$9B Pentagon Cloud Contract Cuts Out Resellers, Could Involve SIs

“There‘s opportunities, I think, in this arena for systems integrators to partner with mission partners,” Sharon Woods of the Defense Information Systems Agency said Thursday.


System integrators could play a role in the $9 billion Department of Defense cloud contract vehicle awarded to four major cloud vendors this week, the culmination of a 17-month process, according to DoD leaders who spoke at a press conference Thursday.

The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) project, however, does cut out resellers to give the DoD direct access to the four cloud vendors – Google, Oracle, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft.

During the press conference, Sharon Woods, executive director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)’s Cloud Computing Program Office (CCPO), said that integrators might help prevent vendor lock-in for mission partners.

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“I think, from a vendor lock perspective, what’s important is how the application itself is built,” Woods said. “Applications can be built vendor agnostic. And this goes toward the increasing maturity of the department, making sure that, for instance, there’s opportunities, I think, in this arena for systems integrators to partner with mission partners, to help them build their applications in a way that is more vendor agnostic so that they can move their data around the different cloud environments and be able to have that portability.”

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DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said during the press conference that the project cuts out resellers, however.

“What this brings us is direct access to these cloud service providers without going through an intermediary or reseller,” Sherman said. “This creates for more efficient and effective leveraging of these capabilities. And this is something we’re very excited about.”

The JWCC is meant to bring new cloud computing capabilities to U.S. military efforts. The department gains “cutting-edge cloud capabilities” and cloud computing at all three security classification levels – unclassified, secret and top secret – and spanning the continental U.S. to the “tactical edge” of Eastern Europe, for example, or on a ship, Sherman said.

It also helps the U.S. military keep pace with China and opens up more possibilities for artificial intelligence and machine learning use by the department.

The JWCC should “help our warfighters – our women and men in uniform, as well as civilians and others who support them – and working with allies, too, by the way, to be able to make sense of their environment and to be able to make calculations and be able to live and excel and maneuver and fight and win in a digital environment,” he said.

DoD Deputy CIO for Information Environment Lily Zeleke said during the conference that JWCC should also help more partners adopt zero trust security policies.

The benefit of awarding multiple vendors the contract vehicle – as opposed to just Microsoft, under the JWCC’s predecessor, JEDI, which became mired in litigation – is the ability to choose the best cloud and vendor for a particular job and to save money on costs as each of the four cloud vendors will have to compete on each individual task order.

“It creates more offerings, different best-athlete capabilities with the multi-cloud multi-vendor approach, which is now common throughout industry and elsewhere,” he said.

The vendors have also evolved in classified cloud computing and edge computing services in the last couple of years, Woods said.

The department will push to put as many workloads on the cloud as it can, but it will ultimately largely operate as a hybrid environment, Sherman said.

When the vendors compete over an individual task order, they will still face the typical government evaluation team. But the JWCC should speed up the acquisition process, Woods said. Her hope is that individual task orders take weeks or a few months to award task orders. The size of the task order will also dictate if one of the four vendors can protest if they lose out on an individual order.

The four cloud vendors will share in the $9 billion budget ceiling, Air Force Lt. Gen. and DISA Director Robert Skinner said during the press conference. However, each vendor is guaranteed $100,000 as part of the contract.

Some of the vendors released statements following the JWCC contract vehicle awarding.

In an online post, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said it is prepared to “help deliver mission-critical 21st century technology to our nation’s service members and strengthen U.S. national security. The selection is another clear demonstration of the trust the DoD places in Microsoft and our technologies.”

Part of preparing for the military’s requirements include the building of Azure Government Secret and Azure Government Top Secret classified clouds, designing ruggedized edge devices and expanding Azure Space and 5G capabilities.

“We believe the multi-cloud approach for JWCC is the right one for the DoD’s enterprise infrastructure,” according to Microsoft. “Multi-cloud is already an established best practice in the commercial industry because it enables organizations to maximize flexibility, enhance resiliency and access the best technologies across providers. With comprehensive infrastructure and data management solutions like Azure Arc, Microsoft Purview and Defender for Cloud, Microsoft will be a key partner to the DoD as they navigate the multi-cloud environment and ensure seamless interoperability of systems and services.”

In a statement to CRN, Oracle Executive Vice President Ken Glueck said that the Austin, Texas-based cloud and database products vendor “looks forward to continuing its long history of success with the Department of Defense by providing our highly performant, secure, and cost-effective cloud infrastructure.”

“Built to enable interoperability, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure will help drive the DoD’s multicloud innovation and ensure that our defense and intelligence communities have the best technology available to protect and preserve our national security,” Glueck said.

In a statement to CRN, a spokesperson for Seattle-based AWS said, “We are honored to have been selected for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract and look forward to continuing our support for the Department of Defense.”

“From the enterprise to the tactical edge, we are ready to deliver industry-leading cloud services to enable the DoD to achieve its critical mission,” according to the statement.

The possibility of another protest over the contract vehicle is not why the DoD awarded four cloud vendors, Skinner said.

“With any contract a protest is possible,” he said. “What we really focused on was, here are the requirements that the department needs. And based on those requirements, we did an evaluation, we did market research, we did an evaluation to see which CSPs (cloud services providers), U.S.-based CSPs, were able to meet those requirements. And that‘s how we made the decision. The decision of, based on whether there’s a protest or not, really did play into it. Because we want to focus on the requirements that could meet those requirements.”

Notably absent from the accepted hyperscale cloud vendors is Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM.

When asked about IBM, Woods said, “We took a hard look at the marketplace, and we did our due diligence with proposals.”

“Ultimately, it came down to based on our analysis who could best meet the requirements,” she said. “IBM was not invited to the proposal process.”

CRN has reached out to IBM for comment.

Back in November, when IBM was not included on the list of cloud hyperscalers to receive solicitations from the Pentagon, IBM said in a statement: “IBM has proudly supported America’s armed services for decades and we will continue pursuing opportunities to support the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability through our expertise in delivering hybrid, multi-cloud strategies for some of the world‘s most complex organizations.”