Interior tries again to move email to the cloud

Tuesday - 11/1/2011, 12:47pm EDT

Round two of the cloud heavyweight battle between Google and Microsoft has begun.

The Interior Department released a much-anticipated and much-watched request for information Oct. 28 for email and collaboration services in the cloud.

The release of the RFI comes after Onix and Google withdrew their bid protest of Interior's award to Softchoice and Microsoft in October 2010.

Interior chose Softchoice Corp. to provide email-as-a-service and other collaboration tools in the cloud featuring Microsoft products for its 80,000 employees.

Onix and Google protested the $59 million award alleging Interior didn't hold a fair and open competition.

Onix and Google withdrew their protest after Interior said it would release an RFI to see how cloud technology and services have changed over the last year.

The new RFI asks for vendor input around 11 areas provided through the cloud as software-as-a-service, including email, calendar and mobile device support, mobile device management, e-discovery and desktop video conferencing. The RFI stated the contract would be for one year with four one-year options.

"Interior has standardized on the Microsoft Office suite of office productivity solutions. This software suite includes Word, Outlook, and other programs. The current licensed software in use by each Bureau and office constitute the ‘as-is' operating environment for DOI," the RFI stated. "Vendor solutions are expected to be compatible with the operating environment."

While the department in 2006 picked Microsoft as its standard, about half of the 88,000 employees still use Lotus Domino and Notes email software.

Interior also specified the requirement for the physical data centers to be located within the continental United States.

Google has been a proponent of storing information in data centers around the world.

"Custom software development and outsourced operations must be located in the United States to the maximum extent practical," the RFI stated. "If such services are proposed to be performed abroad, the provider must provide an acceptable security plan specifically to address mitigation of the resulting problems of communication, control, data protection, and so forth."

Interior wants the level of security for the system at the "moderate" level as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Both Google and Microsoft claim they have earned approval at the moderate level under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

The agency also asks for a continuous monitoring plan to "enable enterprisewide visibility into the security posture and effectiveness of controls" of the system.

Responses to the RFI are due Nov. 14.

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