Department of Defense's updated cloud-computing contract still is winner-take-all

Microsoft and other cloud vendors are keeping close tabs on the estimated multi-billion-dollar U.S. DoD JEDI cloud contract, as it winds its way through the bidding process.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Last week, the U.S. Department of Defense provided a second draft of its expected multi-billion-dollar cloud contract. But the modified version still is a winner-take-all affair.

Credit: ZDNet

Although the final draft of the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) request for proposals won't be out until next month, multiple vendors including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, have been jockeying for position.

The JEDI contract is designed to upgrade legacy systems with newer cloud services. According to the draft, "JEDI Cloud will provide enterprise-level, commercial IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) to the Department and any mission partners for all Department business and mission operations."

The amended draft also stipulates inclusion of a cybersecurity plan and says proposals should assume multitenant, unclassified commercial environments that will operate globally.

The DoD also published a list of more than 1,000 comments/questions and answers that it has been collecting about the contract. (Comments will be closed as of April 30.)

The DoD hasn't pinned a price on the JEDI award, but I've seen estimates of "multi-billion dollars."

As several of the comments and previous reports have indicated, some fear a winner-take-all approach is not the best idea. Multi-vendor clouds offer customers more resiliency by their nature. Amazon, by virtue of its cloud dominance, has an outsize chance of winning a single vendor award, industry watchers have said.

DoD officials have denied any vendors are favored or "pre-selected." they've also said that while the contract is a single-award one, it's not a sole-source one, meaning multiple partners could combine efforts to submit a single bid. They've also clarified that the JEDI contract isn't the one and only DoD cloud initiative; it will complement other cloud contracts, as noted by FedScoop.com.

Some, publicly and privately, have voiced fears that the DoD's sole-source requirement would result in it being stuck with the single vendor winner for ten years. The base contract is actually for two years, with four two-year options, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

Microsoft wouldn't comment directly on how it's engaging in the JEDI procurement process, but a spokesperson did contribute a statement attributable to Toni Townes-Whitley, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector and Industry:

"We believe Microsoft's unique hybrid approach delivers enterprise cloud capabilities from headquarters to the tactical edge and best supports the Department of Defense in advancing its mission. We look forward to competing for the JEDI cloud contract and continuing to provide the DoD with our latest commercial innovations."

The DoD is expected to award the initial two year contract by September 30.

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