HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A five-person program office here enabled migration of 555,000 continental U.S.-based Air Force hosted email accounts to the cloud.
This information technology transformation initiative is the Air Force’s largest cloud initiative, integrating previous disparate solutions to greatly enhance collaboration capabilities. The Air Force Network integration Center executed the migration, while Hanscom’s Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Program Executive Office built the three physical security stacks which verify users’ identities before they can access cloud-hosted data like email and communications tools.
Moving 555,000 accounts to the cloud was no small feat for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and AFNIC.
“We built the first stack in the spring of 2016, and fielded the final stack December of 2018,” said Capt. Holden Lanier, deputy program manager for the project at C3I&N. “This project started as a small, $5 million pathfinder project, and with an additional investment of $20 million, we’re going to move every single CONUS military account onto the cloud.”
Moving forward, C3I&N will be moving the physical stacks, currently located at a few bases throughout the country, to the cloud. The initiative, called Zero-Stack, will increase security for users by giving authentication processes access to more robust cloud architecture that scales on demand, while decreasing the need for the Air Force to maintain on-premises server racks that perform as security stacks.
This will require constant teamwork across multiple organizations including the 24th Air Force, AFLCMC, Defense Information Systems Agency and AFNIC. 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.
“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.”
In addition, SharePoint Online and OneDrive capabilities are coming in the near future. AFNIC and the AFLCMC are working with Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, Air National Guard and the Pentagon to bring them the same cloud-based capabilities.
While completing the email 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.
“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.
(Information in this article was compiled from the Air Force Network Integration Center)