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Feds Close The Once-Heralded Apps.gov Cloud Storefront

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The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has closed Apps.gov, the once-heralded cloud storefront established in the first months of the Obama Administration by former Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

According to Fierce Government, the GSA said in a statement that it has phased out the storefront that it set up for government agencies to discover and purchase cloud services. The federal agency said all of the services will still be available on GSA Advantage, a marketplace for apps and services.

The closure is disappointing, considering what has replaced the Apps.gov site. What’s left is Info.Apps.gov, which is nothing but a static web site that explains cloud computing and contains a few references for those who really dig.

What’s worse is the GSA website, which is where the site has supposedly been moved to. It looks like a government catalog site made in 1998. Finding services is near impossible. I did discover a cloud services link in the sidebar that has links back to Info.Apps.gov. It’s an experience similar to going to the DMV. Now if you somehow figure out how to navigate the GSA site you can find more info. But in all my searches, I only found a few references to vendors such as Salesforce.com, and usually they were linked back to a consulting service. The statement by the GSA also refers people to Howto.gov if they want to learn about social media. But that’s a different thing entirely.

There may be hope. In February, the GSA announced that a new cloud marketplace would be established  by the end of the year. But there’s no sign of it now.

They were heady days back in September 2009 when Kundra announced Apps.gov as a one-stop shop for cloud services. Apps.gov was supposed to give agencies the freedom to innovate with the availability of a wide array of cloud services.

As reported back in 2009 by Larry Dignan, Salesforce.com and Google Apps were some of the first cloud providers to offer their services on Apps.gov. Other services that were part of the initial launch include Scribd and SlideShare. Kundra now works for Salesforce.com.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said this at the time:

This is a momentous step forward in bringing the power of cloud computing to government,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. “More than 63,000 salesforce.com customers, including almost half of all Cabinet-level government agencies, are already experiencing the benefits of cloud computing, including low risk, little upfront cost and fast time to value.”

Apps.gov does have a legacy. Gartner Vice President Distinguished Analyst Andre DiMaio said in a blog post today that other governments – such as the UK with its CloudStore – have taken inspiration and embraced the idea of a storefront that gives agencies choice about cloud solutions.”

But really, it is a real shame what the GSA has done here. As DiMaio points out, it looks like the GSA is going back to the more traditional ways pf procurement. You can still find information but a lot of it is only available as a PDF.

This could have been handled a whole lot better, but who really knows what is going on behind the scenes. A marketplace is supposedly on the way. But right now, it looks like the GSA is going backward instead of forward.