California Agencies Given Option of Cloud E-Mail

The consolidation of California’s e-mail systems lets agencies choose Microsoft’s cloud-based e-mail or keep their e-mail in the Office of Technology Services’ data center.

by / October 21, 2010

As state and local governments debate the merits of cloud-based applications and data management, the state of California has decided on an “either-or” model that gives agencies the choice to move to a hosted environment for the state’s e-mail consolidation.

The three-year, $50 million deal the state finalized Oct. 13 for Computer Sciences Corp.’s (CSC) Microsoft solution gives agencies two options: Choose Microsoft’s cloud-based e-mail or use the existing CA.mail enterprise e-mail system that runs in an Office of Technology Services’ data center. Both are Exchange-based solutions.

“The benefits of giving agencies a choice for their e-mail is primarily based around the diverse business needs of state agencies,” said Bill Maile, a spokesman for the California Office of the State Chief Information Officer (OCIO). There may be some specific business need that the hosted service cannot meet. “CA.mail, on the other hand, can tailor the environment to meet specific business needs,” he said.

No matter which option agencies choose, state officials say the end result will be a single e-mail system for the executive branch’s 185,000 mailboxes with a single Active Directory. The unified system will consolidate the state’s 130 siloed e-mail systems that are running on at least three different platforms.

“We are currently holding forums with state agencies, including those working in the business area as well as technology experts, so they can make the choice that best fits their business requirements,” Maile said.       

All California executive branch agencies must migrate their e-mail by June 2011. By the end of 2010, the OCIO will publish a scorecard on the progress the individual agencies have made on the e-mail consolidation, Maile said.

According to the bid invitation for the new e-mail system released by the state last July, the contract for the e-mail solution can be extended for two additional years, and the hosted e-mail solution includes Web-based e-mail, e-discovery tools, mobile phone support and collaboration tools.

The state is exploring shared backup and redundancy for the consolidated e-mail system, Maile said, but for now the data in the Microsoft hosted solution will remain in the company’s servers that are located in the continental U.S., while the CA.mail data will be stored in a data center operated by the Office of Technology Services.

Former California CIO John Thomas Flynn speculated this week that these two e-mail options would essentially spark a competition between CA.mail and Microsoft’s cloud solution for the business of California agencies. But Maile said Thursday, Oct. 21, that the motivating factor was to provide agencies the choice and flexibility they need.

If Microsoft’s hosted solution proves more popular among California agencies than CA.mail, it could have long-range implications for the state’s willingness to pursue hosted solutions. Some observers have characterized such products as IT outsourcing.

California is joining a growing number of governments that are transitioning to cloud-based services. For example, the city of Los Angeles and several other municipalities have signed enterprise agreements with Google to use Gmail and its Google Apps collaboration suite. Minnesota and New York City have recently announced large-scale cloud computing agreements with Microsoft.

Microsoft-CSC’s winning bid for the sought-after California contract could be construed as a blow for Google, which is trying to gain a greater foothold in the public-sector market. In August, Google officials criticized California’s e-mail procurement, saying the bid requirements didn’t give Google a fair chance at winning. Google ultimately didn’t submit a bid. California officials said they were disappointed Google chose not to bid.

Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2