The U.S. Department of Defense wielded its JEDI powers to procure public cloud services with a diplomatic end to a feud between Amazon and Microsoft to win the multi-billion dollar contract.
The DOD broke up a $9 billion contract between the top four cloud providers – Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle – for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) initiative, which will bring the defense branches – Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force – into a single cloud network.
The goal of JWCC is to modernize the IT infrastructure by moving it to the cloud, and to reverse a historical trend of the defense units maintaining their own IT networks. Merging the systems into a unified and coherent infrastructure will allow the DOD to make decisions much faster by applying analytical tools like machine learning.
The JWCC contract, which is for a maximum of five years, replaces the older 10-year contract, JEDI, which was awarded to Microsoft in 2019, but canceled in 2021 after objections and a lawsuit from Amazon. Amazon argued that JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) was awarded to Microsoft because of then-U.S. president Donald Trump’s quarrels with Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos.
Oracle and Google emerged as winners with the JWCC contract, while Amazon and Microsoft received smaller contracts compared to the total value of the scrapped JEDI contract. It’s not yet clear how the $9 billion will be broken up between the four cloud providers.
“I would anticipate that workloads covered under the JWCC contract are primarily general purpose, though it is possible that data analytics could lean in to AI/ML capabilities as these solutions mature in capability and ease-of-use,” said James Sanders, principal analyst for cloud, infrastructure, and quantum computing at CCS Insights.
The approach by the DOD is the most conspicuous instance where a multi-cloud architecture was chosen as a hedge to prevent lawsuits from service providers that were not utilized in a single-cloud deployment model.
“For the Department of Defense, a multi-cloud architecture could blunt the impact of activist employees of cloud platforms protesting the involvement of their employer in military or police action, such as the protests against Project Maven at Google and police use of Amazon Rekognition in 2018,” Sanders said.
Employees at Amazon and Google saw Project Maven video-recognition and Rekognition facial-recognition systems as surveillance tools for the U.S. government and associated agencies. The companies have said the tools are important for public security.
Concerns and conversations that started in 2018 around the ethical use of AI prompted one cloud provider, IBM, to stop development and sale of facial recognition software.
“While IBM did not have a large presence in that market at the time of that decision, this may have contributed to IBM’s absence in the JWCC contract,” Sanders said.
The contracts awarded to all four cloud providers are identical: to provide the DOD “with enterprise-wide globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge,” according to a statement from the government agency. The contracts will conclude in 2028.
The $9 billion amount is close to the $8.9 billion being requested by the DOD in 2023 for modernization of the cloud program with JWCC, as stated in the DOD’s budget document.
The JWCC is has three components.
The first is “global directory,” which lists users, login information, lookup services and security certificates for the users on a network.
The second is infrastructure-as-code, which provides a layer for elasticity in deployment of workloads in cloud services. For example, Amazon’s AWS uses files in YAML format, so developers can switch between instance types by just changing a few lines of code. That should also help the DOD easily switch between providers in a multi-cloud environment.
The third is a cloud provisioning tool, with each cloud provider having their own versions to orchestrate and manage cloud deployments. All the top cloud providers tools that include Kubernetes for provisioning.