Commerce explores hosted e-mail

Department initiative could lead to a large outsourcing deal for integrated messaging

Commcerce Shared Service Center RFI

Related Links

The Commerce Department is making a foray into territory many agencies have not explored: hosted, centralized messaging services. If it proceeds, a Commerce deal could emerge as one of the largest examples of outsourced messaging, industry analysts say.

Commerce issued a request for information last month for a contractor-operated shared-services center, which would offer e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging and support for mobile devices. The hosted solution, based on Microsoft Exchange 2007, would have to support at least 50,000 users, according to the RFI.

“The managed-service concept is the way to go. It’s good government,” said Barry West, Commerce’s chief information officer, speaking at an industry event in Washington June 6. Commerce has 13 bureaus, and most information technology services are decentralized, he said.

“E-mail is our first big opportunity to test the shared-service provider [concept] and make sure we can support a centralized model,” West said. “We may look later at help-desk or network services if this is successful.”

Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, which focuses on the messaging market, said an e-mail outsourcing deal of the magnitude that Commerce is exploring would be fairly unusual in the federal sector.

Osterman pegged the number of hosted-messaging seats in North America at 1 million. If the Commerce deal goes through, the 50,000 seats would represent 5 percent of that market.

Denis Martin, executive vice president and chief technology officer at NaviSite, said projects of that size remain uncommon, but he noted that the company’s hosted-messaging deal with DaimlerChrysler involves more than 50,000 users.
Martin said NaviSite, a hosting vendor, plans to respond to Commerce’s RFI.

Such large-scale deals could become more prevalent as e-mail operations become more burdensome. “Managing messaging is not an easy task, and it’s getting tougher all the time,” Osterman said.

Sudeep Trivedi, director of product development at USinternetworking, agreed with that analysis. Trivedi called messaging the most complex environment to manage from an administrator’s perspective. “It’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem.”

Managers must devise new ways to fight spam, keep up with various antivirus engines, and deal with denial-of-service attacks on e-mail servers, Trivedi said.

He added the trend is to seek hosted solutions. Trivedi said he thinks that Usinternetworking, which hosts Microsoft Exchange, will respond to Commerce’s RFI.

Another motivation for outsourcing e-mail is a desire to redeploy internal IT personnel. The hosted solution “leaves you more resources available to do the things you are actually good at,” Osterman said.

Jackie Funk, director of marketing at Apptix, said IT shops “want to focus on applications that support the business they conduct.” She said larger organizations have the resources to manage messaging applications such as Exchange, but choose to use those resources differently.

Agencies may also opt for hosted services to avoid an in-house migration to Exchange 2007.

The 64-bit product “requires a lot of changes to the IT department” and a large investment, Trivedi said.

Commerce, meanwhile, cited the ability to upgrade technology as a factor in its hosted-messaging evaluation. “Traditionally, there has been a gap in technology between private-sector initiatives and the current state of the public sector,” the department’s RFI states. “Closing that gap is an imperative for the department to realize its mission.”

Jason Miller and Wade-Hahn Chan contributed to this article.
Outsourced messaging on a major scaleThe Commerce Department’s information technology leaders say the department is trailing the private sector in integrated messaging, and it needs to catch up. The department wants to outsource its messaging needs to a company that will provide what officials described in a request for information as “total communication capabilities.”
Here are six items on Commerce’s wish list for a Shared Service Center:
  • Support for at least 50,000 e-mail, calendar,
  • instant-messaging and mobile users.
  • A single directory service as the source of online authorization.
  • Support for BlackBerry devices.
  • Spam filtering, antivirus and anti-spyware protection.
  • Integration with bureau-specific programs that use e-mail for communication or authentication.
  • Management based on a set of service-level agreements and performance indicators.
Source: Commerce Department

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group