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USDA making the move to Microsoft

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the latest government organization to move the cloud, and has picked Microsoft for the task. The deal covers 120,000 employees.

Microsoft, USDA logos.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this morning announced that it has chosen Microsoft to host things like e-mail, instant messaging, and collaboration through the software giant's Business Productivity Online Suite.

As part of the deal, which covers 120,000 employees, the USDA will move from its own on-premises systems to Microsoft's Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Communications Online. That migration will be completed in four weeks, and will put the USDA's cloud hardware in a secured facility that Microsoft says will be in compliance with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Prior to the move, the USDA says it had been using 21 different messaging and collaboration systems across 5,000 offices, and was coming close to needing to buy new servers.

Microsoft says more than 500 state and local governments are using its cloud infrastructure, but that the USDA is the first cabinet-level federal agency.

The news comes just a week after tech rival Google nabbed some 17,000 government workers from the U.S. General Services Administration as part of a five-year, $6.7 million contract awarded to Unisys Corp.

Following that announcement, Tom Rizzo, who is Microsoft's senior director of online services, had penned a post on the company's Why Microsoft blog, saying that several of Microsoft's business customers had "been consistent in their message," that "Google cannot meet their requirements," and that Google's offering was not as flexible in meeting the security needs of some of the organizations.

In July, Google released a U.S. government-flavored variant of its Apps service, which built in a higher level of security to meet the needs of the Federal Information Security Management Act. It also included things like segregated data centers, and compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act--both of which Microsoft is offering as part of the USDA contract.