The federal government is launching headfirst into the cloud - and Google is positioning itself to grab a large chunk of Uncle Sam's business. But can Google meet government demands for security and uptime?
Google on Tuesday announced a new set of cloud services for government agencies, the same day that White House CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled a new Web site from which federal agencies can purchase online applications and computing services, the IDG News Service reports.
"Run by the U.S. General Services Administration, Apps.gov is an online storefront where government agencies can buy online applications from companies such as Google and Salesforce.com. IT services such as storage, Web hosting and virtual machines will eventually be offered here as well," reports IDG writer Robert McMillan.
Inefficiency is a big driver of the government cloud push. Setting up a blog apparently cost the U.S. Transport Safety Administration $600,000, whereas consumers can set up personal blogs with nothing more than an Internet connection and Web browser. The government spends $75 billion on IT each year and wants to find cheaper ways to deliver computing services to users.
Google is well-versed in providing IT services cheaply with Google Apps, its set of online office tools that compete against Microsoft Office and have become particularly popular in the academic world.
But Google may have to bolster the reliability of its cloud services to meet government demands. The GSA recently issued a request for quotations detailing the qualifications cloud computing vendors must meet to offer services to the federal government.
The government document says cloud vendors should meet several security requirements, including data isolation in a multi-tenant environment, disaster recovery capabilities, and allow the government to remotely control the service's firewall.
Another government demand is that cloud providers provide service availability of 99.95% per month. Google Apps SLAs only guarantee levels of 99.9%.
Google always chases the money, though, so if Google needs to raise guaranteed uptime levels in order to secure government business it can be expected to do just that. Google promised to release its federal cloud computing services next year, saying they will be designed specifically for U.S. government agencies and therefore will be hosted on systems that comply with various government regulations.
So it sounds like Google's government cloud services will be more secure, and perhaps more robust than the services offered to the private sector. Hopefully, some of those benefits will trickle down to Google’s enterprise customers.
Jon Brodkin writes about Microsoft, Google, browsers, operating systems, PCs, mobile devices, cloud computing, virtualization, open source and a bunch of other tech stuff for Network World. He also cares just a little bit too much about Boston sports teams. Follow Jon on Twitter @jbrodkin.
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