Google Wins Injunction In Microsoft, Interior Department Cloud Computing Contract Case

A federal judge has issued a temporary court order to put the brakes on a nearly $60 million cloud computing contract that gave Microsoft the reins of the cloud computing deployment for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington issued the injunction that stops Microsoft from deploying its Business Productivity Online Services cloud computing solution and e-mail system for the Interior Department and its 88,000 employees. Braden said that deficiencies in the procurement process led to her decision to put the contract on ice.

"Without a preliminary injunction, the award will put into motion the final migration of Interior's e-mail system, achieve 'organizational lock-in' for Microsoft, and cost Google the opportunity to compete," Braden wrote in the 27-page decision. Braden wrote that the DOI intended to award the contract on Jan. 25.

Google and Ohio-based Google reseller Onix Networking filed a lawsuit against the DOI in October alleging that the bidding process for the government body's cloud-based e-mail and collaboration system was skewed to favor Microsoft and that Google was not part of a competitive bidding process for the contract. The suit claims that the wording of the procurement documents and the DOI's selection process put the spotlight on Microsoft's BPOS suite of cloud application software and didn't take into consideration Google's Google Apps cloud e-mail and collaboration play.

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According to the lawsuit Google and Onix filed, the Department of Interior's request for a quote for an e-mail and collaboration system was written in a way that excluded Google from the running and that it specifically stated that the solution had to be a part of the BPOS suite. In the suit, Google said its exclusion was "unduly restrictive of competition." The suit claims Google had been in discussions with the DOI for several months about providing its cloud computing system, but the Google Apps platform was later denied in favor of Microsoft.

The suit ultimately sought to block the Department of the Interior from buying any of the Microsoft BPOS software until the agency opens the project up to competitive bidding. The cloud computing contract with the Department of the Interior is estimated to be worth up to $59.3 million over five years.

Next: Google Vs. Microsoft: The Cloud Battle Continues

Along with putting a freeze on the DOI awarding the contract to Microsoft, Judge Braden wrote in the court's decision that the DOI's selection of the federal version of Microsoft BPOS as the agency standard for messaging and collaboration didn't include "proper justification or appropriate approvals" and that it included "no estimate of internal cost" for other cloud computing options while also not listing possible alternatives.

"The failure to list Google's repeated express interest in this procurement cannot be explained as an oversight," she added.

In a statement to CRN, Microsoft said the judge’s decision ignored the DOI’s stance that Google Apps did not meet the security demands required of its cloud computing system, while Microsoft’s solution does. Microsoft remains confident that it will be the cloud provider for the Department of the Interior.

’The Department of Interior determined that the dedicated, U.S.-based cloud solution offered by Microsoft met its minimum security and other requirements after a careful and thorough evaluation, and that Google’s solution did not,’ Microsoft said in the statement. ’The judge’s decision does not address this fundamental determination. We believe the full record will demonstrate that this award is in the best interest of the government and taxpayers.’

In a statement sent to CRN, Google praised the decision.

"As a proponent of open competition on the Internet and in the technology sector in general, we're pleased with the court’s decision," a Google spokesperson said in the statement.

The lawsuit and subsequent injunction are the latest developments as Google and Microsoft fight tooth and nail for cloud computing customer wins, many of which are on the federal level as the two tech powerhouses look to prove their meddle with their competing Google Apps for Government and Microsoft BPOS-Federal cloud products.

Google recently staked claim to the General Services Administration's (GSA) cloud computing contract, beating out Microsoft. Meanwhile, Microsoft has trumpeted its ownership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) cloud computing infrastructure.

And the two aren't just battling for federal contracts. Google and Microsoft have been battling head-to-head in a contentions cloud computing combat for the past several months that has spiraled into a war of words and a tit-for-tat with cloud computing features and functions.