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News Release

Release No. 0638.10
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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First Cabinet-Level Agency Leveraging Cloud Services to Increase Collaboration, Communications and Productivity

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 email, web conferencing, 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.

With the maturity of commercial cloud services, and as part of its internal EMS solution to consolidate 120,000 users spread across 21 email systems, USDA awarded a competed contract to Dell in May 2010 for Microsoft Online Services. This migration is the culmination of USDA CIO Chris Smith's effort to streamline agency messaging, reduce costs and improve efficiencies that build on existing infrastructure and allow USDA to extend its on-premise software investments agreements to the cloud solution. The software as a service deployment will include Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Office Communications Online for instant messaging and Office Live Meeting for web conferencing.

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) Authority to Operate (ATO) for the Microsoft cloud infrastructure, certifying that it provides a trustworthy foundation for operations.

"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 who is able to work with us and navigate everything from archiving to authentication to mobile phone support," said USDA CIO Chris Smith. "USDA's IT modernization will allow us to streamline our operations and help us use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. With a focused cloud roadmap, we saw a clear opportunity to achieve our cost savings and consolidation goals, and tap into the promise of the cloud."

With a distributed workforce 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 email, 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 secure 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.

"USDA's vision of maximizing efficiencies and improving productivity across a vast enterprise through the cloud will be a model for large government agencies," said Curt Kolcun, Microsoft's vice president of U.S. Public Sector. "With the Microsoft cloud productivity solution, USDA employees will benefit from having better access to information, improved collaboration and information sharing. This comprehensive approach lays out a foundation for greater innovation, money savings and better citizen services."


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