As is true of many large private corporations and organizations, as well as the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy (DON) has invested heavily over the years in implementing and maintaining a traditional client/server-based enterprise e-mail capability. With the "recent" emergence of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) methodologies, the time is right for the DON to determine if it would be advantageous to transition its enterprise e-mail capability to a cloud computing/SaaS model.
There are benefits to be gained and risks to be managed, if and when the DON makes the decision to transition its e-mail capability to the cloud. The benefits would likely include a significant reduction in per-user cost for e-mail services for all DON employees and the ability to more centrally manage the information assurance (IA) posture of the entire department's e-mail services. The risks to be managed include those associated with ensuring IA and defense of the department's critical IT infrastructure. It is likely that many of these risks could be mitigated by judiciously selecting the appropriate mix of "public cloud" and "private cloud" approaches.
There are a number of emerging examples of large organizations beginning to plan the transition of their enterprise e-mail to a cloud computing/SaaS model. In June 2010, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a request for proposal for cloud computing/SaaS based e-mail and collaboration services. The stated intent of GSA's transition to this model is to improve efficiency and reduce costs. A recent example of a non-DoD government organization transitioning its enterprise e-mail capability to a cloud computing/SaaS model is that of the city of Los Angeles, which is currently in the process of migrating 30,000 users to a cloud computing/SaaS based e-mail and office automation capability.
At this time, there are a number of major information technology (IT) infrastructure and services initiatives underway across the DON, including the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), and Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES). Each of these, as well as the overarching Naval Networking Environment initiative, provides an opportunity for the DON to pursue the most cost effective and robust path ahead for its enterprise e-mail capability. The cloud computing/SaaS model is definitely one to consider.
Michael Jacobs is the director of enterprise architecture and emerging technology for the DON Chief Information Officer.