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Cloud.gov – Cloud Native Government as a Platform

The USA Government implements their Government as a Platform strategy through their own hosting service: Cloud.gov.

It is the first Government certified distribution of Cloud Foundry, to offer an open source PaaS (Platform as a Service) specifically tailored for the USA public sector.

For example it is FedRAMP certified and available via standardized procurement channels, with a view to encouraging Agile practices.

The platform is run by 18F, a team within the GSA, and as they write on their blog it is intended to provide a central function that reduces a common burden across government.

In this post they walk through a case study of an implementation, for Performance.gov, that utilizes the platform and highlights a critical benefit – The standardized and accelerated adoption of Digital Government practices that every agency is required to comply with.

Rapidly achieving compliance with a multitude of legislative obligations with much reduced effort is the key theme. As this video of a presentation by the team describes, of the required 325 security controls required for compliance, Cloud.gov addresses 269 of these, 41 are shared responsibility and 15 are for the customer directly.

It also offers costs reduction benefits. Running through the pricing options. customers such as the Federal Election Commission, saved $1.2m per year, versus their own data centre hosting, when upgrading their fed.gov web site.

In this post they walk through a case study of an implementation, for Performance.gov, that utilizes the platform and highlights a critical benefit – The standardized and accelerated adoption of Digital Government practices that every agency is required to comply with.

Cloud Native

Use of a PaaS (Platform as a Service) in this manner provides a foundation for the ‘Platform Business Model’ and enables its implementation via the latest development techniques, what is now known as ‘Cloud Native’ practices.

As reported in this NextGov article Ed Mullen, a tech designer involved in developing many of these initiatives, describes the key dynamics:

“This loosely-coupled ecosystem would have new pieces that are operated by the federal government that states can integrate with and use. It would utilize inexpensive commodity tools offered broadly in the private sector.

Microservices from companies would be employed where appropriate to provide functionality the companies are uniquely positioned to offer. Custom development would be reserved for situations where other options are not available. Application programming interfaces (APIs) would assemble all the pieces into user-centric products which would be deployed on cloud infrastructure.”

This is an effect described by Jez Humble in this presentation – Cloud Native in the US Federal Government.

Again he repeats the key message – The platform approach ‘bakes in compliance’, embedding controls and best practices into a standardized environment.

Jez describes how with these compliance controls built into the PaaS layer, combined with Agile development features like push button deployments, teams were empowered to safely speed up their innovation rates, while simultaneously encouraging best practices for distributed system design.

Simple functions like templates for compliance documentation, speeded up work to a matter of weeks versus many months, and automating operational tasks like renewing SSL certificates removed much of the mundane burden, freeing up developers to focus on higher value productivity.

Conclusion

Cloud Native Government as a Platform offers the utopia the public sector has long sought from IT – Reuse of common components to avoid and eliminate the massive amount of duplicated efforts and expense, and simultaneously, a more flexible IT architecture that enables much more rapid digital service innovation.

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