DoD email migration setting stage for future enterprise systems

Tuesday - 8/21/2012, 2:11pm EDT

John Hale, Chief of Enterprise Applications, DISA

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The Army exceeded 500,000 users on its enterprise email network this week, setting the stage for other enterprise-wide systems.

The migration of an eventual 1.4 million users to the single, cloud-based system run by the Defense Information Systems Agency should be completed by March 2013.

One enterprise system to follow on the enterprise email is a portal service based on the Microsoft SharePoint platform, said John Hale, DISA's chief of enterprise applications, in an interview with Federal News Radio's Jared Serbu and Jason Miller.

The service allows users to collaborate on written documents before publication, he said. It's available to the entire DoD at a cost, and so far "a couple customers" have already signed up for it, Hale said.

DISA is also planning to roll out an enterprise content management capability for records management, he said.

The standard authentication also supports DoD's mobility efforts. In some cases, the services don't know how many BlackBerrys are on their network until those users migrate to a single system, Hale said.

The email migration is forcing DISA to tackle performance issues related to the network.

"Not to poke any fingers at any one place, but we found cases where, in one particular base, the network path from a given user's work station to the LAN [local area network] traveled through 12 different firewalls," Hale said. "Each one of those were put into place for reasons, each one had a function. Now we're suddenly at a place where we're demanding performance form a cloud-based service and those kinds of things had to be looked at."

Biggest 'stumbling block'

When the migration started in February 2011, DISA was migrating up to 100 users a night. In the first few months, that grew to 1,000 users a night and now the agency is moving 5,000 a night.

The biggest "stumbling block" has been, Hale said, "nobody really likes change."

"Even though we tried to make the migration as seamless as possible to the user, they are aware it's changing, they are aware their email address is changing, and there is a set of procedures they go through both pre-, during and immediately after their migration to make sure all their emails continue to flow properly," Hale said.

The email address has changed from something like john.doe@disa.mil to an address that includes the first name, middle initial, last name, possibly a number, as well as a type code that indicates civilian, military or contractor. For example, the new email address would be john.a.doe.9.civ@mail.mil.

Hale said the address is obviously longer than what users had before, but this convention was put in place to "prevent collision," as millions of users will move to this one system.

The new system eliminates the need for "manual intervention" when an employee moves from one component to another within DoD.

Now, "I could change jobs from here at DISA to work for the Army, and my email address literally wouldn't change," Hale said.

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