Interior email contract saga ends with Onix, Google winning

Tuesday - 5/1/2012, 12:48pm EDT

The story was updated at 10 a.m. May 3 with comments from Softchoice.

The Interior Department's saga to move its email to the cloud may finally have a happy ending.

The agency announced yesterday it awarded Onix Networking a $34.8 million contract to provide Google's email-as-a-service in the cloud. This is the reverse of what Interior did in 2010 when it awarded Softchoice, which is a Microsoft reseller, an email-in-the-cloud contract worth $59 million.

Onix and Google protested the award to the Court of Federal Claims, won a stay of the award and Interior eventually withdrew the contract. The agency issued a request for information in September and a request for proposals in February.

Interior's award to Onix is $17 million cheaper than its initial award to Softchoice.

"Implementing a departmentwide, cloud-based email system that helps modernize the ways we do business while cutting costs is good government, plain and simple," said Ken Salazar, Interior secretary, in a release. "We will continue to identify efficiencies to save time and taxpayer dollars using advances in technology to provide better service for less."

The agency said users will have the option to use Web tools or traditional desktop software to access the new system, which includes new video and audio chat features. The Google Apps for Government will seamlessly integrate with mobile devices, further supporting Interior's dedication to employees who travel often or are located in remote field locations, Interior said.

"Our approach represents a unique and thoughtful way to ensure we are replacing our on-premise systems with truly cutting edge cloud based technologies that meet the department's needs," said Bernard Mazer, Interior's chief information officer. "This is a significant step forward in our efforts to bring department employees the email and collaboration tools they need to more effectively support our mission."

The solution should include email, calendaring, cloud-based email archiving/journaling, instant messaging, desktop video conferencing, Web-based collaboration systems and mobile-device support, according to the the solicitation cover letter.

In the solicitation, Interior said it wants the migration finished by December for all 92,000 employees.

Interior would join the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department as major agencies taking email to a commercial cloud. The Army is moving its email system to a private cloud hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

In an email to Federal News Radio, Steve Levin, Softchoice director of sales for the U.S. federal government, said, "We believe Softchoice and Microsoft put together the right cloud solution for the Department of Interior - one that addressed their performance and security requirements while offering other significant capabilities. We're disappointed by the outcome and will be interested to learn more about the reasoning behind their decision. Nevertheless, we remain committed to supporting our government customers and look forward to working with the Department of Interior in the future."

Emails to Onix seeking comments were not immediately returned.

RELATED STORIES:

Interior trying again to move email, collaboration to cloud

Interior to start over for cloud email with an RFI

Google wins stay of Interior award to Microsoft for cloud