Feds' Heads in the Clouds -- Finally

The federal government has jumped into cloud computing with both feet with the announcement of Apps.gov, the first service in the U.S. government's movement to the cloud. Apps.gov is, in essence, a new Web site where agencies can purchase online applications and -- soon -- infrastructure services.

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According to IDG:

"White House CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled the first service in the U.S. government's new cloud computing initiative on Tuesday, launching a new Web site where federal agencies can buy online apps and basic computing services. Run by the U.S. General Services Administration, Apps.gov is an online storefront where government agencies can buy online applications from companies such as Google and Salesforce.com. IT services such as storage, Web hosting, and virtual machines will eventually be offered here as well."

I'm not sure that anyone was surprised by the announcement; the U.S. government has a huge interest in cloud computing, and the GSA is leading the way. Existing cloud computing providers see the opportunity as well with Google creating a government version of its cloud offering. The rest of the large and small cloud computing minions are looking hard at the emerging government marketplace too. We could be heading to a time where the U.S. government is actually leading the way with an emerging technology, creating best practices well ahead of the commercial world.

However, this is just a single step. While the GSA can indeed provide the purchasing mechanism required for agencies to obtain cloud computing services, there should also be more strategic guidance around the proper paths to the clouds for each agency. Purchasing cloud computing services is easy -- making them secure, well-governed, cost effective, and value adding is where the difficulty comes in. I would like to see some on-demand guidance on Apps.gov, perhaps the ability to find "enterprise meets the cloud" architects, who are few in numbers right now.

That said, this is clearly a game-changer. The government is putting up its cloud front, and in the coming months we'll see other strategic cloud computing announcements -- perhaps some large service procurements to better localize cloud computing services within agencies, around the existing architecture and mission requirements for those agencies. There is much work to be done.

Apps.gov is a first step in a very long journey for the U.S. government. As a taxpayer, I'm excited to see that trek begin.

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