Plans to migrate LAPD to Google's cloud apps dropped

Service is incompatible with FBI's security requirements, city says

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On Tuesday, the company reiterated those claims in an emailed statement: "We're disappointed that the City introduced requirements for the LAPD after the contract was signed that are, in its own words, 'currently incompatible with cloud computing,' the Google statement said. "We realize this means the LAPD may not be joining the 17,000 other City employees successfully using Google Apps. Even so, Los Angeles taxpayers have already saved more than two million dollars and the City expects to save millions more in the years ahead."

Jeff Gould, CEO of IT consulting firm Peerstone Research, said that Google's problems may have to do with an FBI requirement that all IT contractor personnel pass a criminal background check and sign a document known as the FBI Security Addendum. Levin's notice of deficiency says that the LAPD embarked on its migration to Google Apps based on the understanding that Google and CSC employees, who were required to sign the addendum, would do so by October 2010.

However, some of Google's support staff with access to Google Apps for Government servers, are based in Europe and will likely be unwilling to sign such an addendum, said Gould, who belongs to a group called Safegov.org that is focused on promoting a set of best practices for cloud deployment in the government. The FBI does not mandate that support personnel be based in the U.S, he said. However, EU law might make it difficult for Google and others to get European employees to submit to FBI screening and fingerprinting, he said.

Gould added that it is disingenuous for Google or others to claim that CJIS requirements are incompatible with cloud environments. Google and CSC should have known what the requirements were because the CJIS policy document at the time the contract was signed clearly spells them out.

Going forward, the LAPD has the option of upgrading GroupWise, switching to a competing on-premise technology, or moving to cloud email services such as Microsoft's Exchange Online, which complies with CJIS, he said.

The lesson here for other city governments looking to move their police departments to cloud apps is not to get scared off by LA's experience, Gould said. Rather what it highlights is the need for them to do their due diligence better before embarking on it, he said.

"I see CJIS compliance requirements posing a problem for all large-scale cloud vendors, which are having difficulty getting U.S. nationals to perform all cloud-related work," said Matthew Cain, an analyst with Gartner. "Most mega-vendors utilize some off-shore resources for development and operational reasons."

An LA City spokeswoman directed questions about the city's decision to Levin and to an LAPD spokeswoman. Neither one could be reached immediately.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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