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Google Cloud Wins Multimillion-Dollar Pentagon Cybersecurity Contract

The third-largest public cloud provider has secured a seven-figure contract from the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit to implement ‘zero trust’ security across a multi-cloud environment managed by its Anthos Kubernetes platform. Previously, internal dissent had caused Google to pull away from DoD engagements.

Google’s cloud division revealed Wednesday it has won a Pentagon contract to upgrade the military’s cybersecurity posture with a multi-cloud solution built on Anthos, its new Kubernetes platform.

Google said the award comes through the Defense Innovation Unit, which is looking to the third-largest public cloud provider to help defend against cyber threats by implementing a ‘zero trust’ security environment.

The contract lands in the seven-figures, but Google hopes that multimillion-dollar engagement is just a prelude to a larger future deal. Axios first broke news of the award.

[Related: Google Cloud Trumpets New Security Capabilities At Next ’19 UK]

By building on Anthos, DIU will “run web services and applications across Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure—while being centrally managed from the Google Cloud Console,” Google said.

“The solution will provide real-time network monitoring, access control, and full audit trails, enabling DIU to maintain its strict cloud security posture without compromising speed and reliability.”

Mike Daniels, Google Cloud vice president for public sector, said, “multi-cloud is the future” and now the shift toward multi-cloud infrastructure is “coming to the federal government.”

Google’s multi-cloud technology will enable the Defense Innovation Unit, formed in 2015 to drive military adoption of cutting-edge commercial technologies, to establish a zero-trust network for the agency’s IT resources, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of ‘zero trust’—a design architecture that maintains tight access controls, Daniels said. The crisis has dispersed workforces, revealing the inherent flaws in “moat-based security,” Daniels said.

“This contract with the DIU is a strong signal that the time is now to implement 'zero-trust' security,” he said.

While Google’s contract is with the DIU, the cloud provider expects the larger Department of Defense will see it as a model for how to boost its security posture, Daniels said.

Google’s relationship with the military has been rocky at times in recent years.

When Google withdrew from bidding on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) initiative in late 2018, the company criticized the Pentagon’s decision to go with a single cloud vendor for that potentially $10 billion cloud transformation of military IT systems. Microsoft later won the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure award, though it remains locked in a court-challenge from Amazon Web Services.

At the time, a Google spokesperson said, "Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload."

The relationship had already been strained by internal dissent.

Just before pulling out of the JEDI pack, in June of 2018, Google declined to renew its contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, a program for speeding up analysis of drone footage by leveraging artificial intelligence to classify images of objects and people.

Several Google employees reportedly resigned in protest over the cloud giant's role in the controversial military program, prompting that decision.

Google echoed those concerns when it opted out of JEDI bidding, saying it wasn't sure technology expected by that initiative "would align with our AI Principles."

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