IBM: We're protesting over Pentagon's $10bn winner-take-all JEDI cloud deal

IBM fears that the JEDI deal is aimed at 'one specific vendor', which is not Big Blue.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

IBM has followed Oracle in filing a bid protest against the Pentagon's 'single-cloud' requirements for its JEDI contract, which could be worth up to $10bn over 10 years.

The company filed the bid protest with the Government Accountability Office just ahead of this Friday's deadline for vendors to submit JEDI, or Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, proposals.

IBM is contesting the single-vendor requirement and argues that some requests favor a single vendor.

"JEDI's primary flaw lies in mandating a single cloud environment for up to 10 years," Sam Gordy, IBM's US Federal general manager, said in a blogpost.

He also said the Pentagon is restricting competition by including requirements that "mirror one vendor's internal processes" or "unnecessarily mandate certain capabilities" by requiring them to be in place by the submission deadline, as opposed to when the work would begin.

"Such rigid requirements serve only one purpose: to arbitrarily narrow the field of bidders," said Gordy.

"Throughout the year-long JEDI saga, countless concerns have been raised that this solicitation is aimed at a specific vendor. At no point have steps been taken to alleviate those concerns," he added.

SEE: Cloud v. data center decision (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The winner would help the Department of Defense build a single enterprise cloud that stores classified information and enhances its weapons capabilities, while enabling the federal government to consolidate its data centers.

Other bidders include Amazon Web Services, widely seen as the frontrunner, and Microsoft, which announced this week it expects to be certified for Top Secret US classified data by the first quarter of 2019.

Oracle, Microsoft, and Google have been lobbying Defense to make JEDI a multi-vendor arrangement.

Oracle filed its bid protest with the GAO on August 6, according to NextGov. The company earlier this year won a ruling by the GAO over another $950m defense deal awarded to a partner of Amazon Web Services.

Until this week, Google was vying for a slice of the JEDI, contract. However, it dropped out because it lacked the certifications required to host some classified data and argued that the deal might clash with its AI principles.

Google said it would have submitted a proposal were it not for the single-vendor requirement.

IBM's Gordy said relying on a single vendor would "give bad actors just one target to focus on should they want to undermine the military's IT backbone".

Dana Deasy, the Pentagon CIO heading up the JEDI deal, told the Washington Post that using multiple providers would add needless complexity.

"We've never built an enterprise cloud. Starting with a number of firms while at the same time trying to build out an enterprise capability just simply did not make sense," Deasy said.

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