Google Targets Federal, State Governments With New Apps Offering

Google Apps For Government meets the stringent security requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), which means all customer data is stored on servers in Google's data centers inside the U.S., and servers are isolated in separate cages with access controlled by biometric devices.

This physical segregation is something that Google Apps hasn't offered in the past, and it's meant to lure government agencies that have been looking to tap into the benefits of cloud computing but have been terrified of the security implications, according to Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise business.

"This is the first cloud platform certified for use by the U.S. government," Girouard said at a media event held at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. "There is this fundamental trust question about turning over data over to a third party, and [Google Apps For Government] is just a step down that road. This does bring a lot of credibility to the cloud."

Google achieved FISMA certification last week and is authorized to operate at FISMA-Moderate level, a sensitive-but-not-confidential status that covers between 80 and 90 percent of government data, Girouard said.

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Google expects the Federal government, as well as state and local government agencies, to increase their cloud deployments now that they've got a FISMA-certified offering that can standardize security across all levels of government.

"No one is more sensitive to information security than government," said Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management for Google's Enterprise products.

Google Apps For Government isn't a private cloud -- it's built on Google's traditional multi-tenant architecture and adds the segregation aspect for FISMA compliance. This is important because Google believes dedicated, private cloud infrastructure isn't able to offer the efficiencies of cloud computing.

"We don't believe in the notion of the private cloud, because it's more of the same thing people have been doing for the past 15 to 20 years," Girouard said.

Given the budget disasters that have befallen nearly every state in the country, the offering comes at a critical time, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at the event. "The financial pressures on government are enormous, and this is a material cost savings," he said.

Berkeley National Labs, part of the U.S. Department Of Energy, has deployed Google Apps For Government to 4000 employees and 1000 research partners, and expects to save between $1.5 million and $2 million over next five years. The U.S. Navy's division is using the suite to collaborate with NGOs and foreign governments. In disaster relief scenarios, Google Apps can quickly scale up when needed, and also features real time translation.

Colorado's Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) is using Google Apps For Government for multiple state and local government agencies and expects to save $500,000 over the next five years, in part because the agency won't have to renew existing Office 2003 licenses, according to John Conley, executive director of SIPA, who spoke via videoconference.

Google is calling Google Apps For Government "the first cloud platform certified for use by the U.S. government", but Microsoft in February unveiled Business Productivity Online Suite Federal, an offering that includes many of the same security guarantees. is also working on FISMA compliance.

Whichever vendor delivers on their cost savings promises first is going to see a flood of business, and Google just showed what value proposition it's bringing to the table.