Score one for Redmond: Microsoft wins USDA contract

Three-year government deal comes soon after Google scores federal pact

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Last week it was Google that got to brag about landing a big government email contract.

Now it's Microsoft's turn.

(Also see: Google beats out Microsoft for GSA email contract)

The software giant on Wednesday announced it has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide cloud-based applications to the federal agency's approximately 120,000 employees. The three-year contract reportedly is worth $27 million.

Among the communications services Microsoft will deliver via its commercial cloud service are email, web conferencing, instant messaging and document collaboration. According to a Microsoft press release, the "USDA will become the first Cabinet-level agency to move its e-mail and collaboration applications to the cloud."

The USDA is in the middle of an effort to consolidate and streamline its messaging systems as a way to improve efficiency and cut costs. For example, currently there are 21 different email systems being used by USDA employees. The department believes that cloud computing -- the offering of software as a service over the Internet -- will aid in this effort and estimates the deal with Microsoft will help it save $6 billion a year.

In an official statement, USDA chief information officer Chris Smith said, "USDA’s IT modernization will allow us to streamline our operations and help us use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. With a focused cloud road map, we saw a clear opportunity to help achieve our cost savings and consolidation goals and tap into the promise of the cloud.”

Among the services offered the USDA through the new contract are Microsoft Exchange Online (messaging and calendaring), Microsoft Office SharePoint Online (document collaboration), Microsoft Office Communications Online (instant messaging) and Microsoft Office Live Meeting (webconferencing).

Last week Google announced it was one of several companies sharing a five-year, $6.7 million email contract with the U.S. General Services Administration.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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