IBM 'protests' $600M Amazon cloud contract with CIA: report

IBM 'protests' $600M Amazon cloud contract with CIA: report

Summary: Big Blue has filed a bid to protest the $600 million, 10-year cloud contract awarded to Amazon by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.


When a rival gets their hands on a lucrative government contract, it's no surprise when a competitor files to block the move. They want the business themselves.

IBM has done exactly that, according to reports, over a $600 million cloud project that will last 10 years between Amazon and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

First reported by FCW, the federal business technology publication said the bid, which would see the U.S. intelligence agency use Amazon Web Services (AWS), was protested by IBM three times since the news first came to light in March. The last amendment to the paperwork was filed on April 11.

It's not uncommon for major firms to protest such contracts due to the vast sums involved and the kudos of having a government contract in their portfolio. However, because we still have no idea what the CIA wants to use the cloud service for, it's likely that the details of what IBM has put in the memo is classified.

The deal is part of a "private cloud" initiative by the CIA in order to dedicate resources to its operations, but also to keep its physical hardware entirely disconnected from the public cloud while in the same datacenter. 

The Government Accountability Office reportedly confirmed the protest bid to the publication, which will rule by June 6, later this week, on whether or not Big Blue can claim a stake to the CIA's business. If that's the case, the CIA will have to run through the procurement process again, which no doubt the taxpayer will be ever-so-thankful for.

Amazon has not yet formally confirmed the move by the CIA to use its cloud offering. However, Amazon's AWS GovCloud (U.S.) was granted FedRAMP compliance by the federal government in May, adding to the weight of the original Amazon-CIA reports. 

The process is a government-wide program that ensures sensitive data is as secure as it can be. It also means that the U.S. government can start using Amazon's cloud service for higher-classified material.

The CIA declined to comment on the earlier reports. The agency "does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values or the scope of work," according to a spokesperson.

We put in questions to IBM but did not hear back at the time of writing. 

Topics: Cloud, IBM

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • IBM 'protests' $600M Amazon cloud contract with CIA: report

    since day one, ibm was built around government contracts. the only good thing with ibm is that they almost always deliver value for the money that us taxpayers paid them, from the advances in computing and supercomputing to materials physics, etc. wonder what complaint they have, considering the size of government pie they possess ...
    • "Almost always deliver"

      You must be a Lotus Nuts user since you used the line "almost always".

      • Master Joe says...Lotus Notes

        I have to use Lotus Notes at work. It's painful. It feels like something out of the mid to alte 90s, rather than a modern day e-mail+ client. I'm with you on that being part of that "almost" word."

        --Master Joe
        • Thanks!

          Thanks for the ignorant comments about IBM Notes ("Lotus Notes"). It helps save time because there is no need to read anyting else either of you two wrote.
  • The people happiest about this are

    China and Russia. The day after CIA data gets loaded onto Amazon servers, those countries will be sucking it back out.
    • Your observation

      is based on what? The ease that the Chinese and Russian hackers can hack into the current military infrastructure?
      • Perhaps...

        he's comparing some CIA guy checking the NOC list from an ipad in Starbucks to using a 70's CRT terminal in a locked white room with Tom Cruse hanging from the ceiling.
      • Errr... Maybe!

        We already know that the Chinese have some of the data related to the bungled F35 joint strike fighter. Doesn't make a difference where they got the data from. Any place that had the data should be a secured location - whether it is Boeing, a subcontractor or one of the many governments [and their agencies].
        How long will it take before some idiot working for one of the militaries decides to access the cloud at a Starbucks/Tim Hortons/whatever.
  • Sensitive info on the cloud?

    "The deal is part of a "private cloud" initiative by the CIA in order to dedicate resources to its operations, but also to keep its physical hardware entirely disconnected from the public cloud while in the same datacenter. "

    Well, that answers the security issue. Yeah? And what network -- routers, cables, switches -- will the CIA use to reach their data?

    This is the dumbest idea . . . If you want security, keep the stuff in your physical custody. Remote access? How did CIA employess get to it before the Internet existed?

    Secured data? Will every Amazon technician that has physical access to the CIA cloud servers have the highest CIA clearance? Be searched for chips on exit? Everywhere a chip could be hidden?

    RGM, computer professional since 1964. At NSA back then, security levels had numbers, 1 to 6. Top Secret was 3 . . .
    • physical hardware entirely disconnected from the public cloud

      This just means it has to be in a classified area, locked up, with separate physical access. The data of the US government travels on the same wires and fiber that yours and my data travel on. The difference is the level of tunneling and encryption to keep prying eyes away from the data.
      • Top Secret is often more than that.

        Depends on what level of classified you are talking about.
        The really secure stuff is not on any network. It lives in a safe guarded by people. If you want it, you go into the safe. Someone checks your clearance, even if they checked it yesterday. Someone hands you the hot swap hard disk, you sign for it, you use it on a computer that resides in the safe. You do not take notes. You check it back in. And you leave empty handed.
        (no my knowledge is not based on Hollywood. And no, I didn't say all classified info, gets that treatment. Depends on the level & its strategic value.) I did say that this stuff will never be placed in the cloud. Nor will you see it on WikiLeaks.
        • Top Secret is often more than that.

          Want to buy a bridge?
    • Ooops

      I knew I left that USB stick somewhere.
    • its so stupid

      Amazon is a company that cannot even keep their cloud up, its some of the worst service on the internet and now the CIA is going to use it? For Top secret missions? They are using a company outside of the govt itself? What kind of stupid sht is that. IBM has built machines for the govt for a long time, but the govt has their own datacenters...
      • wrong

        amazon govt cloud is by far the most robust and advanced. IBM is nowhere close to second. Classified work involves more than just robust service. There are so many layers of compliance that a company must go through. For the past several years whenever I deal I am shown demos of classified work related to some type of "cloud" its not what your assumption of a cloud is and in every case amazon has their hands in the jar. The whole thing is very very specialized. They know what they are doing better than anyone. No I don't own amazon stocks or work for them.
  • Atypical of IBM

    When IBM looses a bid the bosses above the bid process get invited to "a round of golf", and the bid is reviewed on technicality. IBM doesn't accept NO for an answer.
    • Amen to that

      At my employer we evaluated IBM hardware and software. It was terrible and it came with a strong recommendation against using it.
      Focus on what olngrumpy said above and voila, we are now an IBM customer. What a disaster it has been.
  • Dumb and Dumber - Part 2

    Seriously? CIA on the cloud?
    • dumbest

      Yep , to be exact Cloud Nine.
    • And here's part 3:

      Dumbest - that's your question.

      Read the article again. It's a private cloud. Look it up if you don't know what that means.