlled access to multiple Cloud resources. However unless a set of best practices are followed, there could be negative long-range results such as lack of portability and interoperability across Cloud deployments."

Ed Meagher, former deputy CIO at the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments also sheds some light on the topic saying, "The challenge will be working in both worlds and making those two worlds work together. There's going to be lot of pressure on the [federal] CIO community to help this administration do the things it wants to do, like making government more efficient, more accessible to citizens and more transparent."

I could not agree more. But I also don't think the US Federal GovApp store requires standardization so much as transparency into the underliying processes that support the so called "running" of the app store.

Some thoughts that come to mind include, who exactly is building this app store, how will it be managed, what oversight will it have and how can we prevent abuse (halliburton style contracts anyone?) or even Apple's Iphone app store style "vendor lockout". These are much more important questions that need to be addressed first.

To help solve these issues on September 21, the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC) will host an open free Session on "Best Practices for Cloud Storefronts" at its Virginia Plenary. The focus will be on recommended minimal standardizations (and compliance tests) for Cloud resources that are included in Storefront. Government IT leaders (e.g. GSA) will be invited to participate in the Session.

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