Army's move to enterprise e-mail on pace, despite struggles
The enterprise e-mail initiative has had its struggles, but is moving 1,000 accounts a night into DISA's cloud.
The Army's move to an enterprise e-mail system has not been without bumps in the road, but Defense Department officials said May 3 the that the project is within its budget and going according to plan.
“We are hitting our budget targets. We are on budget for [migrating] NIPR and we’re on track to do the same for SIPR,” said Maj. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, vice director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, referring to the military’s non-classified and classified networks, respectively. DISA is working in conjunction with the Army to create an enterprisewide e-mail program for the Army, which it will host.
Army enterprise e-mail initiative tackles tough challenges
In a joint DISA and Army conference call, Mike Krieger, deputy Army CIO/G-6, estimated the costs to break down to roughly $52 per user – a figure higher than the $39-per-user price projected last year by former Army CIO/G-6 Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, but significantly less than the previous $100-per-user cost for e-mail service.
Krieger added that the costs vary per user based on user needs – for example, a Web-only account would be less expensive than a NIPR account, which would be less expensive than a SIPR account.
“We considered doing an RFP, but DISA gave us a really good deal,” Krieger said. “We prepaid DISA for fiscal 2011, and there is a line item in the budget for fiscal 2012,” which he expects the Army will not exceed. The total cost for 2011 was $52 million, Krieger added.
To date, Army enterprise e-mail currently has 12,000 users and is planned to encompass more than 900,000 users by December, Krieger said.
Hawkins and Krieger acknowledged there have been struggles along the way, including some issues with the migration tool being used to move Army e-mail accounts to the DISA cloud that houses the enterprise e-mail service.
“We’ve made a lot of refinements, and Microsoft and the service center had to do some patches. We have to refine our [tactics, techniques and procedures], but we’re at the point where we’re at 95 percent successes at night,” Krieger said.
The e-mail account migrations are being done overnight, with the goal to be moving 1,000 accounts per night. Krieger said that the 1,000-account goal has been validated, but it’s not yet being done every night.
“We’re finalizing the ‘when’ [of reaching the 1,000-account goal] this week,” Krieger said. “We’re hoping to turn the spigot on in the next few weeks.”
Hawkins also noted some problems with standardization in the migration process.
“The tool is working, but sometimes people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing to be standardizing to use the tool,” Hawkins said.
Another problem is the existence of multiple e-mail accounts for some users, Krieger said.
The e-mail service is designed to be used across DOD, but so far, the Army is the only one of the services to implement enterprise e-mail. It’s not clear when – or if – the Air Force, Navy and Marines will also use the service, and all eyes are on the Army to gauge how well the initiative works.
“Whether other services join [enterprise e-mail] depends on the side of the street you’re on,” Hawkins said. “For DISA, it’s a matter of when. For the other services, it’s an if. The other services are looking to see how successful this will go ... and that’s something we’re aware of.”
If the other services opt not to join enterprise e-mail, it would present a problem for DOD users moving jobs between the services, such as from the Army where an enterprise e-mail account is being used to another service that doesn’t use the program.
“That’s a scenario we’ll have to work through,” Krieger said.
When all is said and done, the enterprise e-mail system will include a global address list with more than 3.9 million users, the ability to share calendars across DOD and essentially unlimited storage, Krieger noted.
“This is a concrete example of the Army moving a core function – e-mail – to the DOD private cloud. This is our increment of the federal data center consolidation mandate,” he said.