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Google Wins Cloud Deal With GSA

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In a high-profile win for Google in its ongoing struggles with Microsoft, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has inked a deal to use the search giant’s browser-based productivity applications and cloud-based e-mail service for the agency’s entire 15,000 users.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is not pleased at Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) contract award.

By moving the entire agency to a single cloud-based system, the goal is to lower costs by as much as 50 percent over five years when compared to current staff, infrastructure, and contract support costs, according to a GSA statement.

While other federal agencies have moved groups of users to cloud-based e-mail and collaboration, the GSA claims it will be the first to implement it agency wide.

“With this award, GSA employees will have a modern, robust email and collaboration platform that better supports our mission and our mobile work force, and costs half as much,” Casey Coleman, the GSA’s CIO, said in the statement.

The contract, which is worth $6.7 million over five years, will be overseen by Unisys (NYSE: UIS), which partnered with Google on the bid.

After several recent Microsoft wins to provide state and federal agencies with cloud computing online services, Google executives are giddy.

“We are thrilled that GSA has chosen to move to the cloud with Google and look forward to expanding our productive partnership with them,” Mike Bradshaw, director of Google’s Federal Enterprise team, said in a post to the Official Google Blog on Wednesday.

The news comes on the heels of a Microsoft win in the state of Minnesota in September, whereby Microsoft will provide the state’s Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) with its hosted Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

BPOS provides cloud-based versions of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online, and Office Live Meeting.

Google, meanwhile, offers Google Apps, which provides Gmail e-mail service, along with Google Calendar, and Google Docs, which provide support for editing documents, building spreadsheets, and creating presentations.

Both Google and Microsoft have versions of their online services with added security and administration features especially for government organizations.

Upping the ante, in mid-October, Microsoft announced Office 365, a future version of BPOS due out in the first half of 2011 that adds Microsoft Web Apps and features integration with Office 2010. Office 365 will also feature all of the 2010 versions of the company’s servers, including Lync, which shipped Wednesday and which replaces the Office Communications Server.

Microsoft officials were apparently annoyed enough to snipe at the contract award.

“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,” Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft Online Services, said in a blog post Wednesday afternoon.

“You have to meet the height requirement to ride in the enterprise,” Rizzo said.

Such sniping back and forth between rival bidders for government contracts can result in the well-worn tradition of suing over a contract award — sometimes with a twist.

For example, Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in early November, because it had not been allowed to bid on a similar contract. In that case, Google’s main beef was the claim that the DOI’s request for proposal specifically called for BPOS Federal edition.

Rizzo never hinted about legal action. However, he did appear to raise the issue of fairness.

“We will continue to serve [the GSA’s] 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,” he added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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