GSA Picks Google Apps Cloud over Microsoft, IBM

Google is basking in the glow of its General Services Administration contract win versus Microsoft and IBM. Google will serve e-mail and other Google Apps to 17,000 workers.

On Dec. 1, the U.S. General Services Administration said it picked Google Apps to replace IBM Lotus Notes as the provider of e-mail and collaboration software for its 17,000 full-time employees and contractors.

The GSA said it will pay $6.7 million to IT service provider Unisys Corp, which has partnered with Google, Tempus Nova and Acumen Solutions, for the five-year deal.

The GSA, which oversees government procurement and manages federal property in the United States, will work with Unisys to switch users in more than 17 locations around the world to Google Apps in 2011.

Microsoft Senior Director of SharePoint Tom Rizzo conceded Google's win in a blog post Dec. 1.

"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," said Rizzo.

The contract represents more than just a forklift migration between e-mail providers.

With the switch, GSA has changed its procurement model, moving from the on-premises model of Lotus Notes, where software resides locally on users' computers and servers hosted by the GSA, to the Web-based Google Apps for Government suite.

In this model, Google provisions e-mail, document and spreadsheet applications over the Internet to users, hosting their data on servers designated especially for government users.

By removing the burden of hosting e-mail and collaboration apps on its own hardware and computers, the GSA said it expects to save as much as $15 million in staff, infrastructure and support costs over the five years of the contract.

"Cloud computing has a demonstrated track record of cost savings and efficiencies," said GSA CIO Casey Coleman. "With this award, GSA employees will have a modern, robust e-mail and collaboration platform that better supports our mission and our mobile work-force, and costs half as much."

Moving to cloud-based e-mail and collaboration software is part of the government's "cloud first" strategy to migrate to solutions that "limit the need for expensive, redundant infrastructure," the GSA added.

For Google, the win is bigger than the modest dollars it adds for Google Apps. GSA is the first federal agency to move e-mail to a cloud-based system for its entire organization.

The move could embolden other federal agencies that have stayed with Microsoft or IBM out of security or service concerns about Google Apps.

The GSA signaled its intent to "go Google" in July when it accorded Google Apps a Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification.

In September, then-GSA Associate Administrator for Communications and Marketing Sahar Wali told eWEEK that gaining FISMA is not a prerequisite for choosing a software vendor.

However, Google's near four-year foray into the cloud with Google Apps may have given it the inside edge over Microsoft and incumbent IBM, both of whom had vied with Google to win the GSA's hand.

Google's win should take some of the sting out of losing out on a $59 million, five-year deal with the U.S. Department of the Interior to Microsoft. Google is suing the agency for restricting its ability to bid for the deal, which covers 88,000 employees.