And now for another exciting chapter in government procurement. No, really.
In a heartwarming tale of triumph over adversity -- or, a case of a big company throwing legal muscle around to force its way in, depending on which way you look at it -- Google has ended up being awarded a gigundo contract to supply Google Apps to the U.S. Department of the Interior, over Microsoft. But there's a lot more to the story than that.
The contract provides email and collaboration software to 90,000 Interior employees, for $34.9 million over seven years -- or $14 million less than Microsoft would have been paid, notes the Wall Street Journal. It also consolidates seven email systems into one, says Interior. In addition, it included calendaring, cloud-based email archiving/journaling, instant messaging, desktop video conferencing, Web-based collaboration systems and mobile-device support, according to the the solicitation cover letter, and needed to be completed by December, reported Federal News Radio.
Google has also won contracts to serve as the e-mail service for, among others, General Service Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote the Washington Post. "The Office of Management and Budget has directed all agencies to shift three services to cloud storage by May and expects to save $5 billion annually by moving roughly one-fourth of the government's computing to the cloud," explained Nextgov. "Email is a popular choice for cloud service because it's comparatively easy to transfer and doesn't pose many of the security concerns that can stall other cloud transitions. Cloud-based systems also are significantly cheaper than office-based systems and typically offer an array of tools beyond simple emailing, such as calendar and document sharing functions."
But now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
Once upon a time, the Department of the Interior decided it wanted to move to the cloud, and issued a procurement request asking vendors to send it bids, as is typical with government procurements. However, in the fall of 2010, Google filed suit against this process, noting that it required any bidder to be compliant with Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite — needless to say, a provision with which only Microsoft products could comply. This is typically thought to be a no-no in government procurements. In January of 2011, Google won a preliminary injunction against the contract, which became final in July 2011.
But wait! There's more!
In the process of filing its lawsuit, Google happened to mention that its product, Google Apps for Government, was certified to comply with 2002's 72-page bill creating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) -- delineating how agencies were supposed to procure IT hardware and software -- and Microsoft's was not (though it received certification shortly thereafter).
Unfortunately for Google, and fortunately for Microsoft, this was only sort of true, which set off another round of complaints. See, Google Apps for Government -- while a more secure version of the Google product that had been FISMA-certified -- was not in itself FISMA-certified, but was in the process of being so. About a year ago, during legal discovery, this all came to light. Microsoft and Google traded acrimonious blog postings about it for a few days. In September 2011, Interior withdrew its award, Google pulled its lawsuit, and everything started over, with Interior rebidding the contract in February.
So here we are, and the upshot is that Google has been awarded the contract -- unless Microsoft finds a way to sue.