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The Government Innovation Platform

A platform by government developers, for government developers.

Cloud deployment is better. But that doesn’t make it easy.

Any federal agency deploying an app has to follow regulations, manage an ATO process, and design a robust service infrastructure. Cloud hosting saves one hassle — managing data centers — and creates another: operating cloud infrastructure and keeping it compliant. It requires a different set of skills that isn’t widely available in government yet.

We’re familiar with the challenges of government cloud ops.

18F is a team within the General Services Administration that builds applications for the federal government, rapidly and iteratively. So as we scaled up the number of teams deploying applications, we couldn’t let cloud operations talent become the kind of bottleneck that slows down development for many federal teams. Instead of working on infrastructure support for every individual product, our cloud ops staff focused on how they could give all our development teams a better way to work.

This is why we built cloud.gov.

Cloud.gov is 18F’s cloud-hosting product line for federal teams. It addresses baseline security and scalability concerns consistently, right up front, without requiring a huge number of cloud operations experts. Instead, digital service teams can use these tools to focus on delivering quality products.

Platform-as-a-service

We remove the complexity of the cloud infrastructure and give you a usable interface that you can use to deploy secure apps quickly. This is platform-as-a-service, or PaaS.

Security documentation support

As a byproduct of building the platform, we have open source, software-friendly documentation of cloud.gov’s NIST controls, ready to incorporate into your own FISMA and ATO documentation, however you need it.

More to come

Where cloud.gov goes from here will depend on how teams use it today. Already, we are exploring additional products: domain microservices, access to third-party tools, and technologies that may be needed for “government-as-a-service.”

cloud.gov makes deployments easier, faster, and stronger.

We don’t think the challenges we faced are unique. All agencies have a mandate to deploy their services in the cloud, and all cloud deployments require operations support, security, and compliance. We give you that.

Usability

We use an open source API and tools for teams to take care of environments, services, applications, access points, and billing structures. You use our straightforward UI to deliver a great app.

Scalability

The cloud.gov support team provides spot support for teams when they encounter issues. We use what we learn from this work to improve cloud.gov, addressing these issues for every team at once.

Security

We deploy on a hardened operating system. We centrally scan and audit the platform and every application on it. And the open source, publicly documented deployment creates an economy of scale that benefits every app, no matter who owns it.

Conformity with federal rules

Every NIST control for our platform, infrastructure, and human layers is documented and ready to use in many different contexts, updated automatically as we update the platform. Use our work to shave dozens of hours off the usual app-by-app, copy-and-paste compliance process.

It’s a solution that keeps getting better.

We built cloud.gov on the open source, public Cloud Foundry project. We completed the first prototype in about three months, and we started launching production apps about a month after that. We continue to fine-tune it based on the needs of the apps that teams have built.

Because it’s open source, we can continue to take advantage of improvements to the operability and security of Cloud Foundry. It helps us scale.

Because it’s an agile project, cloud.gov is always under development. As we observe its use, we will continue to add new capabilities. Therefore, we do not say it is “complete” and we probably never will.

Testimonials

“With the help of cloud.gov, College Scorecard was able to focus on making important data available to the public. The streamlined ATO process was incredibly helpful in launching the project on schedule. We needed specific services that were not yet available in the platform, and the cloud.gov team responded quickly and supported our needs, letting us focus on the data and the software.” — Sarah Allen, 18F developer on the College Scorecard team.

“I managed the staging environment for the eRegs instance at CFPB and spent at least a fifth of my time managing the instance. On ATF's eRegs instance, which runs on cloud.gov, that time was cut down to less than a day of configuration. I will gladly remove "server management" from my resume now.” — CM Lubinksi, 18F developer on the ATF eRegulations team.

“The platform actually allows us to follow the fundamental software tenet of not repeating ourselves versus our previous framework. Every subsequent deploy of a stack allows us to add to our toolset for future re-use.” — Kaitlin Devine, 18F Director of Engineering.

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