Google, which is seeking broader adoption of its Google Apps collaboration applications, said Sept. 15 it plans to create a dedicated cloud computing system for the U.S. government in 2010.
The government cloud will include the Web services in Google Apps, a suite that comprises Gmail, Google Docs and other SAAS (software as a service) products Google hosts on its servers. Google offers these applications as an alternative to collaboration applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Sametime.
The government cloud will constitute a "dedicated parallel environment" to Google's commercial Google Apps cloud for consumers and enterprises, Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise, told eWEEK in an interview.
Data created in this cloud by federal, state and local government agencies will be hosted on separate servers within existing Google data centers in the United States. Storing such data on separate servers makes sense, given all of the sensitive information the government generates.
Google made the government cloud announcement in concert with the launch of the Apps.gov Web store, which Federal CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled at NASA's Ames Research Center Sept. 15. Apps.gov is an online storefront through which federal agencies can search for and buy cloud-based IT services from providers such as Google.
Kundra is well-acquainted with Google Apps. As the CTO for the District of Columbia, Kundra in June 2008 inked a contract worth $500,000 a year to give 38,000 government employees Google Apps as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Kundra discussed the switch to Google Apps in this September 2008 video.
With this kind of support and Kundra's promotion to commanding the nation's federal IT systems, it's no surprise that Google is tailoring a government cloud system.
"The goal is to meet the unique requirements and policies that the government has," Glotzbach said. "That being said, it will still be cloud computing in its truest form-a multitenant cloud."
Google aims to target the 300 million U.S. government users creating and sharing information on 10,000 IT systems. That is a fat market for Google, or any enterprise software maker, to target.
Glotzbach said city government employees for the district are heavily using Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation purposes, as well as the Google Sites wiki application and Google video for businesses. Some of these users are using Gmail; some are also still using Microsoft Outlook.
Details about Google Apps adoption on the federal level are murkier, given the sensitivity inherent in anything with that classification. Glotzbach said more than a dozen agencies are in various stages of pilot and rollout for Google Apps, but declined to specify which agencies were using what.
Meanwhile, Google isn't the only company cheering on Apps.gov, as Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels blogged about the Apps.gov launch and counted "the federal government among our customers."
Techmeme has more stories on the government cloud and the Apps.gov store here. Google Sept. 15 also launched a Google public-sector Website to help local, state and federal government officials reach out to citizens.