GSA Victory a Win for Google Apps and the Cloud

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The United States General Services Administration (GSA) announced yesterday that it is selecting Google Apps over bids from Microsoft or IBM to deliver e-mail and collaboration tools. Google has faced some challenges winning larger customers, but the GSA contract demonstrates that Google's cloud-based platform poses a credible threat to its rivals.

The Google solution is expected to reduce costs by 50 percent over the next five years--saving the GSA more than $15 million. "Cloud computing has a demonstrated track record of cost savings and efficiencies," said Casey Coleman, GSA Chief Information Officer. "With this award, GSA employees will have a modern, robust e-mail and collaboration platform that better supports our mission and our mobile workforce, and costs half as much."

Google Apps is evolving to become a more credible threat to Microsoft.
Obviously, Microsoft isn't excited by the decision. A post on the Why Microsoft blog says, "While we are disappointed we will not have the opportunity to meet the GSA's internal messaging needs, we will continue to serve its productivity needs through the familiar experience of Microsoft Office and we look forward to understanding more about GSA's selection criteria--especially around security and architecture."

While the statement is polite and conciliatory overall, the last little bit seems to be a bit of a jab. Essentially, it seems to hint that Microsoft still feels that Google Apps does not meet the security and architecture requirements government agencies are expected to follow.

That sentiment isn't without merit. While Google managed to beat Microsoft for the Los Angeles County contract as well, the implementation of that solution has been indefinitely stalled by continuing concerns over the security of Google Apps.

The Microsoft blog post states, "There's no doubt that businesses are talking to Google, and hearing their pitch, but despite all the talk, Google can't avoid the fact that often times they cannot meet basic requirements. For instance, in California, the state determined that Google couldn't meet many of their basic requirements around functionality and security. Rather than address deficiencies in their product by developing a more robust set of productivity tools, Google cried foul instead of addressing these basic needs."

That sounds similar to the approach Google took with the United States Department of the Interior (DOI). The DOI determined that Google is incapable of delivering the services and functionality it is looking for, while also meeting the security requirements of the agency. Rather than address the security deficiencies, though, Google is suing the federal government claiming that the DOI is showing undo favoritism to Microsoft.

That said, Google Apps was the first cloud e-mail and collaboration solution to achieve FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification--a goal attained by Microsoft as well a few months later. But, FISMA certification does not include handling of classified information, so it is not a silver bullet for winning government contracts.

Still, the move by the GSA shows two things. First--that cloud-based e-mail and productivity platforms are continuing to move into the mainstream, and second--that Google is continuing to grow as a rival to established players like Microsoft when it comes to the e-mail and office productivity arenas.

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