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Google to Launch Government Cloud

New cloud offering is designed for public sector, Google says, but state and local agencies still may need to adapt.

Google will launch a government-specific version of its popular cloud computing offerings, the company said Tuesday, Sept. 15. The Google announcement came just hours after federal government officials unveiled, a Web-based storefront designed to let federal agencies easily acquire cloud computing applications.

The Google government cloud will offer a version of the commercial Google Apps suite -- which includes hosted e-mail, word processing, collaboration and Web site creation services -- that's tailored to meet specific public-sector requirements. The company plans to launch the new offering in 2010, and it will be available to federal, state and local government agencies.

Security and Privacy

"One of the things that [federal CIO Vivek] Kundra said this morning during the announcement of was that industry will need to step up and help move the government's cloud computing initiative forward," said Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google Enterprise. "So we're happy to rise to that challenge."

He said Google's government cloud would comply with rules spelled out in the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), as well as other public-sector privacy and security policies. Unlike the company's commercial offerings -- which are hosted on infrastructure worldwide -- the government cloud will rely on Google facilities and equipment located only in the United States.

"We're very excited to announce this, and we will continue to play a leadership role as it relates to cloud computing," Glotzbach said. The company has not yet decided on pricing for the new services, he said.

Standards Are Needed

Google will "strive to meet the full set of requirements across federal, state and local government," Glotzbach said. But he added that agencies will need to standardize their requirements on issues like security and privacy to gain the benefits of cloud computing.

"I think that's one of the challenges that cloud computing faces. A lot of the procedures and policies in place today were designed in a different era of single tenancy and dedicated systems where any given agency -- whether it be a local government, a state government or the federal government -- would have its own set of policies and procedures," he said.

"One of the agenda items, if you will, going forward between the technology industry and government agencies is to strive for the standardization of those policies, where we can all agree on a common set of criteria for things like background checks for employees working on government applications," Glotzbach said. "Maybe we can do the background check once, and the federal government holds those credentials, and they can be made available to state governments when needed."

Some standardization already is under way. For instance, state and local agencies follow U.S. Department of Justice rules for handling some types of sensitive data, he said. And the Obama administration's aggressive push for cloud-computing adoption should drive even more progress on the issue.