Feeds

US gov opens Cloud shop to combat runaway IT costs

Get free stuff from Apps.gov

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has unveiled a new portal where government agencies can shop for their very own clouds, a part of the Obama administration's effort to deliver the US government from the IT dark ages.

Today, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, Kundra took the wraps off Apps.gov, a storefront for online business and productivity apps, IT services, and, yes, social networking tools.

"We've been building data center after data, acquiring application after application. Frankly, what's that done is it has driven the cost of investment in technology across the board, and it has led to the doubling of acceleration of energy consumption from 2002 to 2006," he said. "We cannot continue on this trajectory.

"There is innovation that is happening across the country. What we need to do is to find a more innovative path."

That path involves the government embracing online apps from the likes of Google, Salesforce.com, and Facebook. All three are now providing apps to federal agencies via Apps.gov, which went live today. According to Kundra, the Department of Energy has already used to portal to acquire applications.

Kundra and the cloud

Kundra on a cloud

Kundra says the US government spends more than $20bn a year on infrastructure alone, and the aim is to slash this down to size. As an example of the sort of savings to be had, Kundra cited a recent revamp of the USA.gov website. Traditionally, the US General Services Agency (GSA) would have spent six months on such an upgrade - and $2.5m a year maintaining the site. Using an unnamed cloud-based solution, the upgrade took 24-hours, and the site can be maintained for only $800,000 a year.

But as Google's former global public policy director learned when he joined the Obama transition team last fall, force feeding Web 2.0 to the federal government is no easy task.

One man's kindergarten

"The kind of things that we were trying to do would be regarded as kindergarten-level, rudimentary technology implementations in the Silicon Valley, private-sector, tech-startup kind of world. But in government, they're viewed as a massive revolution in both form and approach," Andrew McLaughlin told Tim 0'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference this spring. McLaughlin has now been appointed as Obama's deputy chief technology officer.

Part of the problem is that government agencies have strict acquisition and procurement rules, privacy and security requirements, and other restrictions ill-suited to free online services in particular and net-based apps in general. Apps.gov seeks to solve some of these issues, providing apps that have been pre-qualified to meet government requirements. In many cases, Kundra said, vendors have amended contracts specifically for use by government agencies.

"Just like you can I can go to online today and buy books and electronics, we want to make sure that we lower the barrier for government agencies to be able to acquire technology," Kundra said. Other apps already available from the Apps.gov storefront include tools from YouTube, the photo-sharing service Flickr, video sharer Vimeo, crowdsourcer IdeaScale, and the PowerPoint-obsessed SlideShare.

Yes, the government will continue to host many apps and much data on its own, but the hope is that it can keep this to a minimum. "We recognize that there are systems that the government must run - own and operate the infrastructure - because they include sensitive information," Kundra said. "But there is a whole class of solutions that we can leverage from outside the government."

And yes, Kundra acknowledges that the government has only begun to iron out existing policy, privacy, and security problems with the move to sky-high computing. "We're challenging the industry also step up and address the some of the security concerns - legitimate concerns - the government has," the country's first CIO said.

Word is that Amazon is pitching a suite of government-centric services slatted for its AWS cloud, but the company was not part of today's announcements. However, Amazon cloud prophet Werner Vogels was ready and waiting with a blog post that went live as Kundra addressed reporters at Ames.

"I am looking forward to working closely with the Federal CIOs [Kundra and GSA CIO Casey Coleman] to make sure our services can meet the requirements that can make them successful in their quest," Vogels said. Loosely translated, that's "Hey. Don't forget about us." But this does indicate that a new Amazon service is imminent. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.