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Google Withdraws From JEDI Bidding, Criticizes Military Decision For Single Cloud Vendor

The third-largest public cloud services provider echoed concerns it raised when abandoning another military contract, saying the Pentagon's use of its artificial intelligence technology might not align with the company's values.

The pack of competitors vying for a lucrative deal to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon thinned Monday as Google, the third-largest public cloud provider, said it had dropped out of contention for the multi-billion-dollar contract.

The JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) initiative has been a lightning rod of controversy, stoking acrimony and heated debate among technology stalwarts, most notably Oracle and Amazon Web Services.

Unlike those companies, Google hasn't been prominent in the JEDI debate, despite reports that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was partly convinced of the wisdom of migrating to a commercial cloud provider to host military infrastructure in a meeting with Google founder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai.

[Related: As JEDI Contract Looms, Microsoft Reveals Azure Stack for Government]

Because Google hasn't been a vocal contender, its decision to pull out of the contest probably doesn't impact the state of the race much. But the comments it made explaining that decision could still be impactful to the JEDI process.

Google's statement joined the public criticism of the winner-take-all approach, a refrain that Oracle and allies that have joined its cause have repeated for several months.

"Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it. 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," a spokesperson for the company said.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is a member of the Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council's IT Alliance for Public Sector, a consortium that's comprised of all the cloud providers involved in the dispute.

The coalition has argued a multi-cloud approach would adhere to best practices for ensuring price competitiveness and avoiding vendor lock-in.

But the Pentagon doesn't share concerns about awarding the entirety of the contract to a single provider, and military leaders have resisted calls to change the nature of the award.

Pentagon brass have said any threat of vendor lock-in can be mitigated by demanding submitted RFPs that include plans that enable the military within two years to switch to another provider. Leveraging application containers is one way, the military believes, it can migrate if it decides not to commit to three- and five-year extensions stipulated in the contract.

They have argued that multiple providers will increase security management challenges and make data less accessible to U.S. forces deployed in remote settings, such as naval vessels.

In June, Google revealed it would not 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.

That decision was made after several Google employees reportedly resigned in protest over the cloud giant's role in the controversial military program.

In the latest step back from the military contracting business, Google echoed those concerns, saying it wasn't sure that technology delivered for JEDI "would align with our AI principles," the Google spokesperson said.

Google also said portions of the contract weren't within the scope of its government certifications.

Oracle and its allies have argued the contract was engineered to rule out all providers but those that work with Amazon.

Insiders with expertise in the government procurement process told CRN there are plenty of tell-tale signs the RFP was written with one vendor in mind—only AWS currently meets all the nuanced demands for regional availability, certifications, specs for hardware used in cloud instances, and feature availability across Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service.

Just weeks into the bidding process, Oracle lodged a protest challenging the winner-take-all award with the Government Accountability Office. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company filed a supplemental protest on the same day military officials posted answers to hundreds of questions about the bidding process.

According to Bloomberg, which cited internal emails, the coalition opposing Amazon consists of nine companies: SAP America, General Dynamics Corp.’s CSRA unit, Red Hat Inc., and VMware Inc. joined with Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Dell Technologies, and HPE to oppose the terms of the deal as it stands.

"At a time when new technology is constantly becoming available, customers should have the ability to take advantage of that innovation. We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements," the Google spokesperson said.

After several delays, the deadline for finals bids has been pushed back to the end of this week.

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