Army moves e-mail to DISA cloud

Agency will host applications on its Microsoft Exchange 2010 service

The Army is migrating its enterprise e-mail and calendar functions to a cloud computing environment. The shift is a cooperative venture between the service and the Defense Information Systems Agency, which will host these applications on its Microsoft Exchange 2010 service.


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Beginning in 2011, the Army will begin moving its Microsoft Exchange e-mail users. The migration will cover some 1.4 million unclassified network users and 200,000 secret network users, said Army Chief Information Officer/G-6, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson at an Oct. 25 briefing at the  AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C.

One immediate advantage of the migration will be that soldiers will have a single email address that they can access wherever they are deployed, Sorenson said, noting that this is currently not the case.

By moving to a cloud computing model, Sorenson said that the new model will begin producing significant efficiencies in the 2012 fiscal year and generate more than $100 million in annual savings in the 2013 fiscal year and beyond. He noted that for e-mail services, the Army currently pays more than $100 per user seat annually. Under the DISA partnership, he said that this cost will drop to under $39 per seat.

The partnership with the Army is just the beginning, said Alfred Rivera, director of DISA’s computing services. Providing cloud computing services to the Army will serve as an entry for the agency to virtualize e-mail and calendar services in other commands. He said that this effort also meshes with plans by the Army and combatant commands to build joint enterprise networks.

In addition to lower costs per seat, defense organizations can save money on e-mail servers. Rivera said that many Defense Department e-mail servers currently operate at only 20 to 25 percent capacity.

Besides consolidating email use within DISA’s cloud, the ultimate goal of the effort is to consolidate all service email addressed into a single DOD.mil address. The Army is leading the way for the other services, he added.

After unsuccessfully trying for several years to provide a service-wide email capability through the Army Knowledge Online portal, the Army decided that partnering with DISA was the most efficient approach, Sorenson said. Switching to DISA’s cloud also makes the best use of the Army’s licensing agreements with Microsoft. He said that the AKO experience convinced the Army that it did not have the backbone and storage capabilities to make the best use of applications such as Microsoft SharePoint.

The first users to migrate will be in the Army CIO/G-6’s office and Army headquarters, beginning in January and February 2011. Sorenson noted that the transition will be complete by the end of September, 2011 and will include Transportation Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Africa Command.

Identity management is the most important challenge of the migration, Sorenson said. DISA’s cloud will manage security issues such as user identity and certification. He added that the Army is working with the U.S. Air Force on this issue, with the goal of making the Army enterprise a single space. The service’s enterprise environment is currently broken up among its various commands, he said.

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