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Email in the cloud: CHES phase 1 completion

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- On Nov. 8, 2018, the Air Force Network Integration Center, or AFNIC, concluded the first phase of the Air Force’s transition to Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services, completing the migration of 555,000 continental U.S. based Air Force hosted e-mail accounts to a Microsoft Office 365 collaboration solution.

This critical information technology transformation initiative is the Air Force’s largest cloud initiative, integrating previous disparate solutions to greatly enhance collaboration capabilities.

Moving 555,000 accounts to the cloud was no small feat.

“This is one of the world’s largest Microsoft Office 365 deployments,” said Col. Doug Dudley, AFNIC commander. “We’re driving the Air Force strategy to capitalize on commercial industry IT services, allowing our Airmen to focus on operating and defending cyberspace.”

According to Dennis Polansky, AFNIC’s lead program manager, transitioning this massive number of users to the cloud was no simple task. It created a lot of stress on Air Force and Defense Systems Agency infrastructure and exposed previously unknown vulnerabilities.

“We didn’t create these issues, but it was our responsibility to work with experts across the Air Force to correct them before moving ahead,” he said.

This required constant teamwork across multiple organizations including 24th Air Force, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Defense Information Sysytems Agency, along with Dell and Microsoft team. The partnership between these enterprise experts, along with base and major command members who worked diligently to prepare for migration, were critical to the success of this effort.

While completing the e-mail migration is a significant milestone, it is only the first in a series of initiatives that will arm Airmen with state-of-the art collaboration capabilities. AFNIC is expecting to complete the migration of all CONUS Air Force users to the Microsoft Office 365 instance of Skype for Business soon. In addition, SharePoint Online and OneDrive capabilities are coming in the near future. While the efforts so far have been focused on CONUS users, AFNIC is working with Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, Air National Guard and the Pentagon to find solutions to bring them the same cloud-based capabilities.

“One of the benefits of transitioning to cloud-based commercial services is that it not only allows us to take advantage of current offerings, but it provides a foundation across the Air Force and Department of Defense to leverage future Microsoft Office 365 collaboration services,” said Markus Rogers, AFNIC executive director.

Moving forward, AFNIC is working with the AFLCMC and industry mission partners to develop a capability roadmap for future collaboration services, such as Microsoft Teams and Groups.

“Although these innovative capabilities are commercially available, there are additional security and technical integration requirements that must be met before they are approved for use in the DoD,” said Matthew Schramm, AFNIC lead engineer.

“We can’t say ‘thank you’ enough for all of the hard work from everybody involved in this effort,” Polansky said. “In the end, our credo, ‘preparation + partnership + leadership = success,’ paid off!”

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