Google Apps makes new push for government customers

Google has been touting the government use of its business suite Google Apps for a while now, most notably signing up the City of Los Angeles (a process that has hit a few bumps). Today it’s ramping up that effort with a version targeted at national, state, and local governments, called Google Apps for Government.

The core product, namely the Web applications like Gmail and Google Docs, is still the same, as is the $50-per-user pricing. What’s different is that Google has now received a new security certification in compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. In fact, it says it’s the first cloud application provider to receive that certification. To further address those security concerns, Google is also housing government data in separate servers from the rest of its customers, and also only in its data centers in the United States.

Government IT is of course a huge market — Google Enterprise Vice President Dave Girouard said the federal government spends around $76 billion on IT, and state and local agencies spend another $50 billion. Google has already made some inroads, he said. For example, every federal cabinet agency uses some Google Enterprise product. These new certifications and security measures will make other governments more comfortable about making that leap if they were “waiting for that blessing to go ahead.”

At the Apps for Government press event in Mountain View, Calif., Google executives also discussed the recently-announced delays in LA’s adoption of Google Apps. They acknowledged Google has had some difficulties in meeting the “evolving” security requirements from LA, specifically from the police department, but emphasized that there are 10,000 users switched over already, and that they expect the deal to work out despite the delays. Girouard said Tim O’Reilly’s characterization of the delays as showing “the kinds of resistance cloud apps will meet from institutions” was fair.

“Certainly the clearer, easier path would have been for us to focus on towns and smaller cities first, but it is what it is,” he said.

In addition to governments, there are other industries that face legal hurdles around security, for example finance and medicine. Girouard said that in many cases those laws were designed for decades-only technology. It sounded like Google is more interested in seeing the law change than it is in building promising separate servers to specific industries or companies.

“We don’t believe in the notion of a private cloud,” Girouard said.

Google representatives did note that the security improvements they made to meet FISMA certification were also made for all other Google Apps customers. Another aspect of the Google Apps for Government Product that they plan to make available to non-US governments and to companies is the promise to store data in a certain country.