23 November 2010 | Lindsay Clark
Google’s case against the US government for favouring rival Microsoft has brought the security of cloud-based software to the fore.
The company is suing the US Department of the Interior (DOI) after it was excluded from a $58 million deal to provide email and messaging services to 88,000 users. The government specified the use of a single Microsoft product in its RFQ, effectively shutting out competitors.
Google claims the government’s use of a “limited source justification” was “arbitrary and capricious”. It believes messaging needs could be met with its own software, but the DOI said it didn’t meet security requirements, which Google refutes.
Google has an application (Apps) that could be made available via ‘cloud computing’. Cloud computing is where software is hosted remotely from the user organisation and distributed across a number of servers.
The former UK government said in January that it could save £3.2 billion on its annual £16 billion IT budget with the help of cloud computing. But Ben Madgett, a senior analyst at Ovum, said while Google’s determination to break Microsoft’s dominance as a supplier of personal productivity software could make progress, the cloud computing model could have limitations for government.
“The DOI has stated that Google Apps did not meet their security requirements. Buyers are still considering Google – perhaps just not for this contract. It has made an impact in the government market over the past few years, and there are agencies that have implemented Google Apps.”
He said the case was interesting because it shows Google’s willingness to put up a fight for the cloud market in government against Microsoft. “With agency budgets extremely limited, putting email and productivity apps in the cloud is an attractive option for cutting costs. As cloud security improves and the public sector develops certification systems for the cloud, competition for that market will likely increase.”
This is good news for buyers in the IT category. For nearly 20 years, Microsoft’s dominance in desktop applications, as well email software, has left procurement struggling for leverage in negotiations.