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Google Spiffs Up for Uncle Sam

Google’s billing the widgetry as Google Apps for Government

Google's got a special new version of its standard Premier Edition Google Apps that's supposed to meet basic toe-in-the-door government security requirements.

Well, at least the data generated by the government's use of Gmail and calendaring will be segregated from everybody else's cloud-borne data on servers located in the continental U.S. Other apps will eventually be segregated too.

In this Google's aping Microsoft's BPOS Federal (BPOS-F), its Business Productivity Online Suite for the government.

Google's billing the widgetry as Google Apps for Government and saying that pushing government large and small into its cloud will save taxpayer dollars that otherwise go to pay licensing fees and maintenance. Like Google Apps for the rest of us it costs $50 a seat per year.

Google has won over Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and has pilots running the government-grade Apps at maybe a dozen other agencies.

It's been pitching its e-mail to the General Services Administration (GSA), the influential 15,000-seat agency that oversees government procurement, up against Microsoft, and the GSA has just certified Gmail and Google Apps word processing as secure enough for generic federal use, stuff that may be sensitive but not classified.

Microsoft is bidding its $120-a-seat-per-year web-based Exchange widgetry and expects to get the same minimal Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification for its BPOS-F, which naturally includes Exchange Online.

Ninety-percent of the federal government already uses Exchange for e-mail according to the Wall Street Journal. The GSA uses IBM's Lotus Notes.

Ironically, Google flubbed its June 30 deadline to lift the City of Angels' e-mail into the cloud, a closely watched five-year marquee project that it's getting paid $7.25 million to pull off; its largest government contract so far.

Some 20,000 of LA's 34,000 workers will have to shift for themselves for a while longer on the town's decrepit Novell Groupwise platform and Google will have to shrug off the embarrassment.

Google beat out Microsoft for the contract last October but has encountered an LAPD roadblock in how the cops want their data secured, if not segregated, requirements that were supposedly clear from the beginning. Other agencies have had performance complaints.

Until Google resolves the issues, the city is going to be paying for both systems at a potential added cost of $147,000 a quarter according to the LA Times - or it would be if Google and CSC, its integrator, hadn't just agreed to absorb the difference at least until November, when the system is now supposed to be completely installed. Additional cost overruns are reportedly still being negotiated.

Google is downplaying the fact that it may have bit off more than it can chew. It would have preferred to do a bunch of smaller municipal installations first but fate decreed otherwise.

The Times quoted a council member as saying, "Google comes in with this sweetheart deal that was supposed to be state-of-the-art - supposed to make wonders - and obviously they haven't performed." The city council is supposed to review Google's contract performance next week. The deal is supposed to save the city $5.5 million.

Google says on its web site that it took guidance from the cities of Los Angeles and Orlando in coming up with Google Apps for Government. It claims "most agencies we have worked with have found that Google Apps provides at least equivalent, if not better, security than they have today. This means government customers can move to the cloud with confidence."

It reckons Washington spends $76 billion a year on IT, and state and local governments spend $56 billion.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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