The Pentagon announced today that Amazon Web Services Inc., Microsoft Corp., Google LLC and Oracle Corp. have each been awarded a share of a $9 billion cloud computing contract that will run through 2028.
The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract is aimed at delivering enterprise-wide cloud computing capabilities to the U.S. Defense Department, across all of its domains and classification levels. The four companies were competing for individual task orders, reports say. They were named as candidates for the multicloud, multivendor contract last year.
The JWCC contract was announced in July 2021 after the cancellation of a previous contract known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, which also aimed to bring commercial cloud capabilities to the DOD.
The JEDI contract was first conceptualized in 2017, with defense chiefs aiming to create a “war cloud” that would provide a common, connected global information technology fabric at all levels of classification for the DOD’s various agencies. It was designed as a single award contract with a value of $10 billion, which would have meant a single cloud provider would have been tasked with hosting and analyzing some of the U.S. military’s most sensitive data.
Following a protracted bidding process, the Pentagon awarded JEDI to Microsoft in 2019. However, it was an extremely controversial choice as many analysts had expected AWS, the leader in the public cloud infrastructure market, to win the contract. A legal battle soon followed as AWS challenged the decision. Later, Oracle also filed a lawsuit against the award.
The legal challenges prompted the Pentagon’s watchdog to conduct a review, and it ultimately ruled that there was no evidence that former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had intervened in the JEDI contract award process, as many had claimed. The Pentagon initially stuck to its guns and insisted it would proceed with Microsoft before suddenly canceling the JEDI contract in July 2020.
The Pentagon then announced the multivendor JWCC contract as a replacement, inviting AWS, Microsoft, Google and Oracle to make bids to satisfy its cloud computing requirements.
The decision to award parts of the contract to all four firms is in line with the Defense Department’s statement that it intends to rely on multiple cloud providers in the future, as opposed to just a single company. It’s a decision that analysts agree is in line with industry best practices. Most larger enterprises also rely on more than one cloud provider, choosing different companies to host workloads based on the unique capabilities of the services they offer. By using more than one cloud provider, enterprises potentially can better manage their costs and withstand any service disruptions that result from outages.
Today’s JWCC contract award is a big plus for Oracle, which many analysts believe isn’t at the same level as AWS and Microsoft. Oracle generated $900 million in revenue from its cloud infrastructure services in its fiscal first quarter ending in August, a small fraction of the $20.5 billion in revenue generated by AWS in its third quarter.
According to the DOD, the four cloud providers have each won indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts, meaning they involve an indefinite amount of services for a specific duration of time.
The U.S. government has been stepping up its investments in the cloud, with numerous multi-billion contracts awarded in recent years. In 2020, the Central Intelligence Agency announced that five companies — AWS, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM Corp. — had been awarded its Commercial Cloud Enterprise contract that could be worth tens of billions of dollars in the years to come. Under that award, the five companies will compete for task orders issued by various CIA agencies.
In April, the U.S. National Security Agency announced it was re-awarding a $10 billion cloud computing contract to AWS, after originally cancelling the award following a protest from Microsoft. The details of that contract are classified, but it’s believed to be part of the NSA’s attempt to modernize its primary classified data repository.