Welcome to the Cloud, USDA!

The past few months have marked a transformative time in government IT, with the State of California, the State of Minnesota and New York City, all embracing Microsoft Online Services.  And now that momentum is carrying into the federal sector, with groundbreaking news from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which announced it is migrating 120,000 users to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Office Communications Online.  Curt Kolcun, Vice President, Microsoft U.S. Public Sector, also talks about the move in his blog post.

Some of the independent coverage of the announcement includes:

The good folks at the USDA bring Americans things like the food pyramid, national parks, the national school lunch program, and organic certification to name just a few services -- ones that also help keep our food supply safe and much more, and now with Microsoft Online Services. Today, they are setting the bar for cloud services in the federal government. 

USDA is the first cabinet-level agency to announce its move to cloud services, and the first federal government agency (period) to deploy a full cloud messaging and collaboration service. While other agencies have just announced their plans or deployed e-mail solutions in sub-agencies, USDA will consolidate 120,000 people across 21 e-mail systems in a highly distributed workforce.  So there is no doubt that other government organizations will be watching an immense enterprise like the USDA as a bellwether for cloud adoption.

USDA chose Microsoft because it wanted enterprise-grade features that would work with many of the systems and applications they already use and know.  Some of the specific capabilities USDA officials cited are global address lists, full calendar synchronization, integrated voice mail and email, delegated administration, read receipts, distribution lists, offline access and robust security and privacy.

USDA expects to reduce costs as well as streamline and improve operations with this move. USDA employees will be able to collaborate more easily with colleagues across the nation, and they will get the latest innovations while still using existing devices and applications.  And, with the release of Office 365 in 2011, USDA will also be one of the very first government entities to enjoy the new service.

So, welcome to the cloud, USDA.  We're glad to have you!

-Allen Filush, Office 365 Product Manager

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