Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Thursday, April 22, 2021

With Long-Delayed JEDI Contract Stalled By Legal Fight, DoD May Go Multi-Cloud 

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The Pentagon is signaling it may embrace a multi-cloud strategy long favored by commercial users seeking to avoid vendor lock-in.

With its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract award stalled by litigation, Defense Department IT planners informed Congress it may be prepared to move on. In an undated information paper, JEDI program managers noted upcoming court rulings related to protests of its controversial single-source contract award to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

The $10 billion JEDI procurement has been steeped in litigation before and after the Pentagon selected Microsoft as its sole cloud provider. Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) has tied up the cloud contract award in federal court alleging among other things procurement violations. AWS currently provides cloud services to U.S. intelligence agencies and is establishing a second corporate headquarters several miles south of the Pentagon complex in northern Virginia.

“Regardless of the JEDI Cloud litigation outcome, [DoD] continues to have an urgent, unmet requirement,” the memo to Congress states. “Specifically, the Department’s need for an enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services (sic) for all three classification levels, extending from the home front to the tactical edge, at scale.”

“We remain fully committed to meeting this requirement—we hope through JEDI—but this requirement transcends any one procurement, and we will be prepared to ensure it is met one way or another,” Pentagon officials told Congress.

According to reports, the U.S. military is now leaning toward a multi-cloud approach. “If I were to make a decision today to create an enterprise cloud, I would totally think of having a multi-cloud approach,” Nic Chaillan, chief software officer for the U.S. Air Force told the Washington Post. Avoiding vendor lock-in was among the reasons cited by the DoD official.

Indeed, multi-cloud strategies have been widely adopted in the commercial sector as a way of reducing enterprise dependence on cloud giants AWS and Microsoft Azure, giving companies more flexibility in deploying analytics tools and database platforms.

The Pentagon received bids for the JEDI contract from AWS, IBM (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft and Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL).

While some Pentagon planners advocated multiple cloud sources, procurement officials ultimately tapped Microsoft as its sole supplier in 2019. An AWS protest effectively halted the cloud rollout last February.

“We won the JEDI contract twice and think concluding the litigation and moving forward is the fastest way to get our troops the technology they deserve,” Rick Wagner, head of Microsoft’s federal business, told the Post.

AWS did not respond to our request for comment.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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