Friday, September 18, 2009

Google Government Cloud. Is this Good news or Bad?

Here's the link.

Google in 2010 will launch a government cloud that will include Gmail, Google Docs and other software products Google hosts on its servers and provisions to consumers and businesses as a service. Google made the announcement in concert with the launch of the Web store, unveiled by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Google, which is seeking broader adoption of its Google Apps collaboration applications, said Sept. 15 it plans to create a dedicated cloud computing system for the U.S. government in 2010.

The government cloud will include the Web services in Google Apps, a suite that comprises Gmail, Google Docs and other SAAS (software as a service) products Google hosts on its servers. Google offers these applications as an alternative to collaboration applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Sametime.

The government cloud will constitute a "dedicated parallel environment" to Google's commercial Google Apps cloud for consumers and enterprises, Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise, told eWEEK in an interview.

Data created in this cloud by federal, state and local government agencies will be hosted on separate servers within existing Google data centers in the United States. Storing such data on separate servers makes sense, given all of the sensitive information the government generates.
Resource Library:

A Pragmatic and Effective Approach to Cloud Computing -- Real Benefits From the
Seeding the Clouds: Key Infrastructure Elements of Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing Infrastructure and the Need for a Service Delivery Platform
IBM Perspective on Cloud Computing

Google made the government cloud announcement in concert with the launch of the Web store, which Federal CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled at NASA's Ames Research Center Sept. 15. is an online storefront through which federal agencies can search for and buy cloud-based IT services from providers such as Google.

Kundra is well-acquainted with Google Apps. As the CTO for the District of Columbia, Kundra in June 2008 inked a contract worth $500,000 a year to give 38,000 government employees Google Apps as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Kundra discussed the switch to Google Apps in this September 2008 video.

With this kind of support and Kundra's promotion to commanding the nation's federal IT systems, it's no surprise that Google is tailoring a government cloud system.

"The goal is to meet the unique requirements and policies that the government has," Glotzbach said. "That being said, it will still be cloud computing in its truest form—a multitenant cloud."

Google aims to target the 300 million U.S. government users creating and sharing information on 10,000 IT systems. That is a fat market for Google, or any enterprise software maker, to target.

Glotzbach said city government employees for the district are heavily using Google Docs for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation purposes, as well as the Google Sites wiki application and Google video for businesses. Some of these users are using Gmail; some are also still using Microsoft Outlook.

Details about Google Apps adoption on the federal level are murkier, given the sensitivity inherent in anything with that classification. Glotzbach said more than a dozen agencies are in various stages of pilot and rollout for Google Apps, but declined to specify which agencies were using what.

Meanwhile, Google isn't the only company cheering on, as CTO Werner Vogels blogged about the launch and counted "the federal government among our customers."

Techmeme has more stories on the government cloud and the store here. Google Sept. 15 also launched a Google public-sector Website to help local, state and federal government officials reach out to citizens.

Ok, one thing struck me as hilarious:
Google aims to target the 300 million U.S. government users creating and sharing information on 10,000 IT systems. That is a fat market for Google, or any enterprise software maker, to target.
According to this we're only at 307 million... Apparently we're ALL Government employees. Sweet, I'm retiring early.

Kidding aside, this strikes me as a bold move, considering everything on a network as vast as that has a potential backdoor.

Hackers, get to it.


  1. Well, I have two thoughts on this one. Well, three.

    1) Thanks for posting this. I had no idea it was happening and its quite interesting, indeed.

    2) If anyone can do this, Google can. They have the experience with infrastructure and their products scale beautifully. Any interview with the Google Execs has the word "scale" used about twice in every sentence and they really mean it.

    3) If you design for openness, interoperability, and scale, you are less secure. And that's fine for google right now, cause nobody really wants to read my google docs or my gmail account, so a low level of security is fine.

    Its a trade off. You want a totally secure computer system? Lock in in a bank vault with armed guards around it and don't connect it to a network. Ever.

    So I don't care if Almgighty Zoroaster flies down on a magic unicorn that farts pixie dust and designs the damn system himself. If its a distributed computing, cloud-architecture, buzzword buzzword system, for 300 million people, its not as secure as we'd like it to be, especially given that its going to contain all sorts of sensitive data on all of us.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    You're right about it not being as secure as we'd like it to be...

    Like I said, is this good or bad, though? From which perspective should we be applying our attention (all of them, perhaps?)

    Which direction will this Rough Beast take?

  3. Slouching towards Bethlehem, I suppose.

  4. A chortle is in order for that reply. :P