Tech Industry

Google says it was cut off from USDA project bid

With Microsoft winning a USDA cloud computing project, Google claims it was denied the opportunity to bid for the agency's business.

Google is claiming that it was not given a chance to bid on a cloud-computing project for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for which the contract was awarded to rival Microsoft.

Announced yesterday, Microsoft's winning bid will kick off a project to move 120,000 USDA employees to the company's cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite, a collection of applications that includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Communications Online.

Though Microsoft already counts more than 500 state and local agencies among its cloud-computing customers, the new project marks its first with a cabinet-level federal agency.

But the news wasn't well-received at Google headquarters, which said it never had a chance to compete for the business despite its contention that its solution is the more cost-effective one.

"We were not given the opportunity to bid for USDA's business," a Google spokesman said in a statement e-mailed to CNET. "When there has been a full and open competition - as with the General Services Administration, Wyoming, Colorado, and Los Angeles - customers have chosen Google Apps, and taxpayers are saving millions of dollars."

The USDA said that over the past six months it had been working closely with Microsoft and Dell on a plan to move its 120,000 workers to a cloud-based environment. Security, always of paramount important to government agencies, was a key consideration. Microsoft's cloud infrastructure has been given Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Authority to Operate (ATO), which certifies a secure and trustworthy environment for the government. Google Apps for Government is also FISMA-certified.

"Migrating an enterprise of USDA's size and complexity from multiple environments, across multiple agencies, requires not only a trusted enterprise-ready solution, but also a partner who is able to work with us and navigate everything from archiving to authentication to mobile phone support," USDA CIO Chris Smith said in a statement.

Microsoft does tend to win most government cloud-computing contracts, according to Reuters. And though Google has increasingly been fighting for its slice of the public sector piece, the company has maintained that it's cut off from the bidding process by agencies failing to look beyond Microsoft. In early November, the search giant filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the U.S. Department of the Interior did not properly consider Google Apps when it was searching for a new Web-based document system.

Still, Google has managed to pick up more government business recently. Last year, the company won a $7.2 million contract from the city of Los Angeles to move its staffers to Google Apps for Government. And in the last few weeks, the search giant was part of a team that captured a $6.7 million contract to migrate the U.S. General Services Administration to its Google Apps suite.