US Pentagon aerial view
Image: icholakov/Adobe Stock

The U.S. Department of Defense is not slowing down in committing substantial financial investment to revamp its cloud services across security domains at all levels.

There has been some debate over which cloud provider would best handle the financial investments in cloud services for the Pentagon. This has generated a tussle among giant cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle. In recent years, these hyper-scale cloud providers have all been caught up in trying to outwrestle each other in a bid to strike a cloud deal with the Pentagon.

In what could come as a surprise to many tech observers, the Pentagon has announced that it has reached a $9 billion cloud computing deal with Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle. The Pentagon says the deal provides it with “enterprise-wide globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge.”

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The announcement is the outcome of the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability effort with the  Defense Department to rely on multi-cloud provisions. The move is a total departure from the single-company partnership witnessed under Trump’s administration, which saw the Pentagon working solely with Microsoft.

Before this announcement, in 2019, the Pentagon had awarded the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure to Microsoft. The deal came in the face of competition from AWS and Oracle, raising many eyebrows, and it was greeted with a lawsuit from Amazon and Oracle. Following continuous litigation over the JEDI contract, the Pentagon decided to terminate the exclusive contract with Microsoft in 2021 and look for other ways to procure cloud services.

Why did the government terminate its JEDI contract?

In 2021, the Pentagon announced the creation of the JWCC contract to replace the JEDI contract. The JWCC was intended to be a multi-vendor acquisition model designed to make cloud services and capabilities available at all classification levels and across all security domains, from the enterprise to the tactical edge.

Back in July 2021, the Pentagon expected only two cloud service providers to qualify to bid on the JWCC procurement deal. However, after market research to determine which cloud service providers qualified to receive direct solicitations, five were considered and four received the solicitations in November 2021. As a result of this development, the Pentagon asked for bids from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle to address the Pentagon cloud needs.

While the inclusion of AWS, Microsoft and Google in this deal may not raise a lot of dust among tech analysts, as they are the leading cloud infrastructure providers in the cloud market chain, the same cannot be said about the inclusion of Oracle. A recent Statista Q3 survey of cloud leader market shares revealed that Amazon, Microsoft and Google dominate the market: Amazon has a 34% market share, Microsoft 21%, Google 11% and Oracle 2%. With this report, it is difficult to point to the defining yardstick for measuring the suitability of each cloud provider for the deal.

Regardless of each company’s position in the cloud market, the Pentagon has made every one of them an equal player in this cloud deal. All four companies have won indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts, meaning that they can involve an indefinite amount of services for a specific period of time. The estimated completion date for the contract is June 8, 2028.

Could this be a deal breaker for multi-cloud proponents?

This deal could prove that multi-cloud adoption is now a norm among business organizations. In a recent Deloitte U.S. Future of Cloud Survey Report, of the 500 senior cloud decision-makers surveyed, 79% agreed that they prefer to work with more than one cloud provider. Most of the leaders surveyed also stated that it is common to partner with three or four cloud providers.

According to a 2022 HashiCorp survey, 90% of organizations claimed success with their multi-cloud strategy. In addition, the survey reported some of the top benefits of the multi-cloud approach, which include more choice of services, application and data processing scalability, and more flexibility in choosing the cost of cloud service.

All these could inform the reason behind the Pentagon’s decision to adopt a multi-cloud approach in this contract. However, given that this contract cuts across the Pentagon’s cloud services security domains, many would argue that this approach could make the U.S. more vulnerable to cyberwarfare.

Speaking of five-sided things: Check out our top 5 trends to watch in cloud computing. We look at edge expansion, compliance, infrastructures, AI/ML and green initiatives.

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