Google Vs. Microsoft: A Soap Opera In The Cloud

Microsoft accuses Google of being a liar. Google calls Microsoft a dastardly cur, sullying Google's good name. Sure, they were never good friends, but here's the hoop-la that's made them what seem to be soap opera type enemies and the latest scuffle that's kicking up a whole lot of dust.

The Young and The Restless. As The World Turns. General Hospital. Google Vs. Microsoft. What do they all have in common? A whole lot of drama. With their ever expanding market saturation, Google seems to be clashing with just about everybody remotely connected to any facet of the internet these days. Not just that, the monopoly accusations are now coming fast and furious, as they did for Microsoft a decade ago. It was only a matter of time before these two titans of technology got to fisticuffs. That time is now, so pop a bag of corn and get ready for the fireworks.

Okay, now stick with me here – this really does have some soap opera-esque twists and turns. For about a couple of years (hey, it’s a soap opera; I have to give the abridged history) Google has been challenging Microsoft in the provision of cloud-based services to industry and government  clients. Of course, Microsoft, being the only real player for so long, is light years ahead; themselves purporting to have over 3.4 million state and local customers in over 400 Government organizations.However, Google has made notable strides forward with high profile victories like the 2009 contract to replace Los Angeles’  aging Novell e-mail system. (In true daytime drama form, Novell has long collaborated with Microsoft to provide Linux/Windows cross-platfrom solutions.) Easily their biggest victory, however, was winning the U.S. General Services (GSA) contract in December of last year, making them the provider for the first agency-wide federal cloud e-mail deployment.

Things had already gotten downright two-rich-warring-families nasty two months before, however, when Google sued the U.S. Government’s Department of Interior (DOI) after the DOI awarded Microsoft a contract to provide new cloud-based services for its clients. On the face of it, Google has a pretty darn good argument. The DOI’s contract offering specified that the winning bid would have to use Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) Federal edition. Google protested this and presented arguments as to why their softwarse should be considered. When their complaints went unheeded and the contract was given to Microsoft, Google and Ohio based Google reseller Onix Networking sued, claiming ” DOI’s specification of the Microsoft BPOS Federal solution…is unduly restrictive in competition in violation of the Competition in Contracting Act,” in the complaint. A judge agreed that the argument at least had merit, granting a temporary injunction barring the DOI from implementing the  contract.

Microsoft was pissed. This contract is worth an estimated near $60 million over five years, with over 88,000 users. To put it in soap opera terms: older brother ‘Micro’ was handed the family company by Dad…then little brother ‘Goog’ ran to Mom and complained he wasn’t given a fair chance to show he could run it better, and Mom put a stop to Micro’s ascendancy. You know, that old tale.

So after bristling for months, Microsoft lashed out on Monday with a post on its ‘Microsoft on the Issues’ blog. In the post, they stated that Google’s claims, made both publically and in court proceedings, that their cloud based suite ‘Google Apps for Government’ is Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certified are false. In short, author David Howard claimed (and referenced a Department of Justice court brief) that the suite certified in the GSA contract was in fact Google Apps Premier and that Google Apps for Government did not have that certification. Furthermore, author David Howard seemed to imply that the alleged deception was deliberate – stating Google “can’t be under the misimpression that FISMA certification for Google Apps Premier also covers Google Apps for Government. If that were the case, then why did Google, according to the attachments in the DOJ brief, decide to file a separate FISMA application for Google Apps for Government?”

Well, I’d already hit Costco and stocked up on jumbo popcorn bags awaiting Google’s reply – and anticipation only heightened when all online claims of Google Apps for Government certification stayed defiantly up, ensuring no wussy ‘it was an honest mistake’ press releases would be forthcoming. And we were not disappointed. Google blasted back at what they mockingly referred to as Microsoft’s ‘breathless’ article in a blog post of their own.

Post author Google Enterprise Director of Security Eran Feigenbaum insisted that they “have been open and transparent with the government,” and added that it was “irresponsible for Microsoft to suggest otherwise.” He made pains to point out that, unlike the Microsoft article seemed to infer, “Google Apps for Government is the same technology platform as Google Apps Premier Edition, not a separate system,” except that it actually “includes two added security enhancements exclusively for government customers.” Feigenbaum further claimed that Google and GSA had determined that the name change could be incorporated into the existing FISMA certification, quoting the previous day’s congressional testimony by the GSA as proof. As for Microsoft’s charge that Google is currently in the application process, Google says that their FISMA certification remains across the board, and the alleged application is simply a batch of updates – enhancements to Google Apps for Government included.

Unlike a soap opera, though, this is a tough one to call. There’s no black haired evil brother and blonde haired hero one. Huge contradictions (that as of this time have not been clarified) exist – such as the GSA testimony quote in the Google article and the quote from the Department of Justice brief in Microsoft’s post which states that “…in the view of the GSA, the agency that certified Google’s Google Apps Premier, Google does not have FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government.” Not coming from the horse’s mouth, this could indeed be an erroneous statement on the DOJ’s part. But as Microsoft was certainly aware, the source initially makes it quite convincing.

And there you have it – you’re now all caught up on “The Cloud and The Breathless” and can keep up with all the drama, intrigue and hilarity in real time. And if this storyline ever gets boring, don’t worry: there’s a good chance that with the never ending Bing and Google Search accusations and denials, we’ll be treated to a spin-off.