US Federal government is one of the largest IT buyers in the world and this clout gives them to dictate terms with the vendors and suppliers. One of their requirements is that the technologies the government agencies use must be compliant to Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements. In simplistic terms, the services offered by the IT vendors should be delivered from datacenter(s) dedicated for the government purposes. It will still be a multi-tenant cloud in the sense that many of the federal, state and local government agencies will be using it but it is completely isolated from other customers. Many enterprise software vendors wanting a larger slice of federal pie has built government clouds to be FISMA compliant. Google, IBM, etc. are some examples of such vendors. Today Salesforce.com unveiled their own government cloud and a new app exchange for the government.
Salesforce Government cloud is a dedicated cloud infrastructure for government on top of which all the Salesforce services are run. The services will be similar to what is offered to private sector with the same levels of reliability, security etc. but, additionally, it will also support existing security and privacy standards and certifications including FISMA, SSAE 16 (formerly SAS 70), ISO 27001, PCI-DSS Level 1, Safe Harbor, and TRUSTe.
The new app exchange is a storefront for government users to sign up for other value added services like Docusign, Schoolforce, BasicGov, etc.. It streamlines the government purchasing of services that can run on top of Salesforce.com platform. It is interesting to note that Salesforce recently hired Vivek Kundra, former CIO of President Obama administration. The news is nothing extraordinary and it is just an example of yet another enterprise software vendor trying for the government pie. What is interesting is to see if the availability of cloud services, especially social technologies, transform the government agencies to be more efficient as more and more agencies adopt these technologies.