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11/30/2012
03:55 PM
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Feds Pull Plug On 'One Stop' Cloud Portal

The General Services Administration plans to decommission Uncle Sam's Apps.gov site, which was supposed to make it easy for agencies to acquire software as a service.

The federal government's Apps.gov cloud-services portal, launched three years ago by former federal CIO Vivek Kundra, is being decommissioned.

The General Services Administration, which manages Apps.gov, notified cloud service providers of the pending shut down by email on Nov. 29. The plug will be pulled on the site Dec. 1. GSA didn't give a reason for the decision in its email notice.

Dozens of technology companies offer personal productivity and business applications on Apps.gov, and about 20 vendors, including Amazon, AT&T, Dell and Microsoft, have been approved to offer infrastructure as a service through the site. Federal agencies will still be able to acquire software as a service and other cloud offerings through Schedule 70 and other GSA-managed procurement options.

Apps.gov was introduced as a "one stop shop for cloud services" by Kundra in September 2009. The idea was to make it easy for federal agencies "to quickly browse and purchase cloud-based IT services," Kundra wrote in a blog post at the time. The former federal CIO left his White House position in June 2011 to accept a fellowship with Harvard University, then took an executive position with Salesforce.com in January of this year.

Government agencies didn't flock to Apps.gov as envisioned. Instead, many used the site to shop for SaaS and other cloud services, then issued RFPs that were tailored to their requirements or added cloud services to existing contracts.

"Apps.gov was a great concept that suffered from poor execution," says Michael Biddick, CEO of Fusion PPT, a tech consultancy and systems integrator that works with government customers. "Instead of a true service catalog, Apps.gov devolved into a mashup of disparate and sometimes random services that never received high adoption levels."

More recently, GSA has been exploring the concept how a "cloud broker" might work in federal IT environments. A combination of technology and services, cloud brokers make it possible to acquire and switch among different cloud services, based on resource requirements, pricing, or other variables. Biddick says there are "serious questions" about this GSA strategy, as well.

"A storefront is a critical element of the cloud broker, but GSA seems to be heading down the path of injecting a system integrator in a business role that will only add costs and remove many of the benefits driving the adoption of cloud computing," Biddick says.

Some of the software available on Apps.gov was surprisingly expensive, which could be another reason it failed. Shortly after the site launched, dozens of ERP modules were priced at more than $1 million, including one that exceeded $24 million. Google's Maps API was also in the $1 million range.

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