Global CIO: Google Shows Its Cloud Frustration With Lawsuit - InformationWeek

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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: Google Shows Its Cloud Frustration With Lawsuit

Google's recent lawsuit against the U.S. government shows a problem it faces trying to sell online-only apps to businesses and governments. Relief could be in sight.

Imagine you're Google, bidding on an online e-mail contract that a government agency has budgeted for up to $59 million over five years. You've got a plan with a list price less than half that--more like $22 million.

You're Google--a big shot vendor, with a nearly $200 billion market value. You're used to being showered with attention and accolades and ad dollars.

And despite all that, at least in your eyes, you can't get the would-be buyer to give your product a fair shake. Worse, your competitor--Microsoft, no less--got the nod without "any sort of product competition," you claim.

Is it any wonder that Google executives are more excited about emerging ad businesses such as YouTube and mobile search than this murky, dog-eat-dog world of the enterprise apps market, with its drawn out sales cycle and decisions based as much on judgment as hard numbers?

Yet Google's not giving up on the enterprise business. It filed a lawsuit about the situation described above, claiming the U.S. Department of Interior hasn't given it fair consideration in competing to provide the department's 85,000 employees with online e-mail. It made similar claims when it lost a deal for the state of California. Reading Google's lawsuit, you can practically hear the hair-pulling frustration and gnashing of teeth as Google describes pitching its Google Apps online e-mail and related collaboration software. Excerpts:

Before DOI issued the RFQ, Google representatives made numerous attempts to engage DOI in substantive discussions regarding the technical and cost-saving benefits of the Google Apps solution for DOI's messaging requirements.

… Despite Google's many requests for such information, DOI declined to define its security requirements or to meet with Google to conduct more detailed discussions about Google Apps, including a full review of Google's security documentation.

… The DOI representatives expressed some concern regarding whether Google could provide an underlying infrastructure that was operated solely for DOI. Google explained that the service for DOI can be isolated to a single domain that is run on a logically separate network.

See, Google's sales pitch isn't the "customer's always right," where it will give you e-mail in any way you ask for it. Google's sales pitch is "we've figured out the best way, just let us show you."

The Department of the Interior asked for an online e-mail system run on infrastructure operated solely for DOI's e-mail. Google doesn't offer that. It offers an e-mail system run on infrastructure shared by other government entities--though only government, not businesses or consumers.

Microsoft offers more choices. It'll sell you e-mail you can run in your data center. You can have a third-party host it, or Microsoft will run it in its data center. Many companies like that because, if they don't like the service they're getting from their online provider, they can move Exchange in-house or to another provider. But flexibility isn't free. Microsoft's new online service, Office 365, a combo of e-mail, SharePoint, Office, and other apps, can run $288 a user per year. Google Apps lists for $50 a year.

Businesses, of course, aren't obliged to explain to Google why they don't pick Apps, or to assure Google that they considered all its arguments for Apps' security, reliability, and value. Who could blame Google, when they lose out to an often more-expensive Microsoft option, for thinking "They must just not get it."

Enter the government market. Google's trying to use the more open procurement to pry this door wider. Google in its lawsuit is saying, in essence, "Prove to us you were open minded. Prove to us you considered doing something different. Tell us all your worries and problems, so we can prove we can solve them."

Should government IT leaders have to spell this out?

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