By the end of the year, agencies likely will have an online marketplace to buy cloud computing services.
Dave McClure, the General Services Administration’s associate administrator in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said the online store will give agencies an avenue to offer, for a fee, excess storage, virtualization and other software-as-a-services to others.
“We want to create a robust environment so that the government is maximizing the use of its computing environment, which is not occurring and which has not occurred historically,” McClure said after a speech Thursday at the Cloud/Gov 2012 event sponsored by the Software and Information Industry Association in Washington. “We are talking to government entities that we think are natural candidates to be in that provisioning space. The second step we have to do is to address the policy, security and all those other things that from a government-to-government interaction, that we have a process in place that is quick, efficient and used the same across government.”
McClure said the marketplace would be an evolving site that will grow and change over time. It also is part of the federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel’s desire to create a market for data center services. VanRoekel announced this plan as part of the government’s data center consolidation initiative.
“We have to be a realist. Just because EPA, DoD, USDA or another agency has excess computing capacity in their data center, it doesn’t mean other government customers will run to it,” he said. “What is the pricing? What’s the service level agreement? What’s the security standard that must be granted by that provisioning agency? There are all those issues and we have a history of going through with shared services. We just have to buckle down and make sure we are doing it consistently across government.”
There are some obvious services for the marketplace, McClure said, including financial management, human resources, customer relationship management and geospatial cloud services.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Labor Department already have moved or are moving their financial systems to a private sector cloud.
GSA tried to do this before. It led the Office of Management and Budget effort to create an apps store, apps.gov, in 2009, but the uptake has been slow.
McClure said GSA is using some of the lessons learned from the apps.gov initiative in how they are planning the cloud marketplace.
“There certainly contract thresholds or spending thresholds that determine whether someone can actually enter into the agreement, and those vary across the agencies and according to legal interpretation,” he said. “When we stood up apps.gov, nothing was put through an authority to operate or a FedRAMP process. It was simply an illustration of services available. We would have to determine whether those government providers have been ‘FedRAMPed’ and if they are providing low, moderate or high levels of security for other government customers.”
He added a marketplace concept would help meet the demand for fast and efficient provisioning of IT services.
GSA already is trying to meet agency demand for email-as-a-service. It is reviewing bids for a blanket purchase agreement. McClure said the process is on track and awards still on scheduled for March.
McClure said security and acquisition are among the biggest challenges around cloud. He said the FedRAMP initiative is trying to alleviate concerns around cloud security.
As for acquisition, he said GSA is working with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Chief Acquisition Officer’s Council and others to address contracting language, contracting templates and service level agreements.
“It’s being worked on in an ad hoc working group,” he said. “We already have templates. We already have ideas for what to put into a repository.”
The working group and eventual repository will help agencies ensure their legal reviews and procurement process are as uniform around cloud as possible.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006 as the producer and news anchor of the station’s morning drive program, the Federal Drive. He launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.