WASHINGTON — Dec. 8, 2010 — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it is on the verge of going live with a commercial cloud service offering for its Enterprise Messaging Service (EMS), which includes e-mail, webconferencing, document collaboration and instant messaging. USDA will become the first Cabinet-level agency to move its e-mail and collaboration applications to the cloud, a rapidly growing form of computing involving flexible, scalable services delivered over the Internet.
“Migrating an enterprise of USDA’s size and complexity from multiple environments, across multiple agencies, requires not only a trusted enterprise-ready solution, but also a partner that is able to work with us and navigate everything from archiving to authentication to mobile phone support,” said Chris Smith, chief information officer at USDA. “USDA’s IT modernization will allow us to streamline our operations and help us use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. With a focused cloud road map, we saw a clear opportunity to help achieve our cost savings and consolidation goals and tap into the promise of the cloud.”
With the maturity of commercial cloud services, and as part of its internal EMS solution to consolidate 120,000 users spread across 21 e-mail systems, USDA awarded a contract to Dell in May 2010 for Microsoft Online Services. This migration is the culmination of USDA’s effort to streamline agency messaging, reduce costs and improve efficiencies that build on existing infrastructure and allow USDA to extend its on-premises software investments to the cloud solution. The software-as-a-service deployment will include Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, Microsoft Office SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Microsoft Office Communications Online for instant messaging and Microsoft Office Live Meeting for webconferencing.
Over the past six months, USDA has worked closely with Dell and Microsoft on a comprehensive set of plans and actions required to successfully migrate 120,000-plus users to the cloud solution. USDA expects to begin moving employees within the next four weeks and has granted Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Authorization to Operate (ATO) for the Microsoft cloud infrastructure.
With a distributed work force and broad mission — ranging from natural resource conservation and improving rural prosperity to homeland security and food safety — USDA agencies of all sizes will leverage enterprise collaborative capabilities such as global address lists, full calendar synchronization, integrated voice mail and e-mail, delegated administration, read receipts, distribution lists, and offline capabilities. Using the agency’s existing enterprise directories, USDA’s move to a consolidated cloud service will deliver the latest security-enhanced innovations and updates in real time.
Significant improvements in productivity and communication across USDA’s operations means that, for example, employees at USDA will now be able to collaborate within and across mission areas, see colleagues’ availability, choose the most appropriate medium to communicate in, and streamline messaging through improved capabilities for mass communications.
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