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GCN : September 2013
GCN SEPTEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM 29 support gaps. Even a problem that affects 1 percent of users means 500 support calls for us. For that reason, we've tried to an- ticipate as many potential user problems as we can --- and then take action to pre- vent those problems in advance." The importance of looking long and hard before the cloud leap is a common theme among cloud adopters. On the technical side, concerns include email compression and the integration of cloud apps into other systems. Other factors that contribute to smoother cloud transitions include leadership buy-in, ample commu- nication and end-user training. PLAN AND TEST For Gilbert, heading off trouble before it happens calls for a multi-faceted ap- proach. THE CLOUD Based on that finding, EPA re-evaluated its migration strategy, opting to move a smaller chunk of user information. "[W]e chose to transition 30 days' worth of email, calendar entries and all contacts over a single weekend," Noga said. The migration took place over Presi- dent's Day weekend in February. EPA is now gearing up for the second phase of its migration: a SharePoint rollout is slated to begin in late fiscal 2013 or early 2014. The National Labor Relations Board pi- loted Office 365 for several months before beginning its full-blown migration from an on-premise Microsoft Exchange system in August. The pilot phase, which began in April, let the agency work through deploy- ment issues. The issue for the 1,800 em- ployee agency wasn't vast scale, but rather a distributed workforce. NLRB operates 52 offices and had been using wide-area network optimization technology to mini- mize bandwidth costs, said Bryan Burnett, NLRB's chief information officer. Burnett said Riverbed Technology's WAN optimization provided an 80 percent email compression rate, but that advan- tage would go away once the email traf- fic moved to the cloud application. NLRB would need to expand its network to han- dle the same email traffic it had before, a prospect that put the cost savings of the cloud into question. "You have no way of optimizing traffic once it hits your networks," Burnett said of the transition to Office 365. "If you have to expand the network, are you really saving money?" The agency's workaround involves us- ing Riverbed's Steelhead Cloud Accel- erator technology, which the company co-developed with Akamai. Accelerator combines Riverbed's WAN optimization with Akamai's Internet optimization to help solve performance issues in cloud networks. The approach provided the email compression NLRB needed, and got the agency off the network expansion hook. Burnett said the migration is now mov- ing ahead at a rate of 175 users every three 3. OPTIMIZE. When moving email to the cloud, o cials at NLRB, which has 52 o ces, realized they would lose email compression once it left their optimized network. They decided to use the Steelhead Cloud Accelerator, which combined Riverbed s WAN optimization with Akamai s Internet optimization to keep performance issues at bay. 4. TRAINING. This starts with training the trainers, as Lawrence Berkeley Lab did when moving to Google Apps. The lab had trainers spread throughout the sprawling campus, so when each section went live, a trainer was nearby to help users. "This means round after round of test- ing and development, conversations with other institutions that have already imple- mented 365 and regular meetings with a Microsoft team that's carried out previous migrations to 365," he said. The university, Gilbert said, faced a few issues during the planning and testing process: integration of Office 365 email into the school's student Web portal, the transition from campus-based to Micro- soft authentication and role management as well as integration into a new Share- Point environment, which is also in the cloud. The Environmental Protection Agency discovered its main challenge was the timeframe of the transition. The agency sought to migrate 25,000 mailboxes and 5,000 BlackBerry devices to Microsoft Of- fice 2013 offered via Office 365 for Gov- ernment. The agency's original plan was to migrate all users' email, calendar and contacts in groups over six weeks, noted Vaughn Noga, director of EPA's Office of Technology Operations and Planning. When EPA tested its plan, however, the agency realized the rollout would take much longer. "Testing revealed that this approach would have taken over 40 weeks to com- plete, which would have resulted in a long coexistence period in which some employ- ees would be in the new email system, while others would continue in the old," Noga said.