White House Official Pushes for Software as a Service

A top official with the U.S. White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) gave her strongest endorsement yet to software as a service, saying Wednesday it can help federal agencies cut development costs.

A speech on Wednesday at the SaaS/Gov conference in Washington, D.C., wasn't the first time Karen Evans, administrator of the OMB's Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology, endorsed software as a service. Despite Evans' continuing advocacy of the concept, adoption has been slow among government agencies, according to one vendor.

Asked whether the OMB should more strongly promote software as a service, Evans said U.S. agencies need to weigh cost, security and other factors. But the U.S. government needs to move to a more service-oriented software model, she said. "Our track record is clear-- we are not very good at delivering our own software in the time frame set," Evans said at the conference. "We're also not very good at managing large projects."

Some agencies haven't embraced the service approach, often because they want hands-on control of software development, Evans said. But government agencies can't afford to keep developing their own software without sharing with other agencies, she said. "We can't continue to maintain all of the things we have," she added. "We have to start shutting down some of our legacy systems. We really have to move to a... service-oriented market."

Although there's been no prohibition against U.S. agencies using software-as-a-service models, many agencies have been reluctant to move to a service-based approach, partly because of concerns about the security of Web-based services, said Dan Burton, senior vice president of global public policy for Salesforce.com. Evans' speech on Wednesday could create a "tipping point" for the use of software-as-a-service models in the U.S. government, Burton said. Many agencies seem to believe that they don't have the authority to take a chance on the new model, he said.

One step that service-based software vendors can take is to seek security certifications and map out how their services meet Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements, Evans said. Some agencies are reluctant to move to software as a service without certifications, she said. However, some agencies are already using software as a service to cut down development times. Rezaur Rahman, enterprise architect and Web services manager for the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said his agency began using Salesforce.com offerings in its information management systems in recent months. Budget constraints helped push the agency toward software as a service, he said. The agency is using services to take care of many functions it would have had to write its own code for in the past, including reading and writing to databases, Rahman said. The agency can often make tweaks to its information management systems in a day or less, he added.

News source: Yahoo News

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11 Comments

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The reason the government would rather pay a subscription fee instead, is because now they have to not only pay a fee to the contractor to design develop the software, but also for software maintenance. Pushing software as a service would simplify costs and leave purchasing and renewal options since they won't have to worry about the cost of design.

It is any company's dream to hook us all up on subscription. Predictable monthly positive cashflow is what they want. It makes a lot more sence from financial point of view than charging just once.

its not limited to SOAP or RPC.
Software as a service is similar to a paid-subscription to a magazine or a contract for a cell phone.

ie. Symantec Antivirus Software subscription is paid for the year
You rent Microsoft Office for 2 years
You use Adobe Photoshop for 2 months paid
etc, etc...

it would be like buying TV or Internet (like fir3x said). You pay for the service and not the product.

Typically when people refer to software as a service, they are talking about utilizing web services, such as SOAP and RPC. Web services allow software developers to extract commonly used functions out to a server where they can be shared across various applications.

If they are referring to web services, i'm a little confused why this is big news, unless they were announcing that they'd be exposing certain web services to the public.

Software as a service is the way they purchase software. It means that they basically would contract out to a third party company to develop their software for internal use. It would be kind of like a subscription that the government agency paid to that software develop company.
The problem they are worried about is that non-government employees may potentially have access to classified and private information. Or at least if they don't have access directly to that kind of information, they at least know how the systems that hold that information work, therefore a rogue employee could easily obtain that information. Or he could program a backdoor to the system and later take advantage of it.

Not sure how this is too different to how the government contracts out networking and a host of different services already. Oh wait, they have to classify it as a "service" to be able to contract it out. More stupid bureaucracy.

Thrawn said,
Has Microsoft paid her off? They love that stuff.

Probably. But it could also be Google, Red Hat, or Sun. Maybe even IBM.

No matter who it is, the idea sucks. I can't believe someone could say with a straight face that SaaS is more secure, faster, or less costly than desktop apps. These agencies already use custom apps, migrating those to 3rd party servers will be a pointless waste of our taxes.

Instead of SaaS, they should be pushing virtualization. The fewer khaki-clad middle-men or penguins involved, the better.

if i understand this correctly they want software to be a service like you have police or tv. you pay for the right to have it