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Microsoft Looks To Forge JEDI-Style Cloud Deals With Foreign Governments: Report

While waiting to see if it survives AWS’ challenge to its prestigious contract with the Pentagon, the second-largest public cloud provider has opened discussions, and even signed contracts, with foreign military and intelligence services looking for similar cloud services packages, CNBC reports.

While waiting for Amazon’s legal challenge against its win of the U.S. military’s JEDI cloud contract to play out, Microsoft has been engaging in discussions to provide similar cloud infrastructure services to foreign military and intelligence agencies, CNBC reported Friday.

The second-largest public cloud provider is fielding interest from several governments looking to adopt Azure public cloud capabilities in the vein that Microsoft has been packaging—but legally stalled from deploying—for the U.S. Department of Defense, the business news channel reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

Microsoft plans to reveal that concerted effort later in the year, according to CNBC. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech behemoth has not only garnered interest from foreign intelligence agencies and armed forces, but has already inked some contracts.

[Related: Microsoft VP Asks AWS To ‘Stand Down’ On JEDI Cloud Protests]

Microsoft declined to comment to CRN on the CNBC report.

Microsoft was selected the vendor to deliver on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative in October of 2019. AWS, which had been favored to receive the prestigious contract potentially amounting to $10 billion in cloud services over the next few years, later sued the government.

In the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Amazon argued President Donald Trump’s animosity against founder and CEO Jeff Bezos created an evaluation process riddled with errors that should be interpreted as evidence of political interference.

Amazon’s legal team convinced Judge Patricia E Campbell-Smith to order Microsoft not to move forward with task orders and implementation of the massive cloud transformation initiative.

Campbell-Smith cited a single deficiency in Microsoft’s nearline storage capabilities, and at the request of the Pentagon, remanded the procurement for 120 days back to the military for corrective action. Since then, Pentagon leaders have amended their RFP—changes, as is the rule for such protests, not revealed to the public.

The deadline for changes to its decision was supposed to come earlier this week, but the Pentagon asked for 30 more days to come to a decision on whether it would stay with Microsoft for the entirety of the contract.

JEDI hasn’t been Microsoft’s only U.S. military win.

In January of 2019, Microsoft won a lucrative contract to provide IT consulting and support services to various branches within the U.S. Department of Defense. That award, which could total $1.76 billion, came a month after six large government-focused solution providers received blanket purchase agreements from the U.S. Navy for Microsoft software licenses and subscriptions.

Microsoft’s work with the U.S. military hasn’t been without controversy.

The company had to push back against an anonymous protest from some employees in October of 2018, who feared the JEDI engagement would unethically deploy Microsoft’s artificial intelligence capabilities for lethal purposes.

In response to those employees, Microsoft President Brad Smith argued the company has a duty to supply those who serve in the military with the best technology—then engage in the conversation over its ethical use in war.

“As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war,” Smith said.

But to avoid such a disastrous scenario, technology leaders must have a seat at the table.

“We can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation,” Smith said.

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