Written byBilly Mitchell
In the span of a few months, the General Services Administration’s 18F digital services team has deployed more than 300 applications from various agencies to its open source platform-as-a-service pilot project cloud.gov, the project’s leader said.
“When we launched in October, we already had several different partners we were starting to try stuff out with,” cloud.gov project lead Diego Lapiduz told FedScoop. “Now we have around 300 applications that are running … they’re all different, from different agencies that are trying different things.”
Lapiduz kept mum on specifics of how many and what agencies have used cloud.gov, but he did reference that most are projects 18F has built with and for other agencies, like the Education Department’s College Scorecard; its own Federalist platform, which helps agencies build quick and reliable websites; and a couple of other White House projects he did not specify. He also explained that the applications aren’t always necessarily grand in scheme or unique, and sometimes constitute the testing of different environments of the same larger projects across eight departments.
“There’s a diverse population using cloud.gov right now, and we’re still trying to put a lid on how many organizations we bring in, because we’re a very small team and still in alpha mode,” Lapiduz said.
Interest in cloud.gov platform — a fee-based project 18F set out as a tool agencies can use to develop secure and compliant applications in the cloud with limited procedural work and without having to stand up a private cloud infrastructure — has blossomed because of the speed at which it can get teams to security compliance with governing policies like the Federal Information Security Management Act, and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, Lapiduz said.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the project, especially because we’re not only trying to make a good experience for the developers but because we’re trying to find a way to get projects to achieve compliance faster,” he said.
Lapiduz added that it’s like a cloud security documentation shared service so offices don’t have to start from scratch — “instead of writing a 500-page document, you just use a tool … and with that, the system is going to generate the [system security plan] that you need. And [agency authorization officials] are going to see that you’re using components that have been approved over and over and over again, so they don’t have to check it.”
And in a sense, 18F has keyed in on agencies’ need for that expedited path to compliance, making it a main focus of cloud.gov.
“We started very broad and tried to sense where the interest was going,” Lapiduz said. “We realized that our users are very interested in the compliance side, and that’s where we’re going to be spending a good amount of time in 2016.”
The digital team is even excited about the potential that agencies may not look to cloud.gov’s total cloud infrastructure offerings but instead to only its compliance-testing capabilities. So, 18F is looking to double down on that aspect in the coming year to automate testing so it’s done on a daily basis.
Because the program is all open source, the team hopes that industry cloud service providers and contractors developing applications in the cloud will contribute to and pull from the cloud.gov development to make their work with agencies easier. Lapiduz said 18F has already worked with several contractors who’ve used cloud.gov to implement agency projects.
While some might see 18F’s efforts around cloud.gov as a dog in the fight for a slice of the highly competitive federal cloud market share, Lapiduz claimed this as a fallacy.
“We want to make sure what [vendors are] offering matches what the government needs,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is show this is possible. And hopefully there’s going to be more alternatives that agencies can use than cloud.gov.”
Lapiduz and his team will host a workshop Friday for agency personnel and industry representatives hoping to learn more about how they can leverage the cloud.gov platform.