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GSA Inches Closer To Cloud Computing 'Storefront'

Using the GSA Storefront, federal agencies would choose infrastructure, Web applications, or other IT services to begin a streamlined procurement process.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra began outlining in greater detail Wednesday an online store where government agencies will soon be able to procure cloud computing services with a few clicks of a mouse. He showed off a mockup of the site and described some of its features.

Kundra wouldn't say when the store, which his PowerPoint presentation referred to as the GSA Storefront, will launch, but the mockup is evidence that the government is inching closer.

Using the GSA Storefront, agencies would identify the services they need -- be they infrastructure, Web applications, or otherwise -- from a series of menus, and pay either by credit card or requisition. In the background, the government would have already taken care of the complex security and documentation that agencies sometimes take months to carry out themselves before procuring and deploying a technology.

"Agencies will be able to say, 'I'm interested in buying a specific technology,' and we will abstract all the complexities for the agencies," Kundra said Wednesday in a keynote address to a government cloud computing symposium at the National Defense University's Information Resources Management College. "Part of the reason we haven't been able to move as a government leveraging these services is that it's too hard, we make it too complex."

The GSA Storefront will look similar to a typical online store, with familiar elements such as a shopping cart, order history, and user profiles. The mockup breaks down services into software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, platforms--as-a-service and citizen engagement services. Under each heading would be a series of services, such as Salesforce under SaaS or Facebook under citizen engagement.

The Obama administration dedicated a sidebar to its 2010 budget proposal to cloud computing, and Kundra has been a strong proponent of its use as a way to cut costs and more quickly and efficiently procure and manage IT resources since his time as CTO of the city of Washington, D.C.

He has made cloud computing one of his key initiatives for the federal government, setting up a cloud working group of federal CIOs, led by GSA CIO Casey Coleman, to explore options for accelerating the push of cloud computing into government.

Private industry will likely play a role in this push as well. Google Enterprise president David Girouard said in a separate keynote address that Google is working on FISMA certification and accreditation for its services, due by the end of the year. That could potentially be used as a launch point to get Google Apps, for example, onto the GSA Storefront.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on leading-edge government IT -- and how the technology involved may end up inside your business. Download the report here (registration required).

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