US Department of Health

Consolidates 200 email servers in SAN-based outsourcing project

August 23, 2004

3 Min Read
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says its email management woes are on the mend, thanks to a server consolidation project that relies heavily on a SAN.

Pushed into enterprise architecture reform by the Federal Information Security Management Act, the agency began evaluating numerous ways of consolidating IT systems spread across its numerous agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Email systems were a likely target, with more than 200 email servers maintained and managed separately by various HHS agencies.

By consolidating email systems, HHS "can ensure that all 75,000 users will have the same high standard of anti-virus protection, uniformly controlled physical and electronic system access, and improved system availability during emergencies," said Kerry Weems, Acting Assistant Secretary for Budget, Technology, and Finance, in testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform last March.

Enter the HHS Enterprise Email System (HHS-EES), a project that HHS enlisted Unisys Corp. (NYSE: UIS) to help develop and implement. Over the course of a year, Unisys and its partners came up with an outsourced email infrastructure hosted and managed by Unisys in its Washington, DC-area data center. HHS contracted Unisys for the hosted service in February, paying about $8.6 million for the first year. Options for an additional four years would cost the agency up to $22.4 million more.

The new email infrastructure includes Unisys ES7000 and ES3000 servers running Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Identity Integration Server (MIIS). The servers are connected to a SAN including EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) Symmetrix DMX and Clariion CX700 storage systems, Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) tape libraries, and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) switches. As of this writing, equipment has been installed but has not been completely configured."HHS needed to streamline these systems because email is a critical source of communication for them," says Aileen Black, civilian area manager for EMC. "The consolidation of these servers lets them more effectively manage that communication, and the SAN is at the heart of that – containing that information."

Though figures were not made available on the quantity of email stored in the SAN, the Symmetrix DMX and Clariion CX700 devices are configured at 31TB and 25TB, respectively. Data will be stored in a tiered system according to relative need and importance, adds Black.

Supported by the SAN, the consolidated infrastructure is intended to facilitate better and faster interdepartmental communication, especially in times of crisis. Another important aspect of the project is moving email systems offsite to the hosted service. Unisys will manage all aspects of the system, including hardware and performance management.

"By moving email systems out of potential terrorist targets, such as the NIH or CDC, the overall threat to the security of the system is reduced," added HHS's Weems in the congressional testimony.

– Brett Mendel, Senior Analyst, Byte and Switch Insider0

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