Google has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging the Department of Interior is unfairly restricting competition for a cloud-hosting contract.
Google is suing the federal government, alleging that the Department of the
Interior unfairly restricted the search engine giant's ability to bid for a
contract to update its e-mail and messaging system. Microsoft's BPOS-Federal
suite eventually won the contract, estimated at $59 million over a five-year
Google filed the lawsuit along with Onix Networking, a licensed reseller of
Google products and solutions, asking that the DOI be prohibited from
proceeding with any bidding or activity that "furthers or facilities the
implementation Microsoft BPOS-Federal solution at DOI" without "first
complying with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, including but
not limited to conducting a competitive procurement in accordance with
applicable law and regulations."
A Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK Nov. 1 that the company had no comment
on the lawsuit.
Google had begun discussions to host the DOI's e-mail and collaboration
system in June 2009, according to the lawsuit. "Before DOI issued the RFQ
(Request for Quotation), Google representatives made numerous attempts to
engage DOI in substantive discussions regarding the technical and cost-savings
benefits of the Google Apps solution for DOI's messaging requirements," reads the
Factual Background section of the lawsuit
, which was filed Oct. 29.
The agency utilizes Microsoft technology, but Google representatives were
nonetheless assured that the "DOI would conduct a full and open
competition for its messaging requirements."
In the lawsuit, Google claims it argued that all the DOI's needs "could
be met with its Google Apps product," and that it pressed for a series of
meetings to demonstrate how the platform could fulfill those needs. However, it
insists, two federal executives eventually "informed Google that a 'path
forward had already been chosen' for the DOI Messaging solution" and that "there
would be no opportunity for Google to compete because its product was not
compliant with DOI's security requirements."
Google then apparently sought further meetings to press its argument, with
relatively little progress. Rumors also began to circulate that another company
had already secured the contract with the DOI-which led to a series of
communications where federal officials, allegedly, assured Google that the
contract was still very much up for grabs.
However, the rumors continued: "Google had heard that DOI might soon
issue to a competitor (meaning Microsoft) a FISMA certification and
accreditation for the competitor's cloud-computing messaging system, even
though DOI had repeatedly refused to review Google's FISMA certification
package." Google soon had in its possession an alleged screenshot,
indicating that "a 'pilot' project to migrate 5,000 DOI users to the
Microsoft platform had been underway for months."
Federal officials apparently declined to respond to Google's Aug. 11 e-mail,
which included that screenshot. Sometime after that, Microsoft BPOS-Federal
solution was named the "DOI's product selection of choice."
Google argues in the lawsuit that Microsoft's BPOS-Federal solution is "a
new product" that "has not been certified according to FISMA
standards by any government agency at any risk level." Furthermore, Google
claims Microsoft "topped a list of 12 major software providers for the
number of security vulnerabilities and software patches needed to plug security
On top of that, Google argues, BPOS-Standard has experienced outages of
sufficient magnitude to "cast doubt on whether the BPOS-Federal solution
will satisfy all of DOI's requirements." The DOI's decision to utilize
BPOS as a platform, it argues, unfairly restricts competition.
The lawsuit will mark the latest twist in the long-running competition
between Google and Microsoft for government cloud contracts. In October, New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced a
that would give approximately 100,000 municipal employees
access to cloud-based Microsoft applications, with 30,000 of them relying on BPOS. That deal is expected to save the
city some $50 million over the next five years.
That New York City contract
seemed a tit-for-tat response to Google's locking up an agreement with the city
of Los Angeles to provide
cloud-based applications to 30,000 employees.
Both companies are also aggressively moving to promote their cloud offerings
to the federal government.