Jeff Bezos is just fine taking the Pentagon’s $10B JEDI cloud contract

Some tech companies might have a problem taking money from the Department of Defense, but Amazon isn’t one of them, as CEO Jeff Bezos made clear today at the Wired25 conference. Just last week, Google pulled out of the running for the Pentagon’s $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract, but Bezos suggested that he was happy […]

Some tech companies might have a problem taking money from the Department of Defense, but Amazon isn’t one of them, as CEO Jeff Bezos made clear today at the Wired25 conference. Just last week, Google pulled out of the running for the Pentagon’s $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract, but Bezos suggested that he was happy to take the government’s money.

Bezos has been surprisingly quiet about the contract up until now, but his company has certainly attracted plenty of attention from the companies competing for the JEDI deal. Just last week IBM filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office claiming that the contract was stacked in favor one vendor. And while it didn’t name it directly, the clear implication was that company was the one owned by Bezos.

Last summer Oracle also filed a protest and also complained that they believed the government had set up the contract to favor Amazon, a charge spokesperson Heather Babb denied. “The JEDI Cloud final RFP reflects the unique and critical needs of DOD, employing the best practices of competitive pricing and security. No vendors have been pre-selected,” she said last month.

While competitors are clearly worried about Amazon, which has a substantial lead in the cloud infrastructure market, the company itself has kept quiet on the deal until now. Bezos set his company’s support in patriotic terms and one of leadership.

“Sometimes one of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular. And if if big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.

“I know everyone is conflicted about the current politics in this country, but this country is a gem,” he added.

While Google tried to frame its decision as taking a principled stand against misuse of technology by the government, Bezos chose another tack, stating that all technology can be used for good or ill. “Technologies are always two-sided. You know there are ways they can be misused as well as used, and this isn’t new,” Bezos told Wired25.

He’s not wrong of course, but it’s hard not to look at the size of the contract and see it as purely a business decision on his part. Amazon is as hot for that $10 billion contract as any of its competitors. What’s different in this talk is that Bezos made it sound like a purely patriotic decision, rather than economic one.

The Pentagon’s JEDI contract could have a value of up to $10 billion with a maximum length of 10 years. The contract is framed as a two year deal with two three-year options and a final one for two years. The DOD can opt out before exercising any of the options.

Bidding for the contract closed last Friday. The DOD is expected to choose the winning vendor next April.

IBM files formal JEDI protest a day before bidding process closes

IBM announced yesterday that it has filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office over the structure of the Pentagon’s winner-take-all $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract. The protest came just a day before the bidding process is scheduled to close. As IBM put it in a blog post, they took issues with […]

IBM announced yesterday that it has filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office over the structure of the Pentagon’s winner-take-all $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud contract. The protest came just a day before the bidding process is scheduled to close. As IBM put it in a blog post, they took issues with the single vendor approach. They are certainly not alone.

Just about every vendor short of Amazon, which has remained mostly quiet, has been complaining about this strategy. IBM certainly faces a tough fight going up against Amazon and Microsoft.

IBM doesn’t disguise the fact that it thinks the contract has been written for Amazon to win and they believe the one-vendor approach simply doesn’t make sense. “No business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade. JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress and the administration, is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind.” IBM wrote in the blog post explaining why it was protesting the deal before a decision was made or the bidding was even closed.

For the record, DOD spokesperson Heather Babb told TechCrunch last month that the bidding is open and no vendor is favored. “The JEDI Cloud final RFP reflects the unique and critical needs of DOD, employing the best practices of competitive pricing and security. No vendors have been pre-selected,” she said.

Much like Oracle, which filed a protest of its own back in August, IBM is a traditional vendor that was late to the cloud. It began a journey to build a cloud business in 2013 when it purchased Infrastructure as a Service vendor SoftLayer and has been using its checkbook to buy software services to add on top of SoftLayer ever since. IBM has concentrated on building cloud services around AI, security, big data, blockchain and other emerging technologies.

Both IBM and Oracle have a problem with the one-vendor approach, especially one that locks in the government for a 10-year period. It’s worth pointing out that the contract actually is an initial two-year deal with two additional three year options and a final two year option. The DOD has left open the possibility this might not go the entire 10 years.

It’s also worth putting the contract in perspective. While 10 years and $10 billion is nothing to sneeze at, neither is it as market altering as it might appear, not when some are predicting the cloud will be $100 billion a year market very soon.

IBM uses the blog post as a kind of sales pitch as to why it’s a good choice, while at the same time pointing out the flaws in the single vendor approach and complaining that it’s geared toward a single unnamed vendor that we all know is Amazon.

The bidding process closes today, and unless something changes as a result of these protests, the winner will be selected next April

Why the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI deal has cloud companies going nuts

By now you’ve probably heard of the Defense Department’s massive winner-take-all $10 billion cloud contract dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short). Star Wars references aside, this contract is huge, even by government standards.The Pentagon would like a single cloud vendor to build out its enterprise cloud, believing rightly or wrongly that […]

By now you’ve probably heard of the Defense Department’s massive winner-take-all $10 billion cloud contract dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short).
Star Wars references aside, this contract is huge, even by government standards.The Pentagon would like a single cloud vendor to build out its enterprise cloud, believing rightly or wrongly that this is the best approach to maintain focus and control of their cloud strategy.

Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Heather Babb tells TechCrunch the department sees a lot of upside by going this route. “Single award is advantageous because, among other things, it improves security, improves data accessibility and simplifies the Department’s ability to adopt and use cloud services,” she said.

Whatever company they choose to fill this contract, this is about modernizing their computing infrastructure and their combat forces for a world of IoT, artificial intelligence and big data analysis, while consolidating some of their older infrastructure. “The DOD Cloud Initiative is part of a much larger effort to modernize the Department’s information technology enterprise. The foundation of this effort is rationalizing the number of networks, data centers and clouds that currently exist in the Department,” Babb said.

Setting the stage

It’s possible that whoever wins this DOD contract could have a leg up on other similar projects in the government. After all it’s not easy to pass muster around security and reliability with the military and if one company can prove that they are capable in this regard, they could be set up well beyond this one deal.

As Babb explains it though, it’s really about figuring out the cloud long-term. “JEDI Cloud is a pathfinder effort to help DOD learn how to put in place an enterprise cloud solution and a critical first step that enables data-driven decision making and allows DOD to take full advantage of applications and data resources,” she said.

Photo: Mischa Keijser for Getty Images

The single vendor component, however, could explain why the various cloud vendors who are bidding, have lost their minds a bit over it — everyone except Amazon, that is, which has been mostly silent, happy apparently to let the process play out.

The belief amongst the various other players, is that Amazon is in the driver’s seat for this bid, possibly because they delivered a $600 million cloud contract for the government in 2013, standing up a private cloud for the CIA. It was a big deal back in the day on a couple of levels. First of all, it was the first large-scale example of an intelligence agency using a public cloud provider. And of course the amount of money was pretty impressive for the time, not $10 billion impressive, but a nice contract.

For what it’s worth, Babb dismisses such talk, saying that the process is open and no vendor has an advantage. “The JEDI Cloud final RFP reflects the unique and critical needs of DOD, employing the best practices of competitive pricing and security. No vendors have been pre-selected,” she said.

Complaining loudly

As the Pentagon moves toward selecting its primary cloud vendor for the next decade, Oracle in particular has been complaining to anyone who will listen that Amazon has an unfair advantage in the deal, going so far as to file a formal complaint last month, even before bids were in and long before the Pentagon made its choice.

Photo: mrdoomits for Getty Images (cropped)

Somewhat ironically, given their own past business model, Oracle complained among other things that the deal would lock the department into a single platform over the long term. They also questioned whether the bidding process adhered to procurement regulations for this kind of deal, according to a report in the Washington Post. In April, Bloomberg reported that co-CEO Safra Catz complained directly to the president that the deal was tailor made for Amazon.

Microsoft hasn’t been happy about the one-vendor idea either, pointing out that by limiting itself to a single vendor, the Pentagon could be missing out on innovation from the other companies in the back and forth world of the cloud market, especially when we’re talking about a contract that stretches out for so long.

As Microsoft’s Leigh Madden told TechCrunch in April, the company is prepared to compete, but doesn’t necessarily see a single vendor approach as the best way to go. “If the DOD goes with a single award path, we are in it to win, but having said that, it’s counter to what we are seeing across the globe where 80 percent of customers are adopting a multi-cloud solution,” he said at the time.

He has a valid point, but the Pentagon seems hell bent on going forward with the single vendor idea, even though the cloud offers much greater interoperability than proprietary stacks of the 1990s (for which Oracle and Microsoft were prime examples at the time).

Microsoft has its own large DOD contract in place for almost a billion dollars, although this deal from 2016 was for Windows 10 and related hardware for DOD employees, rather than a pure cloud contract like Amazon has with the CIA.

It also recently released Azure Stack for government, a product that lets government customers install a private version of Azure with all the same tools and technologies you find in the public version, and could prove attractive as part of its JEDI bid.

Cloud market dynamics

It’s also possible that the fact that Amazon controls the largest chunk of the cloud infrastructure market, might play here at some level. While Microsoft has been coming fast, it’s still about a third of Amazon in terms of market size, as Synergy Research’s Q42017 data clearly shows.

The market hasn’t shifted dramatically since this data came out. While market share alone wouldn’t be a deciding factor, Amazon came to market first and it is much bigger in terms of market than the next four combined, according to Synergy. That could explain why the other players are lobbying so hard and seeing Amazon as the biggest threat here, because it’s probably the biggest threat in almost every deal where they come up against each other, due to its sheer size.

Consider also that Oracle, which seems to be complaining the loudest, was rather late to the cloud after years of dismissing it. They could see JEDI as a chance to establish a foothold in government that they could use to build out their cloud business in the private sector too.

10 years might not be 10 years

It’s worth pointing out that the actual deal has the complexity and opt-out clauses of a sports contract with just an initial two-year deal guaranteed. A couple of three-year options follow, with a final two-year option closing things out. The idea being, that if this turns out to be a bad idea, the Pentagon has various points where they can back out.

Photo: Henrik Sorensen for Getty Images (cropped)

In spite of the winner-take-all approach of JEDI, Babb indicated that the agency will continue to work with multiple cloud vendors no matter what happens. “DOD has and will continue to operate multiple clouds and the JEDI Cloud will be a key component of the department’s overall cloud strategy. The scale of our missions will require DOD to have multiple clouds from multiple vendors,” she said.

The DOD accepted final bids in August, then extended the deadline for Requests for Proposal to October 9th. Unless the deadline gets extended again, we’re probably going to finally hear who the lucky company is sometime in the coming weeks, and chances are there is going to be lot of whining and continued maneuvering from the losers when that happens.

Google adds new features to help U.S. veterans find jobs or highlight their businesses

Google wants to make the transition back into civilian life smoother for U.S. military veterans by adding tools that help them find jobs or promote their businesses. One new feature is an initiative of Grow with Google, the company’s career development program. It helps veterans discover job openings relevant to the skills they learned while […]

Google wants to make the transition back into civilian life smoother for U.S. military veterans by adding tools that help them find jobs or promote their businesses.

One new feature is an initiative of Grow with Google, the company’s career development program. It helps veterans discover job openings relevant to the skills they learned while serving by entering the phrase “jobs for veterans” into Google’s search engine along with their military job codes. Employers and job boards can also enable the feature on their own sites by using Google’s Cloud Talent Solution, a machine-learning based job search platform.

In a Google announcement, Matthew Hudson, a Google Cloud program manager and former Air Force civil engineer who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote that veterans often miss out on opportunities because “there isn’t a common language that helps recruiters match a veteran’s experience with the need for their skills and leadership in civilian jobs. As a result, 1 in 3 veterans—of the roughly 250,000 service members who transition out of the military each year—end up taking jobs well below their skill level.”

For veterans who founded, own or lead a business, Google has added a new attribute to help identify them on Google My Business, Google Maps and mobile search listings. In a blog post, Google data scientist and former U.S. Army staff sergeant Sean O’Keefe wrote that more than 2.5 million businesses in the U.S. are majority-owned by veterans. The “Veteran-Led” attribute badge will appear on Google business listings alongside other attributes like “Has Wifi” or “Family Friendly.”

The company also said Google.org, its charity initiative, will grant $2.5 million to the United Service Organizations (USO) to provide IT training, career support and Google Support Professional Certification, a course designed to prepare people for entry-level IT support jobs.

US targets 2020 for the creation of a Space Force

In a speech before the Department of Defense at the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence outlined the broad contours of the new Space Force that the Trump administration wants to create as the sixth branch of the U.S. military. Emphasizing the need to both further militarize and privatize space as a new war-fighting domain, […]

In a speech before the Department of Defense at the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence outlined the broad contours of the new Space Force that the Trump administration wants to create as the sixth branch of the U.S. military.

Emphasizing the need to both further militarize and privatize space as a new war-fighting domain, Pence stressed that the new branch of the military is targeted for a 2020 implementation date. The administration is pushing for $8 billion in new space spending.

“While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, private property and the rule of law,” said Pence. “As we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom into this new frontier.”

Pence cited threats from North Korea, Russia, China and Iran to the safety of the U.S. space program.

Newer threats include the Chinese government’s 2007 launch of a satellite-destroying missile and the development of hypersonic missiles that can evade U.S. missile defense capabilities. The Chinese government has set up a separate division within its own military to address space as a war-fighting domain, Pence said. “Our adversaries have transformed space into a war-fighting domain already.”

“It is not enough to have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Pence said quoting the president. “What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial.”

To advance its goals of creating the new Space Force, the Trump administration had commissioned the Department of Defense to issue a report on the necessary steps to create the new military branch.

The creation of a new branch of the military — the first since the Air Force was created in the wake of World War II in 1947 — could require a significant reorganization of the Pentagon. And some officials within the military and national security communities fiercely oppose the idea. The Air Force in particular is opposed to the idea, because it might lose key responsibilities. The proposal would also need congressional approval.

In a report that will be issued later today, the DOD outlined four steps.

The first is the creation of a United States Space Command that will coordinate the nation’s space-fighting capabilities. Pence likened it to the special operations command established in the 1980s that provided unified command and control capabilities for mobilizing terrestrial air, sea and land forces. “This new command structure for the physical domain of space, led by a four-star flag officer will… develop the space war-fighting doctrine and tactics of the future.”

As part of the space plan, the Department of Defense will also create a new space operations force that will be “an elite group of joint war fighters specializing in the war-fighting domains of space,” according to Pence. They’ll support the space combat and command and carry out space missions.

Third, a new joint organization called the Space Development Agency will be created to develop new technologies for the space force. “While our adversaries have been busy weaponizing space, we have been bureaucratizing it,” Pence said. He pointed to the creation of the intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Navy’s nuclear fleet as examples of American military innovation and achievement from past initiatives.

(It’s a good thing he didn’t bring up the Air Force’s “half-a-trillion-dollar drone boondoggle” of a new fighter plane.)

Finally, the process of creating the new organization will require oversight, which will include the creation of a new civilian position that will report to the secretary of defense, Pence said. That position will be called the assistant secretary of defense of space.

“Just as we’ve done in ages past, the United States will meet the emerging threats on this new battlefield,” Pence said. “The time has come to establish the United States Space Force.”

Geolocators on fitness trackers are no longer allowed by US military personnel

The U.S. military is no longer allowing the use of geolocators on fitness devices such as Apple Watch. The move affects personnel in “operational areas.”

Back in January, the Pentagon said it would be reviewing policies that related to geolocators on fitness trackers such as Apple Watch and Fitbit devices. It has now decided to ban the use of that technology on trackers for all deployed military personnel, regardless of their location. The move comes after the popular Strava fitness app may have inadvertently revealed secret locations of security forces around the world.... Read the rest of this post here


"Geolocators on fitness trackers are no longer allowed by US military personnel" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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