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12/1/2010
04:48 PM
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General Services Administration Picks Google For Email

The first major federal agency to move its email to the cloud agency-wide offers the latest evidence of the emerging cloud email market.

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The General Services Administration, the federal agency that provides goods and services to other agencies and manages public buildings, announced plans Wednesday to move from IBM Lotus Notes to Gmail and Google Apps for Government, becoming the first major federal agency to move to cloud-based email on an agency-wide basis.

GSA's move is a key development in the Obama administration's push to move federal agencies toward cloud computing, and another indication that email will be among federal agencies' first forays into the public cloud. Microsoft and Google have already pegged this market as one it wants in on, developing government-specific offerings within the last year.

According to GSA, moving its employees to Google Apps for Government will equate to a 50% savings on staff, infrastructure and contract support costs for email over the next five years. Currently, GSA uses IBM Lotus Notes for its email accounts, and a number of other Lotus tools for collaboration. The agency's existing infrastructure is more than five years old and spread across more than a dozen global locations, according to procurement documents.

"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," GSA CIO Casey Coleman said in a statement.

GSA contracted with Unisys Corp., rather than directly with Google, for the $6.7 million deal. Unisys has partnered with Google, Tempus Nova (which has developed tools to migrate email and calendar data from Lotus to Gmail) and consulting firm Acumen Solutions.

While GSA will be the first agency to move to cloud-based email agency-wide, parts of agencies have also begun the move, and several other major agencies are considering cloud email. The Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for example, which doesn’t have to strictly comply with federal cybersecurity regulations because it is only quasi-governmental, moved to Google Apps earlier this year.

The Department of Interior is also seeking a hosted email and collaboration suite, and recently found itself in the middle of a lawsuit, with Google claiming that it is unfairly favoring Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite in an as-yet unawarded contract. Even the Army is piloting Google Apps, though it plans to consolidate its email to the Defense Information Systems Agency's private cloud. GSA also plans to provide other federal agencies with cloud-based email access, with a request for quotations for that service due out by March 2011.

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