AWS and Microsoft are the last two standing in a winner-takes-all fight for a $10 billion (£7.9 billion) cloud computing contract with the United States Department of Defense, after Oracle’s bid to stay in the running was thrown out of court on Friday.
The winner will provide department-wide cloud services that will underpin new AI-powered war-fighting capabilities, via a common cloud environment. A decision on the mammoth cloud contract is now expected within weeks.
The two finalists for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract were announced in April, but Oracle had launched a legal appeal against the decision, alleging conflicts of interest and other issues in how the procurement was handled.
Late Friday the Court of Federal Claims threw the appeal out.
AWS on Oracle’s Case: “Meritless and Desperate”
Oracle had alleged conflicts of interest on the part of Defense Department officials who were later hired by Amazon, claiming the “revolving-door” hires undermined the integrity of the JEDI contract procurement; allegations rejected by the court. The company had also claimed a single-award would cost taxpayers more.
The decision was welcomed by AWS, which described the case as “meritless” and a “desperate attempt to distort the facts”.
Pentagon lawyers told the court: “Oracle has failed to demonstrate any irrationality in the contracting officer’s business judgment that a single-award approach would result in more favorable pricing terms than a multiple-award approach.”
Defending the decision to winnow down the field, they added: “Contrary to the suggestion in its supplemental brief, Oracle is not in the same class as Microsoft and AWS when it comes to providing commercial IaaS and PaaS cloud services.”
Oracle responded: “Oracle’s cloud infrastructure 2.0 provides significant performance and security capabilities over legacy cloud providers. We look forward to working with the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and other public sector agencies to deploy modern, secure hyperscale cloud solutions that meet their needs.”
JEDI Contract: AWS, Azure Left Standing
An Amazon spokesperson said: “AWS, along with our partner community, stands ready to support and serve what’s most important – the DoD’s mission of protecting the security of our country. The DoD deserves access to the best technology in the world and we are unwavering in our support to their mission.”
The Pentagon currently has more than 3.4 million end users, four million endpoint devices, 1,700 different data centers and 500 cloud initiatives.
In letter to Congress leaked to Fedscoop in May, Pentagon Chief Management Officer John Gibson said the DoD wants to pool data in a single cloud that can serve as the foundation for the department’s adoption of AI-powered defense techniques.
“Leveraging ML/AI at a tempo required to be relevant to warfighters, however, requires significant computing and data storage in a common environment,” the letter says, defending the decision to award the contract to a single supplier.
He added: “The DoD therefore must rapidly adopt the critical foundational technologies available in commercial cloud computing and storage, while eliminating considerable technical debt and security risk.”