Certification Gives 18F’s Cloud.gov More Portability

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Cloud.gov, the Federal government’s cloud platform that offers agencies a fast way to host and update websites and web applications, last month became part of a growing ecosystem where applications and development skills are portable across cloud providers.

The Cloud.gov application platform, built and maintained by the 18F Digital Services unit of the General Services Administration (GSA), received Cloud Foundry certification in April. The cloud platform is now compatible with other certified Cloud Foundry providers that offer application platforms for the development of web services, such as IBM and SAP. Cloud Foundry is an interoperable, open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) framework, managed by the non-profit Cloud Foundry Foundation.

Government agencies engaged in digital transformation need greater portability across cloud application platforms in an increasingly multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment. As such, the Cloud Foundry PaaS platform is designed to give users freedom of choice across cloud infrastructure and application programming models, plus cloud applications.

Over 3,000 software professionals and leading software vendors have contributed to the Cloud Foundry open source initiative, Chip Childer, the Cloud Foundry Foundation’s chief technology officer, explained to MeriTalk. “The software can be used directly, or commercialized as a software distribution model such as the case with companies like Pivotal Software or Suse. Or the software can be exposed to users via cloud providers such as IBM, SAP, and Cloud.gov,” he said.

A use case gaining a lot of attention these days is the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, which partnered with Pivotal and Dell EMC Federal to work on a system for tanker refueling. The tanker refueling system software for the U.S. Air Force–which runs on Pivotal Cloud Foundry–was built for under $2 million in just 90 days. It is now being used in operational areas, including Qatar. Cameron Chehreh, chief operating officer, chief technology officer, and vice president of Dell EMC Federal, during a March 2018 interview with MeriTalk said that even in this limited deployment, that the new software was saving the Air Force about a million dollars per day in fuel costs. Additionally, the software is being managed by just one person, saving on manpower and maintenance.

From its inception, Cloud.gov was built on the open source Cloud Foundry project. The PaaS platform runs on the Amazon Web Services GovCloud. In February 2017, the platform received a Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) at the moderate impact level from the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board (JAB). It is now the first fully open source FedRAMP solution.

According to 18F, Cloud.gov is for teams that build and deliver websites and other web-based applications as part of their work. For example, this can include an agency homepage, an open data API, or an internal information management tool. The agency’s development team sets up the application on Cloud.gov, and Cloud.gov handles the security, compliance, and maintenance of the underlying platform.

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