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Google Wins Chance to Prove Cloud Security in Contract Lawsuit

A federal judge will order the U.S. Interior Department to hire an independent expert who will examine the security of Google Inc.’s cloud computing e-mail products.

In order issued today, Judge Susan Braden said Google and the Justice Department had reached an agreement where the company will submit security information related to its cloud e-mail for inspection by an independent technical expert who will report back to the court.

Google sued the Interior Department in October, alleging the agency favored Microsoft Corp. in a $59.3 million planned contract for cloud e-mail. The companies are vying to gain an edge in the estimated $20 billion government cloud computing market.

“From the beginning, we’ve simply asked for the opportunity to compete for the Department of Interior’s business,” Andrew Kovacs, a Google spokesman, said in a Sept. 9 e-mailed statement. “We’re gratified the court is now giving us the chance to demonstrate how we can save U.S. taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”

Lawyers for the agency said Interior selected Microsoft because it offered more security via a “private cloud,” where governments and businesses have software and data delivered as a service over the Internet and the infrastructure is dedicated to one client. Google’s cloud e-mail product, Google Apps for Government, shares infrastructure between some state government and federal agency clients.

Security Standards

Lawyers for Mountain View, California-based Google said in court filings that Interior’s request was unduly restrictive because Google’s product fulfills federal security standards. They claimed that Interior officials refused to provide details on the department’s specific requirements in order to shut Google out.

The federal government spends $80 billion a year on information technology and plans to move as much as one quarter of that to the cloud. Some agency technology managers have resisted, because they are concerned that cloud-based systems are not as secure as those owned by government agencies.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, is not a party in the case. Onix Networking Corp., a licensed Google seller, and Softchoice Corp., a Microsoft reseller, are involved in the litigation.

Steven Rosenbaum, a lawyer for Softchoice, didn’t respond to calls and e-mails for comment.

The case is Google Inc. v. U.S., 10-743, U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Washington).

-- Editors: David Ellis, Jon Morgan

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