clouds and data (vectorfusionart/


JEDI award signals rise of hybrid cloud

The Oct. 25 award of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft may signal a change in the Defense Department's approach to the cloud, according to government IT industry watchers.

Amazon Web Services was considered the frontrunner in the JEDI competition. It is the largest commercial cloud provider in the marketplace and has experience running a top secret impact level 6 cloud for the CIA. So when the Pentagon went looking in November 2017 for a single vendor to supply secure, general purpose cloud services to the warfighter, AWS seemed to be the obvious choice.

JEDI remained a single-award contract throughout the procurement process, but DOD officials also increasingly spoke of it as one of many strategies for a department that already has multiple clouds at its disposal.

"The strategy behind JEDI that made perfect sense three or four years ago may well be overtaken by the dynamics of the marketplace," Stan Soloway, a former senior defense acquisition official and former head of the Professional Services Council, told FCW, a partner site of Defense Systems. Advances in cloud technology are making data and applications increasingly interoperable between clouds.

“DOD’s evolving cloud preferences seemed to shift the JEDI competition in favor of Microsoft’s hybrid cloud approach that blends existing IT infrastructures with new cloud systems while leveraging partners to a greater degree in the migration process,” John Caucis, public sector IT senior analyst at Technology Business Research, wrote in a note for clients Monday.

That would fall in line with indications over this year that “DOD’s cloud migration strategy was increasingly favoring a more piecemeal and unhurried transition to the cloud,” Caucis said.

“They’ve seen the movement in technology, they’ve seen the transformation of technology, they’ve seen each new era of technology,” said James Bach, federal technology contracts analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It makes sense that [DOD] would want to have a partner that knows the environment very well. Not to say Amazon doesn’t have the capability or doesn’t have the experience in some of those areas. But on that front, Microsoft has the advantage.”

Microsoft already has a win of sorts on the DOD commercial cloud front through the $7.6 billion Defense Enterprise Office Solutions contract for calendar, email and other collaboration services. DEOS will go to a federal systems integrator as a prime, but whichever company wins the redo of that contract after a protest will roll out Microsoft Office 365 services throughout DOD.

“It undercuts the notion that Amazon Web Services is the only provider of these services and that’s important, because now when another agency looks to set up a big cloud infrastructure vehicle, they’re going to have two studies in it,” Bach told Washington Technology, another sibling site of Defense Systems. “It’s a pretty big statement on where the cloud market has gone since 2013. Back then it was all Amazon and all cutting costs. “The other part of the discussion is who has the best technology to build workloads and applications on, and there might be a more robust discussion on where they want to go for that.”

As for JEDI, the award -- and DOD's cloud plans -- may not be in the clear yet. AWS could request a debriefing from the Department of Defense to explain its decision and possibly extend a dispute into 2020.

"Amazon and Microsoft...know what the criteria are against which they were being evaluated," said Professional Services Council President and CEO David Berteau on an Oct. 28 call with reporters. "What they don't know is how the government scored either bidder against those, and a good debrief will provide both the process for that scoring and the outcomes of that scoring for all criteria."

But if the debrief doesn't provide clear answers to whether a company lost, protests are the next best option to potentially get a look at the agency's contracting documents. That allows companies to evaluate whether to continue with a protest, amend a protest or sue in the Court of Federal Claims.

Companies have 10 days after a debrief to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office and once a protest is filed, GAO is on a 100-day clock to render a decision.

Portions of this article were first posted to FCW and Washington Technology, both sibling sites of Defense Systems.

About the Authors

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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