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11/3/2010
08:06 PM
Kurt Marko
Kurt Marko
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Google v. US: More Than Competitive Sniping

The conventional wisdom is that Google's lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior is just an indirect shot at Microsoft. But there are larger issues at play.

The conventional wisdom is that Google's lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior is just an indirect shot at Microsoft. But there are larger issues at play.In a lawsuit filed last Friday, Google claimed that an RFQ by the Interior Department was unfairly stacked in Microsoft's favor. In essence, the DOI wants to replace its hodgepodge of e-mail and collaboration systems for 88,000 employees with a single hosted solution. The problem, according to Google, is that the RFQ already presumed a solution, namely Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

The LA Times has a decent overview, and you can find the entire complaint here [PDF], but to save you some time, the money paragraph is #6. The remainder of the complaint is a litany of meetings and correspondence between Google and the DOI's procurement department and concludes with an interesting Q&A where Google addresses specific requirements, for example, does Google Apps work with Outlook (yes, using Apps Sync), does it sync with AD (yes, again via its SAML 2.0 support for SSO), does it meet Federal security regulations, etc.

It's obvious that the DOI's IT department wasn't looking to source a messaging and collaboration solution, but an outsourced service for the presumed best or only choice, namely something using Exchange and Sharepoint as a back end. This seems to me like the Federal motor pool bidding on a fleet of new SUVs by asking for quotes on Jeep Cherokees -- Ford and GM need not apply. It's emblematic of an IT myopia that is hindering cloud/SaaS adoption; an inability to break free from established product categories or traditional ways of doing things and consider high-level requirements.

I'm not an expert on the Federal RFQ process, so there may well be a loophole (described in the complaint as a "Limited Source Justification") allowing this sort of thing, but one would hope that the next time the Feds use our tax dollars for a major (this would have to be in the millions to serve 88,000 employees) IT service purchase, they'll get their heads out of the sand and think about requirements, not products.

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