You've got Gmail: Berkeley Lab moving to Google platform

CIO expects enhanced data sharing, more robust disaster recovery with new system

The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is moving its e-mail to Google’s cloud-based Gmail system to obtain improved functionality and a reduced cost of operation.

The lab’s 5,000 e-mail users are migrating to the Google cloud this summer, in a move that should be completed by September, lab Chief Information Officer Rosio Alvarez told Federal Computer Week.

Previously, the lab’s e-mail was operated on a decade-old Sun Microsystems application, which was “very reliable” but lacked some functions such as the ability to share documents easily, she said.

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“We looked at functionality, and we liked Google,” Alvarez said. Regarding cost, the new Gmail system will save $1 million to $2 million over five years, she said.

So far, the transition has been beneficial. “I was an early adopter,” Alvarez said. “It is definitely a conceptual shift. It takes two to three days to get used to it.” One of the most attractive features of Gmail is its powerful search engine that allows for quick and detailed searches of thousands of e-mails, she added.

“That works well for people who use their e-mail as a filing cabinet,” Alvarez said.

Another benefit was enhanced resiliency and disaster recovery in comparison to the existing e-mail system, Alvarez added, saying that the previous e-mail post-disaster configuration was not robust.

The Berkeley lab is managed by the University of California under a contract with the Energy Department. A university cybersecurity team reviewed all security requirements for the new Gmail system, including privacy, disclosure, notification and data ownership rules, she said.

In addition to cloud e-mail, the lab also has made available other cloud applications from the Google and Amazon clouds on an as-needed basis, primarily for scientific and business needs. For example, a scientific team could obtain cloud-based services for a specific project or to help operate a conference, she said.

The Energy Department is currently operating a pilot project to see if it will adopt Gmail as well, and a decision is expected in the fall, Alvarez said.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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