Cloud provider claims politics influenced decision to give Azure $10 billion JEDI project
The controversy surrounding the Department of Defense’s JEDI cloud project ramped up a notch this month with Amazon Web Services (AWS) protesting the government’s awarding of the $10 billion contract to rival Microsoft Azure.
The Lowdown: AWS, the dominant player in the boom public cloud market, late last week filed the paperwork announcing its intent to protest the DoD’s decision regarding the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, and AWS CEO Andy Jassy told employees of the decision during a company meeting Nov. 14, according to The Federal Times.
The Details: AWS was considered the front-runner for the 10-year contract to build and manage the cloud environment that the Defense Department will use to store and share data and leverage advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), but in a surprise move, the government late last month awarded the deal to Azure. Under the terms of the contract, Microsoft will be responsible for providing a highly secure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) environment to support the Pentagon’s war and business operations.
At the center of AWS’ protest is the belief that the injection of politics into the contract process is what led to Microsoft getting awarded the project. An Amazon spokesperson told Reuters that is was impossible for the process to be fair with President Trump disparaging both the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, a vocal critic of the president.
The Impact: The $10 million contract promises to have a huge impact on Microsoft’s cloud business. AWS, a first-mover in the public cloud space, owns about a 33% share of the market, more than the next few vendors – including Azure and Google Cloud – combined, according to Synergy Research Group. Azure getting the contract takes Microsoft out of the list of also-rans and significantly steps up its efforts to chip away at AWS’ dominant position.
Background: The process for awarding the JEDI contract has been an ongoing source of turmoil and debate, not only among the cloud service providers vying for the contract but also at the highest levels of the federal government. Earlier this year, the number of contenders was cut from four to two, with Oracle and IBM – the two that were cut – both filing protests, decrying the process, and claiming the criteria was set up to favor AWS. A federal court eventually threw out a court challenge by Oracle.
Trump was not the only politician to weigh in on the matter. Other Republican politicians, including Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida, questioned the DoD’s decision to award such a massive contract to a single provider. According to a new book by Guy Snodgrass, a speechwriter for former Defense Secretary James Mattis, Trump allegedly told Mattis to “screw” Amazon out of the contract, something Mattis reportedly refused to do.
The Buzz: “AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” AWS said in a statement to the media. “We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias—and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”
“I am confident it was conducted freely and fairly, without any type of outside influence,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a press conference in South Korea, according to Reuters.