Bureau of Meteorology switches to managed email


news The Federal Bureau of Meteorology has revealed plans to migrate its corporate email platform off an ageing Exchange 2007 platform and onto a managed services environment based on Exchange 2013, in a move congruent with a wider shift within major Australian organisations towards hosted or ‘cloud’-based email platforms.

According to a request for tender document released this week, the Bureau is currently running an on-premise Exchange 2007 platform for email, partnered with an IronPort email gateway system. The email infrastructure is spread between two data centres, and CommVault is used for backup and archiving of email. The platform hosts some 3,080 mailboxes, used by some 1,750 users nationwide.

The system isn’t just used for end user email of the normal kind; the agency’s RFT document noted that its alerts system occasionally routed very high volumes of email alerts to external users through the Exchange platform, “which can result in over 10,000 alerts sent in one instance”, for example.

The agency noted that its current email systems are currently using physical hardware that is “ageing”, with an investigation underway into how best to cater for the upgrade.

Exchange 2007 is also considered deprecated by many organisations, as it was first made available seven years ago in 2006. Microsoft introduced significant new features in both the 2010 and 2013 version of Exchange, including features affecting the back-end capability of the platform, as well as front-end features such as significantly enhanced support for Outlook Web Access, that has led many Australian organisations into upgrading the platform from 2007.

To replace the system, the Bureau of Meteorology has chosen to go for an externally managed platform.

“The external provider will be required to provide a Microsoft Exchange 2013 messaging systems across multiple datacentres which will enable 24/7 operations 365 days per year,” the agency’s tender documents noted. “This system will need to cater for corporate email as well as weather alerting which could result in thousands of messages being sent at a time.” The time tame for the migration is quite rapid — with the agency planning to have its current email system migrated to the new managed service provider and be operational by the end of June, 2014.

The news comes as a number of other major Australian organisations, especially in government, are known to be transitioning email systems previously hosted in-house to external platforms. The New South Wales State Government revealed in July, for instance, that it would trial both Google- and Microsoft-based cloud email platforms, as its interest in the new cloud computing paradigm continues to develop.

And in October the Queensland Government revealed it had quietly selected two providers to help resolve its long-running and troubled attempt to deploy a whole of government email solution. The State is not holding an open tender for the work, but has instead opted to negotiate behind the scenes with two un-named vendors.

What we see here is very typical of government IT. You have an old email platform released the better part of a decade ago still being used. It’s now being upgrade and outsourced because that’s the quickest and easiest way to handle this kind of infrastructure in 2013. And the reason why the Government didn’t ever upgrade from Exchange 2007 in the first place?

Well, Exchange admins will be aware that Exchange 2007 was really the first version of Exchange to really be considered as having all of the basic enterprise-grade features which you would want from a corporate email platform. The previous two versions, Exchange 2000 and 2003, are really considered quite primitive by today’s standards. 2010 and 2013 did add significant new functionality — but I’ve seen a number of organisations sit on 2007, because the extra functionality wasn’t really enough to convince the bean counters to upgrade, even though end users and the actual Exchange admins themselves would have been aware of the benefits.

If you’ve worked in Government for any amount of time, you’ll be aware that bean counters wield an amount of power in the public sector disproportionate to what most would imagine is their natural remit ;)


  1. one reason why some organisations don’t upgrade things like exchange 2007 is because they work.

    just because you can upgrade, doesn’t mean to say you absolutely have to.

    exchange 2007 was/is rock solid in my opinion compared to 2003 and 2010…

  2. The bean counters and middle management are the only ones with full time roles so it is natural that IT systems do not get maintained. The BOM has wasted many millions with IT because they have allowed non technical folks to run their IT projects with no accountability. The contractors love it but as there is no coherent, competent leadership the long-term IT management is appallingly bad.
    Outsourcing is a cover-up that always ends up more expensive or with restricted services. Basic economics: Service + profit > Service (without profit). If the outsource companies do it more efficiently then any gains are taken by profits, or they are bought out, or they go for massive profits once the honeymoon is over. So you have denuded your ability to do business and handed key functions to profiteers…wonderful tactic!
    It’s like buying a car, not doing any maintenance, then when it fails just park it and go “Oh well. We’ll just rent…it’s cheaper for the next week or so”. Cost cutting by idiots is *so* expensive!

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