The US Department of Defense (DoD) still intends to choose just one vendor for its multibillion-dollar cloud contract – amid complaints from Oracle's co-CEO that such a plan "makes no sense".
The Pentagon made waves last month when it published a draft proposal document calling for just one cloud services provider to run the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud program for all branches of the military.
The DoD said the aim was to reduce complexity in its "fragmented and largely on-premise computing" storage systems – hence asking for one provider.
But the plan came under fire from industry groups and vendors who argued it would limit competition and innovation, and could have a negative impact on the long-term security of the systems, especially as the contract award is for a maximum of 10 years.
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"A single-award contract vehicle creates the ultimate barrier to entry for new, emerging technologies… [it] also raises security concerns, especially as one looks across the globally integrated, commercial market for cloud products and services," the Coalition for Government Procurement said at the time.
The contract proposal also came under scrutiny when Oracle's co-CEO Safra Catz raised the plan with President Donald Trump at a recent dinner.
"I talked to him [Trump] about what commercial customers are doing in their move to the cloud and what I understand the Pentagon's plan was: to have one cloud," Reuters reported Catz as saying at a press briefing in Tel Aviv yesterday.
“I cannot think of a single commercial enterprise that has only one cloud, it just makes no sense,” she is reported to have said in reference to the contract.
The Pentagon has held firm and showed no signs of a U-turn – in the final update to the draft proposal, published yesterday, it maintained its stance that this will be a single-award contract.
However, the extent of the concerns about the deal were revealed in a Q&A document, published alongside the revised draft, which lists anonymised comments the government has received about the proposals.
One such comment noted:
The objective of achieving commercial parity seems contrary to the duration and single award aspects of this contract. The single-award removes competition, which was the very impetus that drove the current cloud market.
Also, the potential duration for this vehicle is 10 years, nearly equal to the age of the cloud market. This duration fails to recognize how fast this market is changing… The structure of this vehicle locks DoD into one vendor for the next decade.
Another said the commercial cloud computing provider ecosystem “has evolved where clouds have become purpose-built with widely varying workload optimization”.
Some vendors are best for office productivity, while others are optimised for ERP workloads or machine learning, the submission added.
Although the DoD did clarify the contract does not cover transition and migration services – in answer to several queries – it declined to give a direct answer to questions about the single contract award.
"Does the single award apply to a single Cloud OEM (ie, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Google, etc), or does a single award also apply to an offeror who is a Cloud Broker for multiple Cloud OEMs?" asked one respondent.
"Offerors may propose any kind of teaming/partnering arrangement so long as the proposed solution meets the requirements of the solicitation," came the response, which was reiterated more than 20 times in the document.
The US government also denied that the terms of the contract – which is due to open for applications in May and is slated to be awarded by September – made it impossible for firms other than AWS, which already holds government contracts, to apply.
"The 30 day, 6 month, and 9 month after award deadlines stated will effectively prevent all but AWS from bidding on this contract. Please allow adequate time for multiple CSPs to achieve all necessary accreditations," one comment read.
To which the government replied: "Based on information revealed during market research activities, the Government disagrees that the requirement is overly restrictive. The requirement remains as stated."
In a letter published alongside the proposal, Lt Col Kaight Meyers, JEDI cloud computing program manager, also downplayed concerns about lock-in.
The JEDI Cloud is intended to be “complementary to other existing cloud initiatives”, she said, and "will not preclude the release of future contracting actions” by the department.
She added: "JEDI Cloud is only the initial step to provide the underlying foundational technologies required to maximize the capabilities of weapon systems, business systems, and data-driven decision-making for the military." ®