DOD Reaches 1 Million Users On Cloud Email

Military expects another 500,000 users on the Defense Information Systems Agency's DOD Enterprise Email by summer 2013.
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The Department of Defense now has one million users on a consolidated private cloud email platform, making it one of -- if not the -- largest of all independent email systems worldwide.

Two years after beginning the push toward enterprise email for the Department of Defense, the military has almost fully migrated one service, the Army, to enterprise email; has begun moving a series of other DOD agencies and military commands to the system; and is engaging in deep discussions about the move with the Air Force and Navy.

DOD expects that the next half-million users will be much faster to come by than the first million. In a press release, the Defense Information Systems Agency, which hosts DOD Enterprise Email (as the system is known), said that it expects to reach 1.5 million users by summer 2013. DOD is increasingly using DISA, which has long provided networking and other services for the military, as an IT service provider.

The Army has been at the forefront of the move to DOD Enterprise Email, and has now migrated 967,000 users to the platform, including 28,000 users on the classified SIPRNet network, according to a recent blog post by Army deputy CIO Mike Krieger. The Army is migrating Army Medical Command and Army Reserve users to DOD Enterprise Email, and will soon begin moving Army National Guard users.

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Other services and DOD agencies have also begun the move to DOD Enterprise Email, including the Joint Staff, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Forces Korea and DISA itself.

There are also pilot users within Air Force Reserve. Alfred Rivera, director of enterprise services for DISA, said in a press conference Wednesday that the Air Force is now "working on migration strategies," and that he is "optimistic" about further developments with Air Force. DOD CIO Teri Takai said last year that the Air Force had signed on for a future move to DOD Enterprise Email.

The Navy is likely further from moving to the system due in part to unique concerns with shipboard email. However, the Navy Recruiting Command moved its mobile recruiters to DOD Enterprise Email in October because it is both cost effective and accessible anywhere. Rivera mentioned in the press conference that DISA is also in discussions with the Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Finance and Accounting Services about possible moves.

Overall, DOD has touted enterprise email for its cost savings and ability to connect users across multiple services and military agencies. The military has said that enterprise email saves the DOD millions of dollars via economies of scale alone. Rivera estimated that the Army saves $70 million annually with DOD Enterprise Email as compared to the Army's previous set of highly siloed systems.

Enterprise email lowers costs thanks to DOD's massive buying power, consolidated hardware and more efficient maintenance and administration, DISA said in a press release. Enterprise email also gives users access to the DOD Global Access list, rather than merely a list of users within an individual service or agency.

DOD Enterprise Email is powered by Microsoft software. It runs a standardized version of Outlook and Outlook Web Access on Exchange 2010, and provides users with 4 Gbytes of storage. While DISA currently manages the implementation itself on DISA servers, Rivera hinted that DISA stayed with a standard, relatively uncustomized email suite to leave room for flexibility and changes to that model in the future.

"We see a day when we could transition this to a commercial provider for the Department, and staying away from customization allows that to happen more easily," Rivera said.

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