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Veterans Affairs May Dump Microsoft Office

Department will consider Web-based suites as it looks to replace current hodgepodge of Microsoft Office versions.
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the latest federal agency considering a switch from on-premise productivity software to a cloud-based option to lower costs.

A Web-based suite such as Office 365, Google Apps, or LotusLive is one of the options the VA is considering to replace its current use of several versions of Microsoft's Office suite, the department said in a request for information (RFI) on FedBizOpps.gov for an Office Productivity Suite Alternatives Pilot project.

The department also is considering a virtualized desktop version of Microsoft Office 2010, or a lower-cost desktop office productivity suite such as OpenOffice as alternatives to its current productivity deployment, which includes Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and 2010 software.

The purpose of the RFI is not to procure new software or services from potential vendors or service providers, but to merely price some alternatives that meet the interoperability and security requirements of the department, the VA said.

[ Can the cloud measure the expansion of the universe? See Federal Researchers Push Limits Of Cloud Computing. ]

"The purpose of the pilot is to understand the issues such as security, supportability, interoperability, ease of use, end user satisfaction, speed, network requirements and compatibility with Microsoft based products over a diverse set of users within a large enterprise setting," according to the RFI. "The white papers should merely be focused on the per seat cost for services/tools provided, current state of the technology in terms of Office productivity suite benefits, supportability, security, ease of use and interoperability with Microsoft based products."

The VA's exploration of an alternative to its on-premise productivity software follows similar moves by other agencies to switch out on-premise licensed software for more cost-effective options, with cloud-based services being a top choice.

Using technology such as virtualization to consolidate or do away with on-premise hardware and software also is another way the feds are cutting costs as part of a broader IT reform effort.

On the cloud front, the General Services Administration has completed a move from in-house collaboration and e-mail software to Google Apps, as did the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also are moving to cloud-based collaboration and e-mail from on-premises software, while the Department of Interior is trying for the second time to move 88,000 employees from in-house email to a cloud-based suite after running into legal problems last year over a planned move to Google Apps.

InformationWeek's 2012 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2012 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2012 Government IT Innovators closes April 27.