Sep 13 2013

Feds Take a Practical Approach to Unified Communications

Agencies look for cost savings from running converged networks and enhancing collaboration.

The Defense Information Systems Agency has a bottom-line approach to network convergence and unified communications. “We know that it’s five times more expensive to maintain a legacy telephony network versus an IP-based converged environment,” says Cindy Moran, director of the network services directorate at DISA.

DISA has taken the lead with UC in the Defense Department by piloting some 200 softphones based on Cisco Systems Jabber technology. In DISA’s network services and CIO operations groups, agency leaders and staff use presence, instant messaging, video chat and conferencing over Jabber. While most employees run Jabber with headsets, Moran says users who prefer a traditional phone can choose an inexpensive IP handset.

DOD’s technology agency plans to roll out the softphones to 10,000 users across DISA and offer the technology to the various branches of the service. Moran says while a specific contract vehicle hasn’t emerged yet, she expects that any future contract will offer UC technology from Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft.  


The amount of money organizations can save per T-1 line each month by opting for a hosted UC infrastructure and converging voice and data

SOURCE: “Betting on the Future with Unified Communications: Hosted Services Can Drive Business Value and Create New Opportunities” (Frost & Sullivan, July 2013)

Moving forward, Moran says DISA’s Joint Interoperability Test Command will test the various clients to ensure mission partners have competition and choice. “Whatever technology appears on a DOD contract, it has to be secure, interoperable and a solution that works every time,” she adds.

Rich Costello, senior research analyst for unified communications for IDC, says that he expects that DOD will continue to push the envelope with UC and collaboration solutions.  

“The federal government, especially, faces clear budget constraints, so using technology such as video collaboration that can make DOD workers more efficient and streamline communications for soldiers in the field just makes sense.”

EPA Is Lync’ed In

The Environmental Protection Agency deployed Microsoft Lync as part of its move to the cloud and to replace the agency’s old instant messenger solution. Lync also supplements Adobe Connect, the EPA’s current web conferencing tool. In the future, the EPA will consider integrating Lync with its existing video conferencing solution and VoIP system, says Harrell Watkins, acting director of the office of technology operations and planning for the agency.

Watkins notes that while all of the EPA’s 17,000 employees across the country have access to Lync, the agency remains in the early stages of deployment. “These new tools are enabling us to accelerate the decision-making process,” Watkins says. “EPA’s employees have easier access to each other. Lync can be leveraged to send messages, have instant meetings and let employees get answers to questions much more quickly.”

The EPA also plans to deploy SharePoint to enhance collaboration.