DoD Shifts Gears, Goes Multi-Cloud

Article By : George Leopold

Procurement officials announce initial contract awards to cloud leaders AWS and Microsoft, with more vendors possible.

A growing list of large companies have adopted a “multi-cloud” strategy as a way of avoiding vendor lock-in. After years of legal maneuvering and procurement shenanigans, the Pentagon has at last settled on a similar approach as it seeks to drag its sprawling enterprise into the 21st century.

The Defense Department ended its ill-fated cloud procurement in July, replacing it with a rebranded Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC). Earlier this month, it announced plans to award cloud contracts to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, the combatants in an earlier multi-billion-dollar cloud competition.

Procurement officials have concluded that AWS and Microsoft “appear to be capable of meeting all of the DoD’s requirements at this time, including providing cloud services at all levels of national security classification.” That includes the ability to secure cloud-based data ranging from sensitive to top secret.

In furtherance of its multi-cloud strategy, DoD also said it would solicit JWCC contact bids from also-rans Google and Oracle. IBM, an early entrant (and litigant) in the canceled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, is conspicuously absent in the latest DoD cloud competition.

For now, procurement officials said they will award preliminary cloud services contracts to AWS and Microsoft, the latter for its Azure cloud service certified to handle intelligence and other compartmentalized data. Cloud behemoth AWS already provides IT services to U.S. intelligence agencies, giving it the inside track for providing government cloud services.

The initial contracts awarded to AWS and Microsoft extend for three years, along with two 12-month options. That cushion gives IT managers sufficient time to stand up their multi-cloud strategy while girding for inevitable legal challenges.

Ultimately, all four cloud services providers could get a piece of DoD’s multibillion cloud contract. Nevertheless, a DoD official told the web site a bid solicitation from DoD does not necessarily mean each company would receive an award.

Either way, the revised cloud solicitation released on Nov. 19 represents a fundamental shift by procurement officials after the lengthy and politically-charged legal battle that torpedoed the $10 billion JEDI sweepstakes.

The DoD cloud contracts were originally scheduled to be awarded in spring 2022. The latest procurement pivot pushes contract awards to sometime later next year.

Pentagon officials who stress they have assessed the capabilities of five U.S.-based hyperscale cloud service providers claim this time to have performed due diligence. Their conclusion is the same as many companies: Don’t put all your IT eggs in one basket.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.


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