West Virginia guardsmen from 2nd Platoon, Bravo Troop, 1st Battalion, 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, surf the Internet at Forward Operating Base Yusifiyah, Iraq, in August 2009. The Army's new enterprise email is gradually being turned on for 1.6 million users. It comes with a new suffix, a mailbox 40 times larger than the current 100 megabyte standard, and at least a few technical headaches as it works out the kinks. (Army)
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WHO’S GETTING IT
The first phase of the Army’s cloud email has included members at:
NETCOM/9th Signal Command SC(A)
7th Signal Command
Research, Development and Engineering Command
93rd Signal Brigade
Fort Riley, Kan.
Fort Monmouth, N.J.
Rock Island, Ill.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
On board for the switch:
U.S. Africa Command
U.S. European Command
U.S. Transportation Command
U.S. European Command
U.S. Northern Command
Defense Logistics Agency
Move over "us.army.mil," and say hello to "mail.mil."
The Army's new enterprise email is gradually being turned on for 1.6 million users. It comes with a new suffix, a mailbox 40 times larger than the current 100 megabyte standard, and at least a few technical headaches as it works out the kinks.
By the end of the year, users will be able to access email on a unified cloud, on servers managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency, to replace email on local servers at each installation, according to Mike Krieger, the Army's deputy chief information officer/G-6.
Since January, the Army has added 20,000 accounts to the new email system with plans to "migrate" a total of 1.4 million unclassified and 200,000 classified accounts by December. It's an automated process that involves a user's data being copied to DISA servers overnight, Krieger said.
About 16,000 staffers at Army headquarters are set to make the switch starting in June, a few months behind the original schedule.
Other services could eventually join the Army in the cloud, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, director of DISA.
For the Army, the move should result in a $100 million cost savings in fiscal 2013, said Margaret McBride, spokeswoman for the CIO/G-6.
The average price per user will go from $100 to $52, above the initial estimate of $39. However, Krieger and Hawkins said price will decline over time.
The main differences soldiers should see are in access and storage improvements.
Users would be able to access their Army email from any Defense Department location and collaborate with any Army user worldwide via a global address list. Because their email is located "in the cloud" users will be able to access it from any computer enabled by a DoD Common Access Card, using their own CAC.
Enterprise email also lets users jump from their 100 megabyte mailboxes, on average, to four gigabytes of storage, "essentially unlimited storage space," Krieger said.
Soldiers have already begun to see "mail.mil" and a new three-letter "persona extension" that corresponds with a user's status: "mil" for a service member; "ctr" for a contractor, and "civ" for a civilian employee.
The email of a civilian employee, for example might look like this: email@example.com.
Users who have multiple personas, like an officer in the Reserve who is a civilian contractor, would have to be assigned separate emails for each persona, Krieger said. He'd have to be issued a separate CAC for each as well.
The suffix "us.army.mil" will disappear over the next the next year or two, he said.
The future of Army Knowledge Online email, which provides email to 2.4 million people, is unwritten, according to program officials. AKO supports the CIO/G-6's efforts, and its role is expected to evolve over time, said Bob Schwenk, the Army's deputy program manager of network enterprise services.
"It's not a die-all solution, and what the Army's doing, and the CIO/G-6 vision is correct," Schwenk said. "We need to take a look at the enterprise needs as we look at the future needs of the Army."
So far, as many as 1,000 accounts have been migrated to enterprise email in a single night, and the goal is to migrate 1,000 per night at multiple posts simultaneously.
The process has had its problems. Initially it took too long to copy mailboxes into the cloud, Krieger said, so users have been asked to trim their data back to 50 megabytes. No data is deleted during the transition, so excess data can be moved onto the cloud later.
"We're going to pull you through a soda straw to get you to nirvana," Krieger said.
Also, Microsoft has had to provide a patch to fix a problem its software was causing with the data migration tool. So far, that patch must be installed manually by local information technology personnel.
And aside from the technical glitches, it seems Congress may be attaching strings to the project's funding. On the day of an Army-DISA press briefing on the new email, May 3, a House Armed Services subcommittee added a provision to the National Defense Authorization that potentially restricts funding for the program.
The emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee's new language would prohibit the Army from obligating more than 2 percent of the funds for the migration of email services until it provides an analysis comparing the relative merits and cost-benefits of transitioning email systems.
The cost of enterprise email service for fiscal 2011 is $62 million, and the cost in fiscal 2012 is expected to be no more than $57 million, McBride said.