Department Of Interior Scraps Microsoft Cloud Plan, Judge Dismisses Google Lawsuit

a motion filed by Google last week to drop the lawsuit.

Google had sued the Interior Department last year claiming that it was unfairly passed over as a potential vendor for the agency's nearly $60 million cloud e-mail and collaboration system and that procurement documents for the project were worded in a way that heavily favored Microsoft and its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) Federal edition. The DOI Wednesday scraped its plans to go with Microsoft and said it will evaluate other vendors for its cloud e-mail and collaboration systems.

Federal Judge Susan Braden Wednesday issued an order of dismissal with prejudice following a status conference in which the Department of the Interior said it would go back to the drawing board and renew its search for a cloud provider in light of market changes, court documents indicate. The agency said it will examine Microsoft competitors as part of its new procurement process.

The DOI said that its determination and findings in seeking a cloud vendor was "now stale in light of new developments in technology and entrants into the market. The Department of the Interior has decided not to proceed with the procurement of cloud-email and collaboration services…," court documents show. The DOI is now preparing a request for information for potential issuance of a solicitation to procure cloud and e-mail services.

"In light of these representations at the September 27, 2011 hearing, Google orally moved to withdraw the December 30, 2010 Amended Complaint and requested that the court dismiss Case No. 10-743C, with prejudice. The Government concurs with Google's Motion To Dismiss, With Prejudice. The Defendant-Intervenor agrees this case should be dismissed, with prejudice," Braden wrote in the order.

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"Based on the foregoing, the court has determined that the interests of justice are served by dismissing this case, with prejudice. See RCFC 41(a)(2)," the order continued.

"In the event that the Department of the Interior subsequently awards any cloud email and collaboration services contract(s) that result in a bid protest being filed by Plaintiff or Defendant-Intervenor in the United States Court of Federal Claims, the aforementioned parties are instructed to inform the Office of the Clerk of this related case Order Of Dismissal. In turn, the Office of the Clerk is instructed to assign that bid protest to this court as a related case."

Neither the DOI nor Microsoft responded to requests for comment. In an e-mail sent to CRN, a Google spokesperson praised the judge's decision.

"We're pleased with the outcome of our discussions with the Department of Interior, and look forward to the opportunity to compete for its business and save taxpayers money," the Google spokesperson wrote.

Wednesday's decision ends the nearly year-long court battle in which Google sought to be considered for the Interior Department's cloud computing contract. Originally filed by Google and reseller Onix Networking in October 2010, the lawsuit against the DOI claimed that the bidding process of the federal agency's cloud 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 the wording of the procurement documents and the DOI's selection process for Microsoft's BPOS-Federal cloud offerings didn't take into consideration Google's Google Apps cloud e-mail and collaboration play. Microsoft was not a party in the lawsuit.

According to court documents, the Interior Department has claimed that Google Apps for Government did not meet the security demands required of its cloud computing system, while Microsoft's BPOS-Federal edition does.

In January, Google won a temporary injunction which put the brakes on the five-year contract that Microsoft had been awarded by the Department of the Interior. That injunction, issued by Braden, had been renewed several times.

Earlier this month, Braden ordered the Department of the Interior to bring aboard a third-party expert to examine Google's cloud solutions to determine whether they meet the security and technological requirements set forth by the agency. That expert, who was to closely inspect Google's cloud security, was ordered report the findings to the court. It was unclear Wednesday evening whether that examination and report occurred.

Braden's order on Wednesday dismisses the case while also sending the Department of the Interior back to the drawing board in seeking out and selecting a cloud provider.