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Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees

October 27, 2009 |  2:18 pm

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to outsource its e-mail system to Google Inc., making it the largest city in the nation to make the move and handing the Web search giant a major victory in its quest to become a software provider to the world's cities and businesses.

After more than two hours of debate, council members voted 12-0 to approve the $7.25-million contract that would move all 30,000 city employees to Google's so-called cloud over the coming year.

"The City of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the nation, made a world-class decision today to support a state-of-the art e-mail system," said Councilman Tony Cardenas, who made the motion to approve the Google system.

Before the vote, several council members had voiced objections to the contract, including whether the city would see any real cost savings, as Google had contended, and when the new system would be ready to store data from law enforcement, where security standards are more rigorous.

Because Los Angeles will be among the earliest adopters of the Google system, council members expressed concern that the city might be signing on before Google's cloud system was fully proven.

"It's unclear if this is cutting edge, or the edge of a cliff and we're about to step off," said Councilman Paul Koretz.

The contract was approved pending an amendment that would require Google to compensate the city in the event that the Google system was breached and city data exposed or stolen. No such clause existed in the contract.

The vote today ended a nearly year-long process during which Google competed furiously with other software vendors, including rival Microsoft Corp., to secure the city's valuable stamp of approval. Parties on all sides believe that if smaller cities see Los Angeles successfully transition to Google's cloud system, they may be more likely to follow suit.

It is that type of cascade effect that Microsoft lobbied hard to prevent, sending executives and paid advocates to Los Angeles to make the case against Google.

The city plans to complete implementation of the Google system by June and will begin with a pilot period during which a limited number of employees will test the system. City law enforcement agencies including the Los Angeles Police Department will migrate to the new system once they are satisfied with the security and functioning of the system.

Update:  Several readers have asked about the $7.25 million cost of the contract.  That price covers five years of e-mail for the city.

-- David Sarno [follow]

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