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December 8, 2022

Hyperscalers clean up in Pentagon’s $9bn multi-cloud Jedi replacement

Four cloud giants will share a bumper contract awarded by the US Department of Defence after years of wrangling.

By Matthew Gooding

The cloud hyperscalers – Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud – along with Oracle, will share a bumper $9bn US Department of Defense (DoD) cloud contract. The multi-cloud agreement is a replacement for the Pentagon’s doomed Jedi scheme – a monolithic $10bn plan which was cancelled after it became mired in litigation.

Four companies are sharing a $9bn US Department of Defence cloud contract (pic: Bumble Dee/Shutterstock)

It was announced yesterday that the terrifying-sounding Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) had been awarded to the quartet. The four deals have a shared ceiling of $9bn, a DoD spokesperson said.

JWCC contract: what the DoD is doing in the cloud

A DoD statement explained the contract will provide it with “the opportunity to acquire commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial cloud service providers at the speed of mission, at all classification levels, from headquarters to the tactical edge.” 

Through the contract, US defence agencies will benefit from “commercial pricing, or better, and streamlined provisioning of cloud services,” the statement added.#

Services cited as being available through the deal include elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure, advanced data analytics, fortified security and tactical edge devices. Though full details of the contract haven’t been revealed, the cloud vendors are likely to provide separate services for different parts of the contract, rather than collaborating on one platform.

Defence contracts are highly prised by cloud companies because they show a provider can be trusted working with highly sensitive information, and also because of the budgets on offer, particularly in the US. Indeed, experts say these commercial benefits usually trump any ethical or reputational issues that doing deals with the sector might raise.

Speaking to Tech Monitor earlier this year, Lucy Suchman, professor of anthropology of science and technology at Lancaster University, said: “Given the extraordinary resources allocated to the US Department of Defense, the logics of market expansion push Google and other tech companies into that aren. It would take an uncompromising, committed stance on the part of Google management to stay out of military contracting.”

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The force is no longer with Jedi

The award of the JWCC means the DoD’s Jedi scheme is now firmly consigned to the dustbin of history.

The $10bn contract was meant to see DoD IT systems replaced with a single cloud platform capable of hosting classified information as well as offering AI-powered intelligence services for the US government agencies.

Amazon had been the favourite to land the Jedi contract through AWS, but when it was awarded in 2019 it went to Microsoft instead. Amazon argued that then US President Donald Trump’s animosity towards the company and its founder Jeff Bezos played a part in it missing out on the deal, and subsequently launched litigation. “Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement,” an Amazon spokesperson said the at the time.

After much back and forth, Jedi was cancelled in July 2021, when the DoD announced it would be seeking multiple providers to replace it.

The new arrangement also reflects the reality for many businesses and public sector organisations, with have moved away from using a single cloud provider to multi-cloud set-ups, embracing different public and private cloud platforms depending on the needs of their team. Research from Flexera shows that only 8% of companies seek a single cloud provider, with the vast majority opting for a more flexible multi-cloud arrangement.

Read more: Hacktivists working with the GRU in Ukraine war

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