The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

Summary: The ongoing race between Microsoft and Google in the cloud application space continued to heat up this week with Google's launch of Google Apps for Government, a head-to-head competitor of Microsoft's BPOS-F.

TOPICS: Google, Microsoft

The ongoing race between Microsoft and Google in the cloud application space continued to heat up this week.

On July 26, Google announced the launch of a government-focused version of Google Apps -- known as Google Apps for Government. Microsoft announced in February 2010 a government-focused version of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). That collection of Microsoft-hosted business apps, known as BPOS Federal (BPOS-F), runs on a “separate, dedicated infrastructure in secured facilities,” not in the existing datacenters where Microsoft currently hosts BPOS.

By August 2010, BPOS-F is slated to meet a wide range of standards and certifications, including: International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001, Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) 70 Type I and Type II, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Title 21 CFR Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, and Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) compliance certification.

Missing from the BPOS-F check list, however, is FISMA, the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA specifies a "comprehensive framework to protect government information, operations and assets against natural or manmade threats." Google Apps for Government "is the first suite of cloud computing applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation from the U.S. government," according to a Google blog post yesterday.

FISMA certification and accreditation is confirmed by the General Services Administration -- which just so happens to be deciding upon a new e-mail system. The GSA has been evaluating both Microsoft's and Google's cloud-hosted options, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story. FISMA certification is required for that project, which covers 15,000 user e-mail accounts.

Microsoft isn't providing an exact date as to when it will offer FISMA certification for BPOS-F, but says it should be "very soon." The full statement from a Microsoft spokesperson:

“Our messaging and collaboration BPOS offering already meets the most rigorous standards of any cloud service in market today. We have been working closely with the GSA and expect to receive official FISMA authorization very soon. We take our responsibility seriously to deliver powerful and easy-to-use applications that meet the government’s rigorous security and privacy needs, and we are humbled by the fact that nearly every Federal agency and arm of DoD trusts Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint today.”

As of February, the Softies said more than 500 U.S. state and local governments were using its Online Services (BPOS, various standalone Microsoft Online offerings, which include but are but not limited to BPOS.

Topics: Google, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    Putting government information on Google or Microsoft servers will be a bonanza for Wikileaks. The end of privacy as we knew it. George Orwell warned us.
    • Backwards?


      I don't think Orwell's world would work with all the government's secrets being posted on Wikileaks. It would be us watching them, more than them watching us, as all their watching would be public knowledge.
      • Who's really in charge?

        @Economister <br>The real question is "Who is really in charge"? The reason there are so many "conspiracy theories" about, is that there is A LOT of stuff that goes on "out of sight" that we don't know about. Think of what we DO know about some of the "secret" things that happened up to, say, the 1940's, and then think about how much the public knew about that stuff at the time - or even shortly afterward: almost nothing, if anything. We like to think that in the "digital age", we can find out anything about anyone, and keep "them" (whoever "them" might be in any given context) accountable. There IS enough whispered conjecture floating about for us to conclude that there is a very large amount of "stuff" that happens that we will never know about. So therefore, I say that anything that is "leaked" is done so deliberately, by "them", in order to make us think that we have a bead on things. Further, I firmly believe that same "them" allows just enough truth to be mixed into the mass of FUD circulated by the "conspiracy theorists" to a) make them look like idiots whilst b) getting us used to the existence of various ideas (e.g. "planet x", ETs, human chimeras et al). If our thinking is "softened up" by information that is 90% FUD & 10% truth, we gerbils are far more likely not to spin out when weird, out-there stuff ACTUALLY happens. Case in point: those who acknowledged "aliens" of any sort prior to the 50's were basically locked up. Today we just argue about who they are, what they are, and how many there are...
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    Why doesn't any other journalist covering this even know that Microsoft has an offering? It's all Google out there in the news.
    • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

      Because no one gives a damn about microsoft cr*pware
      • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

        @linuxoid -- Good answer!
      • Crapware? Why drag Linux into this conversation?

        Oh, that's right, Google uses Linux.

        No wonder the government, and many people in general don't trust Google.
        John Zern
      • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground


        Hmmm... don't think that Linux has anything to do with the Government not trusting Google (not really sure that is even a correct statement in itself). The government uses Linux quite a bit, and it seems that our most protected secrets are entrusted to it, i.e. the NSA. Ever heard of SELinux? IT is an open source Linux security project headed by the NSA. Funny it is not SEWindows... Of course I guess not having access to the source code nor complete control over of the OS you want your most protected data to be on is probably a pretty big deterrent.
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    Wake up linux idiots.. Microsoft controls over 85% client and server market..
    you have been day dreaming since you were born..
    • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

      One thing - to "control" it, another - for people to give a damn about it. Those with brains use Linux.

      You're dreaming. Like they're dreaming they have control of war in Afghanistan.
    • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

      @arshad@... all in good time...all in good is very close to the end of the wait and see...and it has nothing to do with linux
    • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground


      Actually they do NOT control 85% of the server market, they are not even the majority in that market. And Steve Ballmer said so himself. They may SELL more copies of their OS for servers, but Linux is free so many companies don't buy it, which is technically just buying support, since they don't need to.
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    pity you man..for being lost from reality. If everything was based on the numbers..oh god, the world would have been a great place..face the facts, infact I would like to say MS products have always been copywares, they never ever had own ideas....:)
    • Everyone copies


      Here are a couple examples:
      Apple copied from BSD for their OSX kernel.
      Ubuntu copied Apple for their default design in 10.04 .

      I'm sure there are others, but right now I'm too lazy to think of them.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    Great post! I think this is a huge battleground for these two companies. The Cloud is being added to the already existing competition between search and browser supremacy. I think the cloud competition can potentially be the biggest battle. I like this debate between cloud providers so much that it inspired me to create my own facebook forum for those who want to participate. You can contribute here ? and hopefully we?ll see Mary Jo Foley pop up on the wall ! ;)
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

    Mary Jo:
    When I read this article, what went through my mind was, "Gosh, I pity the folks working for Microsoft and Google who are working to get their respective clouds certified."

    Having worked in the Federal Government (USAF Systems Acquisitions for 8 years), I know a little bit about what working with the Government is like. Gah.

    Not only do they have to jump through umpteen hoops, they have to do it in a timely fashion if they want to be the "first". It all boils down to filling the squares and checklists. Whoever is first and cheapest will get the job. Price is important too.

    A loss either way will be a huge blow to the other competitor because once this software is certified and available via the GSA, it'll pretty-much be the only stuff Fed Employees can buy and use without filling out tons of paperwork for special "permits". That effort usually isn't worth peforming.

    Once that happens, then all the contractors and sub-contractors are going to have to submit their work in the same format that the Fed uses (Office or Open Office). There goes that market. These people will go home and eventually begin working with the same software at home they use at work....

    A loss here won't be the end of the world for either Microsoft or Google. Both are large enough to absorb the impact, but I think a loss will still be a big deal.

    Interesting post. Thanks.
  • RE: The federal cloud: Another Microsoft vs. Google battleground

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