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Novell tongue-lashes LA for Google cloud switch

What savings? What security?

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Los Angeles has broken a lot of hearts in its history. You're on top of the world one day, then tossed into the heap the next when the new big thing arrives.

That Sunset Boulevard moment came for Novell last week after the LA City Council unanimously voted to replace its existing Novell communications systems with the apparently fresh, fab, and boffo cloud-based Google Apps.

LA is the country's second-largest burg and the first major US city to entirely entrust its data to an off-site host. The decision ended an almost year-long battle between Google and other software vendors such as Microsoft over the contract. The $7.25m deal will transfer all of the city's 30,000 employees to Google Apps over the coming year.

Google hopes that LA making a successful switch will entice smaller cities to outsource its email system to servers in the cloud. It argues a web-hosted platform will save IT costs of running their own servers. The decision is also a significant nod to the cloud-computing craze moving from consumers up to the big-time.

But several council members were concerned about whether the city would actually see any cost savings and questioned if Google is actually capable of securely storing sensitive law enforcement data.

"It's unclear if this is cutting edge, or the edge of a cliff we're about to step off," the Los Angeles Times quoted Councilman Paul Koretz as saying.

And amidst the hype, there stood Novell spurned and nodding solemnly at the critics. In an unusual move of announcing a customer loss, the open-source firm has given LA a mild tongue-lashing about jumping aboard the cloud bandwagon.

"Like the LA Police department and others, we continue to doubt the economics and security of the City's decision to move to a Google system," Novell wrote in a PR blog post. "The City Council was presented with clear evidence that Google posed a very significant risk to the security of the City and citizen data, much of it highly confidential. In addition, independent financial data showed that the new system will actually cost more, not less."

The post continues by saying that in the face of a massive budget deficit, Google's honey-coated promises of cost-savings were enticing. However, it claims the proposed system under consideration will cost taxpayers an additional $1.5m in the first year in the process of migrating and training for Google Apps.

It goes on to fluff its own Novell GroupWise software by saying over 1,200 US agencies use the product including 47 of the 50 US states. Then the post takes an extremely odd turn promising LA it won't sabotage its current system out of spite:

"The City of Los Angeles should have opted for this proven product to ensure the security of its data and to save taxpayer money. They have taken a risk with no reward. However, as a valued customer, Novell will continue to offer our world-class support to the City of Los Angeles during the transition."

Or in other words: "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." ®

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