Fed Plan Helps Google in Cloud Race With Microsoft

to design a set of cloud services for federal government agencies could give the company a boost in its effort to take on Microsoft Corp. on the desktop.

The company announced last week that it plans to design versions of its Google Apps hosted software that meet the unique needs of the U.S. government.

The applications will be hosted in Google data centers and will be available next year, said Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management at Google's enterprise unit.

Though Google has yet to sign any government agreements, Glotzbach said the company is currently in talks with several agencies about the services.

Any interest among government IT officials "helps validate Google Apps," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H.

Google's government applications announcement was followed last week by the long-awaited release of a beta version of Microsoft's online Office Web Apps.

"With this deal, Google may have stolen a step on Microsoft as they begin the process of rolling out Microsoft desktop applications as a service," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc.

However, he added that Google continues to face questions from IT managers about whether cloud computing is secure enough for large organizations.

"There are still a lot of good reasons for businesses not to use cloud computing," Olds said. "Questions about security, availability, reliability and being locked into a single cloud provider are just a few of the factors that businesses need to consider."

Karen Evans, a government IT official in President George W. Bush's administration who was widely considered the de facto federal CIO, said cloud technology could significantly cut government IT costs, but she agreed that the security fears of IT managers must be allayed.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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