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Google Readies Gov't Cloud Offering

In the wake of the General Services Administration's (GSA's) launch of its Apps.gov cloud computing storefront, Google has announced that it will soon offer a set of cloud services to government through Apps.gov.

Expected to go live in 2010, Google's government cloud offering will offer Google Apps in a dedicated environment within undisclosed Google facilities in the United States, according to Matthew Glotzbach, Google's director of enterprise product management, speaking at a press briefing Sept. 15.

The federal offering of Google Apps will be distinguishable from the standard business offering in a number of ways, Glotzbach said. Specifically, the facilities used will meet the security requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Because federal agencies must comply with FISMA, some agency officials have raised questions about how cloud computing offerings for agencies could be covered under that law.

FISMA compliance could add a number of additional steps for Google. The company will have to put the employees who oversee the operations through specific background checks mandated by agencies. Government services would have to reside on their own servers and be accessed only by approved personnel.

Glotzbach noted that the government services would reside across multiple facilities within the continental United States, though declined to state the specific location of any of these facilities. He did note that multiple live copies of the data would be made for customers. Third-party auditors would verify the integrity of the government-specific data and applications, as per FISMA guidelines.

Pricing for the government-specific offering has not been determined, Glotzbach said. State and local agencies may also use the services, Glotzbach added.

Separately, Google is also planning to submit to GSA a FISMA Certification and Accreditation package for Google Apps by the end of the year, the approval of which will allow agencies to deploy the generic business-use version of Google Apps and remain under FISMA compliance.

In additionl to Google, other companies are preparing their own government-specific cloud offerings. Officials from the federal branches of Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have also indicated that their respective companies may also offer federal-specific cloud offerings in the near future. Computer Sciences Corp. and Terremark already offer a government-specific application hosting service.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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