Army expects saving by moving e-mail

Tuesday - 10/26/2010, 7:24am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The Army is pinning its hopes on cloud computing to save money, and become more efficient in the way it provides digital communications and collaboration to its service members globally.

"The Army has embarked on an enterprise agreement with the Defense Information Systems Agency to provide e-mail service, and calendaring service, to the Army," said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army's chief information officer at the AUSA conference Monday in Washington. "We signed the agreement at the end of September."

And while there are many reasons why the Army is doing this now, the main reason, Sorenson said, is to save taxpayer dollars.

"We're paying well over $100 for the seat we operate today with Microsoft," he said. "As we move in to the DISA cloud, that cost will drop to something less than $39 per seat. So, there are significant savings that the Army will accrue."

The Army's savings will go a long way to meeting Defense Secretary Robert Gates' goal to eventually realize $100 billion in savings which he can move more directly into war fighting budgets.

Sorenson said the new agreement with DISA means all those Army Microsoft licenses and service agreements will now be administered on behalf of the Army by DISA. Part of the goal of moving from the Army's Exchange Servers, into the DISA Exchange servers in the cloud is efficiency combined with better identity management, he said.

"As we put more people in the cloud, the identify management helps fill out the global access list, so that the enterprise e-mail truly becomes an enterprise," he said.

The planned migration will cover 1.4 million unclassified Army network users, and another 200,000 users of the Army's secret networks. The CIO's office and Army headquarters staff will begin to migrate to the DISA cloud in January and February. The rest of the Army, including the Transportation Command, European Command, and Africa Command will complete their migration by the end of September 2011.

The Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command, part of the 9th Signal Command, will serve as the Army ISP for e-mail services.

Alfred Rivera, director of computing services for DISA, said the new arrangement is dictating a new approach to resource architecture for Army e-mail.

"We're going to be building these pods, which are a suite of capabilities across all our data centers that will allow you to include storage, applications, across the globe and each user would be pulling their information from those pods," Rivera said. "It will be a virtual configuration in the cloud, as opposed to one physical, or two physical sites that have everything against them."

Down the line, Rivera said the move to enterprise e-mail by the Army will one day make possible the use of other Microsoft applications, such as SharePoint, and more robust security applications, in a shared cloud environment.

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