Letter Gives Early Look At L.A.'s Google Cloud Computing Concerns

A leaked inter-department letter shows that the City of Los Angeles had security and performance concerns around its Google cloud computing system as far back as April; apprehensions that have continued and have ultimately delayed the completion of Google's large-scale rollout of cloud computing to roughly 34,000 city employees.

The April 13 letter, addressed to L.A.'s information technology and government affairs committee from City Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana, notes that during a pilot program testing the Google Apps system, which was deployed by Google implementation channel partner CSC, users voiced frustration over performance issues. The latter also notes that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) expressed concerned about the systems' level of security. The letter sheds an early light on some of the key reasons Google has missed the deadline to complete the project.

"In February, selected staff from several city departments began to use the Google system on a pilot basis," the letter said. "Currently, 2,405 participants in 32 departments and nine elected officials' offices are in the pilot."

The letter noted that a working group to test the pilot program convened to discuss its findings. Many users were disappointed at the lack of features similar to the ones in the city's old Novell GroupWise system. Users also said they experienced less than acceptable speeds in certain areas of the city.

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"At the meeting many of the departments expressed concerns about both the performance and the functionality of the new system," the letter continued. "Functionality concerns focused on features currently available in GroupWise that are unavailable, or significantly different, in Google's system. Further, the Los Angeles Police Department indicated that several security issues have yet to be resolved, and that a pilot of its technical support staff must be successfully completed before it can be expanded to the rest of the LAPD. Some pilot participants also identified new capabilities that were not available to City staff using GroupWise, including collaboration tools, chat, and compatibility with a wider range of mobile devices."

Late last week, Google, CSC and other sources confirmed to CRN that the oft-touted L.A. cloud computing project, a $7.25 million deal in which Google edged out Microsoft in the bidding to be the city's cloud vendor, missed the June 30 completion deadline due to security and performance concerns, many raised by the LAPD. Those concerns have forced Google and CSC to leave the LAPD on its old Novell GroupWise email system until the security fears can be put to bed, while the rest of the city runs Google Apps for email and collaboration in the cloud. Currently, about 10,000 city employees are on Google Apps.

The City of Los Angeles turned to Google Apps, Google's suite of Web-based productivity tools, and CSC's Cloud Orchestration Services in October to deliver mission-critical communications and collaboration capabilities to more than 30,000 city employees. At the time the deal was struck, Falls Church, Va.-based CSC said that the shift to the cloud could save L.A. about $5.5 million over five years and achieve an ROI of up to $20 million.

Around the same time, L.A. CTO Randi Levin said the city opted for Google Apps for cloud e-mail and collaboration capabilities for the city government because it would improve collaboration among city employees, ease remote access and increase storage.

NEXT: L.A. City Council Frustrated

This week, at Google's unveiling of Google Apps for Government, its cloud computing platform for federal agencies, Google maintained that the project is still on track, despite the setbacks.

"The City's move to the cloud is the first of its kind, and we're very pleased with the progress to date, with more than 10,000 City employees already using Google Apps for Government and $5.5 million in expected cost savings to Los Angeles taxpayers," Google said in a statement. "It's not surprising that such a large government initiative would hit a few speed bumps along the way, and we're working closely with CSC and the City to meet their evolving requirements in a timely manner and ensure the project is a great success for Los Angeles."

The main speed bump Google faces is the LAPD and its fears around the security of data stored in the cloud and wants to ensure proper safeguards, like encryption and background checks for Google personnel, are in place before the police department cuts over to Google.

Meanwhile, the delays have blackened Google's reputation in the City of Los Angeles.

"Google comes in with this sweetheart deal that was supposed to be state of the art -- supposed to make wonders -- and obviously they haven't performed," L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine said in a committee meeting last week, The L.A. Times reported.

At that same meeting, Maggie Goodrich, the LAPD's chief information officer, told council members that the security requirements her department needed had not been delivered.

"Whose fault was that?" Zine asked.

"In my opinion, it was Google that didn't deliver the security requirements," Goodrich responded, The L.A. Times wrote.

The City Council will again review the Google project at a meeting planned for August 4.

Google has estimated that the project will be finished in the next couple of months.