Pentagon opens winner-takes-all cloud defence contract – as REAN tender pared back

Microsoft said earlier this week that government IT had reached a tipping point towards moving to the cloud – and now another large US contract is up for grabs.

During an Industry Day yesterday, plans were revealed by the Pentagon for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure Cloud (JEDI) opened up for tender to any single cloud provider.

The key is in the word ‘single’: as reported by Bloomberg, using multiple clouds would ‘exponentially increase the complexity’ of the issue, according to defence staff, therefore the plan is to go with one cloud vendor only.

As a draft statement of objectives explains: “The Department of Defence’s lack of a coordinated enterprise-level approach to cloud infrastructure makes it virtually impossible for our warfighters and leaders to make critical data-driven decisions at ‘mission speed’, negatively affecting outcomes.

“A fragmented and largely on-premise computing and storage solution forces the warfighter into tedious data and application management processes, compromising their ability to rapidly access, manipulate, and analyse data at the home front and tactical edge,” the document adds. “Most important, current environments are not optimised to support large, cross domain analysis using advanced capabilities such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to meet current and future warfighting needs and requirements.”

This comes amidst something of an issue with a recent tender. In February, the Pentagon awarded a contract for up to $950 million to REAN Cloud, a Virginia-based managed services provider, for automated pricing and procurement. Earlier this week, it was revealed that this contract had been cut to as low as $65m. Oracle had protested against the original decision according to a filing on February 20. In a statement, REAN said it was honoured to be performing work for the US military, and that it was unaware of the reasons as to why the contract was trimmed.

“Based on the threat of legal action and protest by the old guard, the only winners in this delay are those large companies that stand to lose money if DoD proceeds with innovation,” said Sekhar Puli, REAN Cloud managing partner. “In the meantime, the cost of maintaining antiquated government infrastructure has not subsided.”

Microsoft recently expanded its government cloud offerings to include government-specific editions of Microsoft 365 and Azure Stack. At the time Julia White, corporate vice president of Azure, wrote that “evidence we are at a tipping point for government to modernise IT with the cloud is coming from agencies across every level and branch of government.”

Long-time readers of this publication will remember the imbroglio between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM in 2013 for a $600 million CIA cloud computing contract eventually won, after legal rulings, by AWS. If this, and the most recent contract, are anything to go by, expect a battle to be fought to the very end by the main cloud players.