The State of Minnesota has signed a landmark agreement with Microsoft to move its email and collaboration services over to the Microsoft cloud.

The move is said to be the first time a U.S. state has shifted a large collaboration and communications suite over to a private cloud environment.

“As states battle growing deficits, they are continually being asked to do more with less,” state chief information officer Gopal Khannasaid in announcing the agreement. “Rethinking the way we manage our digital infrastructure centrally, to save locally across all units of government, is a crucial part of the solution.”

Under the agreement, Microsoft will take over responsibility for email, instant messaging, Web-based collaboration and conferencing. The services will be delivered through Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) infrastructure. To ensure privacy and security of government data, BPOS applications will be housed in a dedicated Microsoft data center and delivered online through a direct connection to Minnesota’s secure network.

“In fact,” Khanna said in a statement, “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 of the State’s security profile.”

About 33,000 state employees are expected to be moved to the cloud platform. Khanna said one immediate benefit they will notice is their email capacity will be increased from 100MB to 5GB per user.

While Minnesota may be the first state to move to a cloud infrastructure, the City of Los Angeles agreed last year to shift about 30,000 of its employees to Google Apps from its Novell GroupWise installation.


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