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7/1/2011
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Cloud Computing Services: Feds Get On The Bandwagon

Three Infrastructure as a Service offerings are now available from Apps.gov, although agencies may find the ordering process a bit strenuous.

Top 20 Government Cloud Service Providers
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Slideshow: Top 20 Government Cloud Service Providers
After a delay due to a complicated vendor-authorization process, the General Services Administration (GSA) is finally offering cloud computing services via its Apps.gov website.

Federal agencies now can order from a menu of three Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings--cloud storage, virtual machines and Web hosting--from service providers that have received GSA authorities to operate (ATOs) to offer them.

It was the process of acquiring ATOs that delayed the GSA's plans to offer IaaS on Apps.gov. But last week, GSA Portfolio Management Division Director Bill Lewis said the first services would be available in July, and, true to his word, they are.

Apps.gov on Friday was updated to provide detailed information on each service and the list of vendors providing them, in addition to stepping agencies through the ordering process. That process, however, is not exactly as easy as dragging and dropping a service into an online shopping basket, if instructions on the site are any indication.

Each service provider is offering its own cloud services and bundled pricing, and agencies can peruse the packages on offer before making a decision.

Services are billed by the month--as opposed to by the compute hour, as commercial cloud provider Amazon Web Services typically does it--and the process includes agencies getting quotes for the type of service they are looking for through the GSA eBuy system before making a purchase.

Those quotes will then be awarded to one of the ATO contractors for the service, which is responsible for contacting the agency to help staff configure and manage the service from their own website.

To be fair, Lewis said last week that the GSA is working to reduce transaction time and the complexity of purchasing cloud solutions, an endeavor that may involve the development of online tools for agencies that allow for on-demand self-service or the ability to increase or decrease the size of their purchase.

Even with the complexity, the GSA is now for the first time allowing agencies to buy on-demand computing power through service providers that already have the federal stamp of approval, which should make government adoption of cloud computing easier and more efficient.

Agencies currently can choose from five service providers offering cloud storage: Apptis, Computer Literacy World, Eyak Technology, Insight Public Sector, and Computer Technologies Consultant.

The virtual machine service provides even more choice, with 10 vendors on the list: Autonomic Resources, Carahsoft Technology, CGI Federal, Computer Literacy World, AT&T, Eyak Technology, General Dynamics, Verizon Federal, Computer Technologies Consultant, and Savvis Federal Systems.

Finally, five service providers are offering Web hosting via Apps.gov: CGI Federal, Computer Literacy World, Eyak Technology, Computer Technologies Consultant, and Savvis Federal Systems.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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