JEDI Update: Sifting Through the Oracle-Microsoft-AWS Drama
The drama surrounding the federal government’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud initiative roils on, even as the project itself now has fallen more than a year behind target rollout dates.
For starters, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Defense are working to toss Oracle’s lawsuit now that the JEDI contract has gone to Microsoft.
Oracle first sued early last year, claiming the government should award the initiative to more than one vendor. It also has since secondarily alleged that certain Defense Department officials had a conflict of interest that would favor Amazon Web Services.
Now, though, federal attorneys are arguing that most of Oracle’s case turned “moot” once JEDI went to Microsoft, and say it’s time for the lawsuit to go to pasture.
“Oracle requested that AWS be eliminated from the JEDI competition, and DoD has effectively granted this relief, albeit for different reasons, by the award to Microsoft,” DoD and Justice Department attorneys wrote, according to Federal News Network, in a late December brief to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Meanwhile, the AWS case protesting the award to Microsoft continues. FedScoop notes that the DoD and Microsoft have agreed to hold off on work under JEDI, minus so-called “initial preparatory activities,” until Feb. 11 — more than a year behind the Pentagon’s original schedule for JEDI, as NextGov notes.
The idea is that the federal claims court will settle AWS’ dispute by mid-February and Microsoft will be able to freely work on JEDI. Last month, Dana Deasy, the DoD’s chief information officer, said the agency and Microsoft will implement the unclassified portions of JEDI as soon as February; classified aspects are expected to start this coming fall, according to multiple reports.
On that note, Microsoft late last month secured what The Washington Post calls an “obscure” DoD IT certification that will allow it to store classified data in the cloud. The certification lasts for three months; the government will consider a longer accreditation after the initial period ends. Prior to these developments, only AWS held that credential — and remains the sole cloud provider that can store data in the cloud at the top-secret level, according to the Post.
So far, AWS has not requested a preliminary injunction that would bar Microsoft from starting work on JEDI next month. As such, even as AWS tries to duke it out against the government in court, Microsoft is busy staffing up for JEDI and applying for employee security clearances. CNBC reported in December that Microsoft is trying to lure workers from defense contractors and other companies to get the people it needs to implement and run JEDI. Clearances can mean a 20-30% increase in salary, CNBC reported.
Microsoft landed the much-coveted JEDI project in late October after months of speculation that the deal would go to AWS. When Microsoft secured JEDI, industry observers said President Trump influenced the outcome — he has a longstanding public beef with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, a media outlet critical of Trump.
However, one commentator says the award to Microsoft has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Microsoft’s approach to cloud, as well as the company’s history serving government agencies. Beth Kindig is a technology analyst. In December 2018, she predicted Microsoft would win JEDI. When she did so, Oracle and IBM already had made their public complaints known that they thought the selection process was unfairly weighted in favor of AWS.
“Yet, I was confident [Microsoft] would secure the bid due to one important distinction across cloud IaaS products,” Kindig wrote in a Dec. 17 column for Forbes. “The distinction is that Amazon’s AWS may be the leader in cloud computing, but the company is not the leader in hybrid cloud computing, and this distinction is critical for understanding the motivations of the Department of Defense.”
Nonetheless, AWS is pressing ahead with its contention that it should have won JEDI. Kindig and other observers have noted that grumble probably doesn’t have to do with money, as JEDI will not substantially contribute to any one vendor’s market share. Rather, she wrote, “Amazon is likely upset by the validation that Microsoft may offer the better security for classified initiatives.”