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Uncle Sam's $24 Million Cloud App

The U.S. government's cloud computing portal, Apps.gov, may be a breakthrough in fast, efficient, and transparent IT acquisition, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. Witness the multimillion-dollar software modules available to government agencies on the site.
The U.S. government's cloud computing portal, Apps.gov, may be a breakthrough in fast, efficient, and transparent IT acquisition, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. Witness the multimillion-dollar software modules available to government agencies on the site.Apps.gov was unveiled by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra in September. The portal, run by the General Services Administration, offers business, productivity, social media, and other on-demand applications with the ease of ordering a book on Amazon.com. There's even a shopping cart to aggregate purchases.

Dozens of products on Apps.gov can be licensed for under $20 a month: a Salesforce.com add-on for Google Apps is $17.24; Microsoft Exchange Services for the Blackberry, $9.68; an employee benefit tracker, 27 cents per employee.

Others cost thousands, even millions, of dollars. Carahsoft Technology has dozens of ERP modules that list for more than $1 million, including one -- its Avue Digital type C module -- that tops out at $24,425,110.

I decided to order the Carahsoft module as a test. App.gov's Add-to-Cart feature let me put the $24 million app into my shopping cart. A nifty "American Recovery and Investment Act" box can be clicked for purchases made with Recovery Act funds.

What happened next? Apps.gov stopped my purchase because, according to a message on the site, it exceeded the maximum allowable purchase of $500,000. "You may contact the vendor to negotiate better prices," it said.

Carahsoft's $24 million app certainly seems more expensive than your typical cloud app, but it's partly a matter of packaging. The license covers up to one million end users for a year, which translates into about $2 per user per month.

Here's my problem with that offer. First, cloud apps should be available to the government on a month-to-month subscription basis rather than mega annual contract. And second, they should be available immediately. The Carahsoft module has a 30-day delivery.

"In these tough economic times, the federal government must buy smarter," Kundra said at the Apps.gov launch. He might want to do something about the multimillion dollar items on Apps.gov, which seem like the cloud equivalent of those $10,000 toilet seats we used to hear so much about.



InformationWeek Analytics has published a guide to the Open Government Directive and what it means for federal CIOs. Download the report here (registration required).