The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the latest government agency to pick a side in the continuing cloud computing competition between Microsoft and Google; and the USDA is making the move to Microsoft.
The USDA's migration to Microsoft's cloud computing offerings comes the same month that Google touted signing on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to its Google Apps for Government cloud computing offering. In that instance, Google beat out Microsoft for the GSA cloud computing deal, which will move 17,000 GSA employees and contractors to Google's cloud and is expected to save $15 million over five years. The GSA deal is billed as the first agency-wide federal cloud e-mail deployment.
According to the USDA, the company will soon go live with a commercial cloud service offering for its Enterprise Messaging Service (EMS), which comprises e-mail, Web conferencing, document collaboration and instant messaging. The leap to the cloud makes the USDA the first Cabinet-level agency to move its e-mail and collaboration applications to the cloud.
The USDA contract will consolidate 120,000 users spread across 21 e-mail systems. The contract was inked in May with Dell as the lead partner offering Microsoft Online Services cloud computing solutions. The deployment will include Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, Microsoft Office SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and Microsoft Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing.
Overall, the USDA's migration to the Microsoft cloud is part of the agency's continuing effort to streamline its messaging platforms, cut costs and improve efficiency while extending its existing on-premise software investments into the cloud.
"USDA's IT modernization will allow us to streamline our operations and help us use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. With a focused cloud road map, we saw a clear opportunity to help achieve our cost savings and consolidation goals and tap into the promise of the cloud," Chris Smith, USDA CIO, said in a statement.
Within the next few weeks, USDA expects to begin moving its 120,000-plus users to the cloud. Smith said the cloud upgrade was becoming more and more necessary as the USDA's IT infrastructure aged and grew cumbersome.
"Basically, the car we owned was getting ready for a major engine overhaul," Smith said, in a statement posted by Microsoft about the USDA's move to the cloud. “All our servers were at least three years old. We're going from owning the car and paying for the tires, the oil, and the upkeep to basically buying a Zip car that's wherever we need it, whenever we need it."
The USDA joins a growing list of federal, state and local government agencies that have decided to make the leap to the cloud. In October, Microsoft revealed that New York City is making the move to its cloud computing services. NYC joins the states of California and Minnesota that have given their cloud allegiance to Microsoft.
Next: Microsoft vs. Google: The Continuing Cloud Computing Competition