UC Berkeley email system to switch from CalMail to Google

UC Berkeley staff, students and administrators will switch from CalMail to Google email services over the course of the next year, according to campus officials.

The decision to make Google Apps for Education the new campus email and calendar system comes as part of Operational Excellence — a campus cost-cutting initiative looking to save $75 million annually — according to an email sent out Wednesday evening to the campus community by Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Shel Waggener and Operational Excellence Program Office Faculty Head Andrew Szeri.

CalMail — the current campus email system which has experienced several outages over the past month — and CalAgenda will be used until the shift occurs, which is set to take place during 2012, according to the email.

Google Apps for Education was chosen over Microsoft Office 365 and is “the better overall fit for the campus at this time,” according to the email. However, this decision will not have an effect on the recent agreement, also arranged through Operational Excellence, that will allow students to download Microsoft Office and operating system software free of charge starting in early January.

“We also recognize that while Google will meet the majority of the community’s needs, for some members (especially intensive calendar users) the transition may be especially difficult,” the email reads. “We will provide additional training and resources to help address these issues and to support the adoption of the new email and calendar service. Our goal is to continue to work with Google, and vendors of components built to enhance the Google products, to create a solution that meets the needs of the broadest number of community members possible.”

Read the full text of the email here:

We are pleased to announce that Google Apps for Education has been selected as the new email and calendar solution for Berkeley. The campus will remain on CalMail and CalAgenda pending an extensive migration during 2012. This decision has been reached after an extensive analysis over the past few months that compared Google Apps for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 offerings. While both products are feature rich and offer advantages over our current environment, the analysis concluded that the Google offering was the better overall fit for the campus at this time. The selection of Google Apps for Education does not impact the campus’s recent announcement to provide Microsoft software under a site license agreement. In fact, the products are complementary in many areas and we expect University-wide deployment of both Google’s online offerings and locally installed Microsoft software.

The evaluation, conducted by a team led by Gabriel Gonzalez of the Law School, was undertaken as part of the Operational Excellence (OE) sponsored Productivity Suite project and focused on features and requirements to meet key objectives of OE including service improvement, project and operating cost, speed of deployment, architectural alignment, accessibility, storage of data in the United States, and privacy and security issues. As part of the analysis, the team conducted interviews with campus faculty, staff, and students, as well as with email and calendaring teams at other large research universities including evaluating the recent successful deployment of Google at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Throughout our research and discussions with peer institutions, it became clear that a change of this magnitude will have some significant challenges. There is no way to avoid a certain amount of disruption, but minimizing the direct impact to individuals and departments will be a guiding principle of our migration plan. We also recognize that while Google will meet the majority of the community’s needs, for some members (especially intensive calendar users) the transition may be especially difficult. We will provide additional training and resources to help address these issues and to support the adoption of the new email and calendar service. Our goal is to continue to work with Google, and vendors of components built to enhance the Google products, to create a solution that meets the needs of the broadest number of community members possible.

We anticipate that the campus will move all unit mail and calendaring systems to the Google Apps for Education solution over the course of the coming year. We plan to work with technical groups, student leadership, and department representatives to develop and publish a full project schedule that will have us completing the entire migration during calendar year 2012. We recognize that there are some circumstances where exceptions may be necessary and will be working with the Academic Senate leadership to help identify appropriate circumstances and processes for opting out of the migration.

We are excited about the new direction for this critical campus service and anticipate that initial migrations could begin as early as spring 2012. We will provide more information about the migration project and preliminary schedule in January. For more information about the selection process, please see http://technology.berkeley.edu/productivity-suite/google/index.html.

John Wilton
Vice Chancellor
Administration and Finance

Shel Waggener
Associate Vice Chancellor–IT and CIO

Andrew Szeri
OE Program Office Faculty Head, and
Dean, Graduate Division

Soumya Karlamangla is the city news editor.