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US Defense Department invites four cloud firms to seek contracts for JEDI replacement system

Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle deemed worthy

After cancelling its contentious Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud contract solicitation in July, the US Department of Defense (DoD) promised a followup request for proposals to provide cloud services for national defense under a less catchy acronym, the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC).

The Pentagon at the time said its $10bn JEDI cloud contract – the award of which to Microsoft triggered a bitter legal dispute and accusations of political favoritism by spurned contender Amazon – no longer met its needs. But it added that its JWCC solicitation would be "a multi-cloud/multi-vendor Indefinite Delivery-Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract" and assured both Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that it would seek proposals from the two firms because each could meet its needs.

The DoD went further still, offering hope of recurring defense revenue to less successful cloud firms. It teased that it "will immediately engage with industry and continue its market research to determine whether any other US-based hyperscale [cloud service providers] can also meet the DoD’s requirements."

The DoD found that only a few firms have the right stuff and said it's only aware of five. Now, four of the top-tier cloud providers have been asked to tell the DoD how they can meet its needs, in the hope of being tapped for an indefinite, all-DoD-can-eat engagement.

On Friday, the DoD revealed that it had found two other JEDI-also-rans worthy of a second attempt to grab its brass ring. It revised its presoliciation guidance by inviting Google and Oracle to participate in what's gone from a winner-takes-all death-match to an everyone-wins group therapy session.

Almost everyone. Conspicuously absent from the bid invitation list the presumed fifth of the five viable US-based hyperscale cloud service providers, IBM. Nothing appears to preclude IBM from crashing the party and getting fair consideration, but its omission is notable given the noise it made in 2018 after not being asked to the JEDI dance.

"We assessed each Cloud Service Provider’s (CSP’s) ability to meet the JWCC high-level requirements and projected capability delivery schedule, as outlined in the Pre-Solicitation Notice," a spokesperson for the US Defense Department said in a statement. "We had open dialogue with US-based hyperscale CSPs and gave fair opportunity to the CSPs to submit their capability statements as they relate to the JWCC high-level requirements. We are confident that our market research was exhaustive and resulted in a fair and reasonable final determination."

The DoD's spokesperson added that just because a cloud company receives a solicitation, that doesn't guarantee it will receive an award.

“At a high level, the JWCC requirements include providing capability and parity of service at all three classification levels, integrated cross domain solutions, global availability of tactical edge environments and enhanced cybersecurity controls,” explained Danielle Metz, DoD Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Information Enterprise, in a statement.

Thomas Kurian, head of Google Cloud, clearly hoped to be invited to the Defense Department's ball. Last week, he published a blog post in which he noted that while "Google has not yet been invited to bid," the company has a long history of working with the US government and defense community and would certainly bid if asked.

Google employees in the past have protested some of those engagements. Kurian's missive can also be read as a preemptive strike against possible employee objections to taking large sums of money from the DoD.

"IBM has proudly supported America’s armed services for decades and we will continue pursuing opportunities to support the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability through our expertise in delivering hybrid, multi-cloud strategies for some of the world’s most complex organizations," a spokesperson told The Register.

Oracle also, by some strange coincidence, published a post last week about its cloud capabilities and long-standing provision of IT to the federal government.

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