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.”