There they go again: Microsoft, Google's latest cloud tussle

Microsoft suggests Google lies on Google Apps FISMA compliance; Google says older version's certification applies

In a scathing blog post, one of Microsoft's top lawyers alleged that Google has been falsely claiming that its Google Apps for Government service has an important certification. The two companies have been pitched in a fierce battle for government customers and have been trading barbs and in some cases lawsuits over the past year.

On Monday, Microsoft said that court documents related to a case Google filed charging the government with unfairly favoring Microsoft were unsealed. Those documents include a brief from the Department of Justice noting that "notwithstanding Google's representations to the public at large, its counsel, the GAO and this Court, it appears that Google's Google Apps for Government does not have FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification." FISMA set a stringent security standard that some federal agencies must require their vendors to comply with.

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Google argues that it received FISMA certification for Google Apps Premier, and says Google Apps for Government is the same product with additional security services, so Google Apps Premier's FISMA certification should apply to Google Apps for Government: "We did not mislead the court or our customers," said David Mihalchik, a spokesman for Google Enterprise. "Google Apps received a FISMA security authorization from the General Services Administration in July 2010. Google Apps for Government is the same system with enhanced security controls that go beyond FISMA requirements. As planned we're working with GSA to continuously update our documentation with these and other additional enhancements."

As Google and Microsoft compete for potentially lucrative government deals, both have had successes and challenges.

Google has won deals to supply hosted services to the GSA as well as agencies in Washington, D.C., and Orlando. Google won a high-profile contract with the city of Los Angeles but faced deployment delays, in part due to security concerns from the police department.

Microsoft has signed some large government deals as well, including with the USDA, New York City, agencies in California, and the state of Minnesota. But it faced criticism in December after its commercial hosted service accidentally let businesses access and download data belonging to other customers.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for the IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's email address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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