Google's LA cloud turns into a summer squall

Google Apps misses a key deadline on a $7.25 million contract to install a communications cloud for all Los Angeles municipal workers when the LAPD expresses concerns about security and delayed e-mail messages.

The city of Los Angeles’ attempt to upgrade its municipal agencies with a communications cloud has hit a rain delay.

As Washington Technology reported in May, the city awarded Computer Sciences Corp. and Google a $7.25 million contract to build a cloud e-mail system to replace the existing Novell GroupWise service for the city’s municipal agencies using Google’s suite of Web-based productivity tools.

But Google missed a June 30 deadline to fully implement Google Apps into the various departments, according to a July 23 MarketWatch report.

“The delay is a setback for one of Google’s most strategic businesses, and an illustration of troubles that large organizations can encounter as they shift to a so-called ‘cloud computing’ model, in which data and applications are stored and accessed online,” MarketWatch’s John Letzing wrote.

He said the Los Angeles Police Department's security concerns about Google Apps was the primary culprit for the delay.

“We’ve had a lot of technical issues, some we’ve created and some we haven’t,” Los Angeles Chief Technology Officer Randi Levin told MarketWatch. “We underestimated the amount of time it was going to take.”

Levin the failure to outfit all municipal employees with Google Apps by the deadline will require Google and CSC to reimburse the city for the extra costs.

Both companies have agreed to reimburse the city for the cost of the delay, which should only reach about $135,000, MarketWatch reported.

Meanwhile municipal workers will continue to rely on Novell Group Wise.

More than 10,000 city employees have been switched over to Google system, and Levin said she hopes to have up to 6,000 more on the cloud system by mid-August.

After that, she said, the city would focus on “a more detailed schedule” for getting the roughly 13,000 members of the police department switched over.

According to Letzing, an LAPD report filed earlier this month warned that a technology such as Google Apps “poses certain security concerns.”

The police report acknowledged that Google has developed Gov Cloud, which could provide enhanced security.

But at the same time the law enforcement agency expressed concerns about Google Apps’ data encryption, “segregation of city data from other data maintained by Google,” and background checks for Google employees with access to police department information.

In addition, Letzing wrote that the report said department employees who have been using the software on a pilot basis have experienced “unacceptable” delays in receiving mail.

As a result, the police department said it could not migrate to Google by June 30, and instead received assurances that it could retain Novell’s GroupWise software for roughly $60,000 per quarter.

Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs told MarketWatch that “the city government’s migration to the cloud is the first of its kind, and we’re very pleased with the progress to date.”

He added: “We're working closely with CSC and the city to ensure the project is a great success.”

CSC, of Falls Church, Va., ranks No. 10 on Washington Technology’s 2010 Top 100 list of the largest federal contractors.