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Minnesota Inks Deal With Microsoft on BPOS Services

The state of Minnesota has embraced Microsoft's Internet cloud services by agreeing to an application outsourcing deal.

Minnesota's Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) agreed to use Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) hosted services. BPOS will provide support for some of the state's collaboration and communications needs, including "e-mail, instant messaging, web-based collaboration and conferencing," according to a press release (PDF download) issued today by the OET.

The deal, which was established last week, will apply to "all executive branch agencies" in the state. However, other government agencies, educational institutions, cities and counties can participate if they wish, the OET's announcement explained.

One result of the switch will be an expansion of e-mail storage capacity for individual users of BPOS, from 100 MB to 5 GB. The state expects that the system's architecture, which connects Microsoft's BPOS services to Minnesota's network, will ensure data privacy too.

"In fact, the superior architecture of the applications and the state-of-the-art physical security of Microsoft's facility increases data security several fold, providing an instant upgrade to the State's security profile," said Gopal Khanna, Minnesota's state chief information officer, in a released statement.

Although Microsoft's BPOS server farms represent a shared network with multiple clients, the state contracted with Microsoft for dedicated hosting services "with no access by other Microsoft customers," Khanna explained in an interview. The OET has had a contract with Microsoft since 2009 to use Microsoft Exchange as its e-mail platform, he added.

Under the deal, the state will manage its communications network, but Microsoft will handle the hosted applications management and upgrades, which were a cost factor for the state, explained Tarek Tomes, OET's assistant commissioner. The financials associated with the deal were not announced.

Microsoft's BPOS services have gained a few government adherents. For instance, the city of Buda, Texas selected Microsoft's BPOS for e-mail services over bids by Google and other hosted service providers.

Microsoft and Google are currently contending over a possible hosted e-mail contract with the federal government's General Services Administration, according to a Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft previously lost out to Google in a bid to provide e-mail services to the city of Los Angeles. The city moved to replace an aging e-mail system largely based on Novell's GroupWise solution. However, the city's hosted e-mail deal with Google ran into trouble after Google failed to meet security requirements by the LAPD, it was reported in July.

Google explained in July that its Google Apps suite is now compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act. Google created a "government cloud" called Google Apps for Government that separates calendar and e-mail data within the continental United States.

In August, Microsoft announced a Government Cloud Applications Center that's designed to connect government organizations with Microsoft's partners building applications for various needs. Those applications can be built based on BPOS hosted services or Windows Azure, which is Microsoft's cloud computing platform.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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