With a rather sudden decision the General Services Administration (GSA) decided to discontinue the first cloud storefront deployed by a government organization. Apps.gov was launched by former CIO Vivek Kundra as a way to kickstart the use of cloud computing. Its content was for a long time little else than what could be found on external marketplaces, but gave at least a first point of contact for agencies to learn about cloud offerings. Only later it was enriched with the first Blanket Purchase Agreement for IaaS services and it has been killed at the same time when GSA has completed a second BPA for email as a service.
Apps.gov detractors say that the site was not useful, since services shown there had not gone through a certification & accreditation process and received an authority to operate indispensible to handle anything else than purely public data.
On the other hand, the site has been a leader in its own right. GSA is planning a proper cloud marketplace, but other governments – such as the UK with its CloudStore – have taken inspiration and embraced the idea of a storefront that gives agencies choice about cloud solutions.
Going forward, storefronts will morph into marketplaces of services that go well beyond commercial cloud services (see Gartner research note – client access required). They may be used to share excess capacity among agencies, to reuse bespoke software solutions or open source software, and ultimately to purchase and exchange ant IT-related resource. This is what the UK originally envisaged for what it now the CloudStore (which, by the way, provides not only cloud services but also cloud-related consulting services).
Maybe there was a better way than just abruptly pulling the plug. I would have welcomed an evolution of apps.gov from what it was to a more accomplished, yet open marketplace. The impression one gets from what is left of it is that of a sudden course change, back to more traditional procurement vehicles and processes. While apps.gov allowed a pretty neat selection of individual IaaS services, now visitors can just download a PDF file. The substance probably does not change – even before, prospective users had to solve the C&A issue before using the service – but one can’t help seeing this as a step back.
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