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Army Makes Cloud Email Migration

After years of fits and starts, the Army's migration to an enterprise-wide email system is nearly done.
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After years of stumbling along in fits and starts, the Army's migration to an enterprise-wide email system is nearly complete. Most Army users can now access their email securely from anywhere in the world at any time.

Officials said Wednesday that more than 1.4 million Army users have migrated onto the unclassified NIPRNet and 115,000 users onto the classified SIPRNet, completing "the bulk" of the Army's move to the system, called DOD Enterprise Email (DEE).

The Army's adoption of the system is the first phase of a Defense Department-wide move to a private cloud hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Enterprise Computing Centers. Under Department of Defense (DOD) goals, the system will eventually support 4.5 million users across the department.

Officials expect DEE to improve operational effectiveness, security and efficiency, saving the Army $76 million in fiscal year 2013 and $380 million through 2017. Before migration, the Army expended considerable resources managing and securing disparate legacy email systems, officials said.

[ Learn more about how government is using cloud computing. See Government Clouds: Interior Dept. Sets New Standard. ]

Mike Kreiger, the Army's deputy CIO, said that the migration to DEE has been "a learning experience for all of us."

Indeed, the program has faced a series of stumbling blocks since the first users were moved to the DISA cloud in January 2011, including a lack of uniformity in desktop configuration across the department. Technicians had to standardize desktop configurations before users could be moved to the new system. In addition, legacy networks at some military installations were not optimized to use cloud-based services, causing additional delays.

Between late December 2011 and March 2012, the rollout was suspended to address new rules under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the Army to demonstrate that its acquisition approach to the system was technically and financially viable.

A year ago, however, the migration began picking up steam and moving at a steady clip, hitting a major milestone of 500,000 users. At that point, any skepticism that a project of such immense scale could be successful was assuaged.

The move to DEE represents a big change in the user experience. "When you move from installation to installation, your mail is still there," said Lt. Col. Patrick Lee, an Army branch chief for programs and projects at Ft. Gordon in Georgia, in an interview a year ago, after the system had been rolled out to half a million users.

"When I travel, I'm able to pull up my mail wherever I go," he said. "I don't have to worry about authentication on individual networks or my email sitting on someone else's server."

Among major features, the system gives users a single email address that follows them everywhere, an increase in mailbox capacity to 4 gigabytes from 100 MB, and the ability to share calendars and collaborate across DOD's three commands throughout the globe.

Having reached the 1.4 million-user goal, the Army is leveraging lessons learned as it implements other enterprise services, Krieger said.

"We've still got plenty of work left to institutionalize DEE and enterprise services in general," he said.