U.S. Department of the Interior ends up going Google for hosted e-mail

U.S. Department of the Interior ends up going Google for hosted e-mail

Summary: After a couple of years wrangling in and out of court, the Department of the Interior has decided to go with Google, not Microsoft, for a multi-year, multimillion-dollar hosted e-mail contract.


The U.S. Department of the Interior has switched horses and is now going with Google Apps rather than Microsoft's hosted e-mail/collaboration alternative for its 88,000 employees.

Originally, the DOI's plan was to go with Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) to replace its agency-wide e-mail system. But in October 2010, Google and its partner Onix Networking sued the DOI over its planned award, claiming it unfairly benefitted Microsoft. The suit called out the DOI for not considering Google Apps in its Request for Quotation (RFQ). This wasn't the first time Google had complained publicly about the award of a government contract to Microsoft.

The original DOI RFQ stated that the agency was seeking a new, unified e-mail, calendaring and collaboration solution, but limited the acceptable options to Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) Federal suite only. The contract was worth $49.3 million over five years.

In September last year, Google dropped its suit against the DOI over the contract. Then, yesterday, April 30, 2012, a public notice revealed that Google Appps Premier Enterprise reseller Onix has been awarded a contract for the DOI's hosted e-mail and collaboration system. The notice states that the winning bid was $34.9 million over seven years -- considerably less than the DOI was prepared to pay last year.

(Thanks to Andrew Blevins of Microsoft partner Azaleos for the tweeted heads-up about the just-posted award notice.)

The DOI's updated RFP (D12PS00041), posted January 9, 2012, was for a cloud-based e-mail and collaboration services system which will replace the current set of disparate on-premises systems. According to the RFP, the new system needed to be able to accommodate the provision of services "in a government community or private cloud solution that includes cloud-based email, calendaring, email archiving, journaling, instant messaging, desktop video conferencing, and support for mobile devices." It also called for a system which provided "a secure computing environment that complies with all required federal regulations and DOI specific security requirements" and that allowed full accessibility and data portability to another cloud or in-house platform at the end of the contract.

According to last year's legal complaint, the DOI's requirement for a private-cloud solution for security reasons may have played a big part in why Microsoft originally was awarded the bid. BPOS Federal -- the precursor to whatever equivalent Microsoft has coming on the Office 365 front --  is a dedicated, locked-down version of BPOS that is basically like a privately hosted version of Microsoft’s Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Communications Online and Live Meeting. Google Apps for Government is a multi-tenant hosted solution.

I've asked both Microsoft and Onix for their takes on what led to the DOI's decision to go Google. An Onix spokesperson said the company was planning to publish a press release about the win soon and had nothing to say in the interim. No word back from Microsoft so far.

Update: This just in from a Microsoft spokesperson:

“Microsoft has a positive, longstanding relationship with the Department of Interior and we are working on a number of enterprise-wide initiatives with the agency. Although we are disappointed by this award, we will engage with our partners and DOI to review and understand the reasons for this decision. Microsoft remains committed to providing our customers with the cloud services that have the performance, security, privacy and other capabilities they expect and deserve.”

Topics: CXO, Cloud, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Google, Microsoft, Software, Social Enterprise


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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  • DOI employee

    I'm a DOI agency employee, and couldn't be happier :D
    beau parisi
    • As is my brother-in-law

      and he mentions that many within the DOI are not happy with the decision.
      John Zern
      • That's because...

        People formed a strange emotional attachment to MS Outlook - they don't want to let it go. So, in many cases, moving away from outlook (which gmail will require for at least some functionality) is usually non-starter.
        But as someone who's been dealing with BPOS/Office365 migration for over the year (you heard it right! a year! For 600 user company) and someone who dealt with gmail migration before, i can tell you that not only gmail is cheaper, but support is way better (including support staff knowledge, how-tos, white papers, etc). We wanted to cut down on in-house servers and services with MS offering, but so far we had to deploy a dozen of windows servers...
      • GMail does not even sort

        You've gotta give an A+ to Google for the CON-job they've been doing.
      • Sigh

        They use Lotus Notes client at work, not Outlook. Nobody seems to get that.
    • Looks like the MS faithful are out in force

      -6 for saying he's happy with the decision? Give me a break!
      John L. Ries
  • Obviously Google's ties with the current administration is paying off

    Schmidt (and Google) were big contributers to the Obama campaign.
    William Farrel
    • In which case...

      ...MS is probably in political trouble no matter who wins the presidency. You might recall that it was during Mitt Romney's administration that Massachussetts adopted ODF as its official document format.
      John L. Ries
  • Awesome!!

    I love Microsoft, but if you have ever had the unfortunate time of using Outlook Web Access, or Outlook which is the typical Microsoft email platforms of choice than you know just how much it totally sucks! It sucks so bad it often ruins my entire day, I often drift off into a whimsical dreamy state while staring at my cubical wall about how awesome it would be if everyone used GMail. Though I realize I will miss several features of Outlook, such as everytime I click the address book and Outlook locks up for 4 minutes it gives me time to browse the internet and read the news, or when I type a persons name into the box and expect it to auto-populate their name only to realize I have to click "Check Names" and then it hangs for another 10 minutes and prompts me nearly 10 times about exceeding the maximum LDAP query length...Oh the joys I will miss!!
    • ....

      I would think you either have

      A - a rubbish IT department
      2 - a knackered pc

      As outlook is the worlds most widely used email application, and funnily enough, people manage to send more than 1 email every 4 minutes.
      • add me to "rubbish IT" then...

        ...i've only been supporting networks large and small for 15 years (including huge in-house email systems) and the only thing i refuse to do is to be an Exchange lead (most times i won't even apply to the job that mentions Exchange).
      • Look-Out!

        Where I worked everyone, IT and users, referred to Outlook as "Look-Out!". When Outlook copped an attitude the excrement flew hitting everyone. It was not pretty. :-(
      • Lotus Notes

        They use Lotus Notes Client in DOI, cause it uses some Domino server from IBM. And god does Lotus Notes client suck... built on java, runs like crap.
    • Outlook AD Exchange

      We use Outlook and AD/Exchange ... My global Address Book opens in less than 1 second. there are over 60k names in the list. Searching is nearly instantaneous. Outlook has some minor annoyances that are easy to overcome.

      I would suggest that you have some serious config issues and your IT team needs some help.
      • That's the point...

        ...to make Exchange/Outlook work on the acceptable level requires a lot of hardware/software/man power and downright babysitting - that's why you see job posts for "Exchange Engineers" - no other email/groupware system requires a dedicated SysAdmin (well, Lotus and Groupwise maybe - but almost no one is using it anymore).
    • Pretty sure you got some other issues.......

      I manage a company with all different flavors of Outlook and if I pulled it out for gmail the people would scream and revolt. We don't have performance issues with Outlook and opening the GAL is a breeze and fast. I think your network just sucks as its trying to grab the data and can't and your computer probably is on its last leg! You are oblivious to think Outlook runs like that across all computers on the planet. Are you that clueless?
      • Right...

        ...blame the network.
      • Ok, let me be more specific!

        Well since it runs just fine here and millions of other places, I'm gonna say yeah its something with the network or client or the server is screwed up? Sorry its not 100% the network, but its a great chance it could very well be! Common sense buddy, use it!
    • the way GAL works

      If your Outlook is running in cache mode, which is the default mode, your GAL is a local copy, called offline address book (OAB), stored on the computer that you use. OAB is updated daily in delta in the background. If your Outlook is running in online mode and you have a big GAL, then you may experience delay.
    • Oh I guess I will elaborate...

      Man I sure did get down voted for explaining (albeit in narrative form) my average workday. Although its the truth...Not the first place I have worked where it has done this either, I have worked at at least a couple other jobs where this behavior was very similar. Oh and if you have never had Outlook lock up on you, freeze, or otherwise crash in any way then you are completely full of BS.