COMMENTARY: NSW Education deal shows cloud computing cannot be ignored

Google has reportedly won a deal to provide 1.5 million inboxes for a governmet department, a win that Simon Sharwood argues is a bellwether for cloud computing.

Australian IT and the Australian Financial Review today report that the New South Wales Department of Education and Training (NSW DET) will soon end its long association with Unisys and Microsoft, who together have provided the department with more than 1.3 million email inboxes plus associated authentication and content filtering services.

The replacement? Google, which will provide 1.5 million Gmail inboxes in the cloud.

From memory, the deal came in either 2000 or 2001 and was considered a massive triumph in its day. I know because at the time I was working for a PR company retained by Microsoft, which was jubilant at the deal. There was much talk of the deal proving that Windows could scale as well as any other platform, making it capable of competing with any platform for any task.

Unisys was also pretty chuffed. Indeed, a case study still online today proclaims “This is both the largest rollout of Microsoft Exchange and the largest single application of Microsoft Active Directory in the world.”

It would be unfair to continue this piece without acknowledging that Windows and Unisys have both evolved since the deal was struck (from memory in 2001).

But it is also, surely, a moment to reflect on the fact that the cloud computing has, in a short period of time, become capable of taking on a task that a handful of years ago was the largest-ever project of its type in computing history.

If that isn’t proof that the cloud is an important innovation any business will do well to heed, we don’t know what is!

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