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February 28, 2011 - 11:37pm

Google IT system nears implementation at 'U'


Students who prefer Google to the University’s e-mail system soon won’t have to go through the trouble of forwarding their e-mails.

After months of decision-making, the University is close to officially adopting the Google IT system as its new online infrastructure. On Jan. 23, the University’s four member IT Executive Committee ratified the earlier decision by the IT Council to endorse Google as the University’s online collaborative environment provider.

“What we are really pursuing here is what we call a unified collaborative environment for the University of Michigan with the Google platform being a major part of that approach,” University professor Dan Atkins, IT Council Chair and associate vice-president for Research Cyberinfrastructure, said.

In a Feb. 21 press release, the University said it selected the Google IT system because of the cost-saving opportunities it presents.

“There are more than 40 email and calendar services currently in use across campus,” the press release states. “The lack of standards has resulted in costly repetition and duplication of essentially the same services, which the selection of Google is intended to productively address.”

But according to Atkins, there is one last step before the University can sign a contract with Google: it must verify that the Google IT system is compatible with Microsoft Exchange. MS Exchange is software that is being progressively implemented by the University Health System.

“There are still some issues to be resolved with respect to decisions being made —at the Health System and the rest of the campus— about how we all achieve the UCE objectives,” Atkins said, adding that the decisions “will probably involve some type of operability between Google systems and Microsoft systems.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald underlined the importance of coordination between the two platforms.

"They want to make sure that they can communicate and collaborate effectively across the two platforms, so that's a key component that still needs to be worked out as the University now moves forward to finalize their contract with Google,” Fitzgerald said.

But Fitzgerald expressed his confidence that the issue will be resolved.

"Everybody (is) involved in this, from the ITS at the University and the folks at Google, are confident that it can be resolved. So it's not a stumbling block to moving forward. It's just that we want to be sure that it will work to the University’s satisfaction before the contract is signed. Just a smart thing to do," Fitzgerald said.

“We want to try to avoid any sort of bumps in the road as we start implementing it,” Fitzgerald continued. “We try to work close ahead of time so when we get to implementation phase, it will go smoothly.”

Fitzgerald said he couldn’t confirm when the switch to the Google system will occur.

“I think that still remains to be seen,” he said.

LSA Student Government endorsed the choice of Google in November. Steven Benson, president of LSA-SG, expressed his continued support for the choice in an interview last Thursday.

“Google is the best provider (and) ... at the end of the day what is important is to have the best system for students. I think we can all agree that Google has the best features,” Benson said.