Google and one of its reseller partners are suing the U.S. government because it refused to consider Google Apps for 88,000 employees at the Department of the Interior and insisted on a Microsoft solution instead.
According to the complaint, which was filed by Google and Onix Networking on Friday in the U.S. Federal District Court, the Interior Department shut Google out of the bidding process despite “numerous attempts” by Google. Instead, the government specified that only Microsoft’s BPOS-Federal service would be considered.
The dispute comes down to security standards for hosted solutions. Microsoft’s BPOS–or Business Productivity Online Suite–includes hosted e-mail, document sharing, and other services based on Microsoft software. (It will be superseded by Office 365 next year.) Microsoft hosts these services in a bunch of data centres, including some outside the United States in places like Ireland, the Netherlands, and Singapore.
In February, Microsoft announced plans to create a special version of the BPOS for federal government agencies that would meet required security standards. The specifics involve a mind-numbing jumble of acronyms, but in effect Microsoft would run the Federal version of these BPOS services only out of data centres based in the United States, and would restrict physical access to federal employees who have passed the appropriate security checks.
But as Google pointed out in the complaint, Microsoft’s BPOS-Federal solution hasn’t actually been certified to meet all of those security standards yet, while Google Apps for Government has.
Google also says that the Department of the Interior originally insisted that its systems be hosted on a set of servers used only for federal customers. Google Apps for Government hosts systems for federal, state, and local governments, so this was a non-starter for Google. Mysteriously, the government later relaxed this requirement when it chose Microsoft’s solution.
The complaint also points out that Microsoft’s BPOS services for businesses have had several outages, including a four-day outage in January, which seems to contradict the requirement of 99.95% uptime.
In other words, Google thinks the DOI looked at its existing relationship with Microsoft and tailored the bid requirements to make sure only the Microsoft solution would be acceptable. That kind of rigged bidding hurts competition and taxpayers alike.