DISA pitches cloud email for all of Defense

System developed for the Army could serve 4.5 million Pentagon accounts.

The cloud email setup the Defense Information Systems Agency developed for the Army could serve the entire Defense Department, DISA revealed in an obscure June contract award.

DISA said it plans to pay $2.2 million for the email server software to support 1.4 million Army personnel, and added the system -- based on Microsoft Exchange 2010 Enterprise Email -- "is scalable to support the 4.5 million DoD user personas, which are actual user accounts and other defined entities such as group email addresses, which are required by Exchange." According to DISA, the Army has already paid $14.4 million for 800,000 Exchange licenses.

The June notice stated that the Microsoft Enterprise Email package will provide a single solution to customers Defensewide, with messages hosted in 16 sites within DISA's Defense Enterprise Computing Centers. Market research conducted last summer determined no other products worked with the agency's existing, older version of Microsoft email.

Laura Williams, a DISA spokeswoman, said the Africa, European, Northern, Strategic and Transportation commands all have agreed to use the department's cloud email system, and except for Northern Command will make the switch by the end of this year. Northern Command email accounts will move in 2012.

DISA has engaged in preliminary discussions with the Air Force and Navy about its cloud email system, including its fielding base, Williams said. The Air Force and Navy did not return queries on whether or not they plan to use the DISA system.

Today, the Navy and Marine Corps provide email to the majority of their personnel through the decade-old Navy Marine Corps Intranet, managed and hosted by HP Enterprise Services. The Navy plans to have a follow-on to that contract, Next-Generation Enterprise Network, in operation by 2014.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said DISA has a good chance of picking up all Defense email business for its cloud based on the high-level push to standardize systems and software, which will increase interoperability and productivity.

Google, which has its eye on servicing federal agencies through its cloud offerings could try to make a case for the DISA email business, Suss said, quickly adding it would be a tough case since Defense long ago standardized on Microsoft email products. Google did not provide any comment on the DISA Microsoft-based cloud email system and whether it planned to offer an alternative.

The Army and DISA face another potential hurdle before they proceed with their cloud email systems. The House Armed Services Committee, in its version of the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization bill passed May 26, chopped the requested Army email budget by 98 percent until the service conducts a business case analysis of the project.

Suss said he believed the Army already had developed a strong business case, and should be able to convince the committee to allow the funding.