military cloud

Is DOD shutting integrators out of JEDI?

Officials at the Defense Department made it very clear that winning the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract will be a long shot for a systems integrator bidding as a prime.

All indications are this multibillion dollar contract will go to a cloud service provider such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

DOD plans to award a single award IDIQ contract and isn’t interested in a hybrid cloud approach, saying during a call with reporters following March 7 industry day that multiple clouds will lack standardization, cause interoperability issues and management challenges.

Many in industry don’t buy that view. In fact, they believe the opposite. A hybrid cloud would allow DOD to find the best cloud for the mission instead of trying to bend the missions to one particular cloud.

“The Pentagon would never limit the Air Force to flying only cargo planes for every mission. Locking the entire U.S. military into a single, restrictive cloud environment would be equally flawed,” IBM’s federal general manager Sam Gordy said in an emailed statement.

But DOD does offer a couple caveats. They said they aren’t dictating how teams will form. Any team, led by any entity, can compete as long its passes the gate evaluation. So theoretically, a systems integrator could led a team that would include a cloud service provider as a partner.

I know some systems integrators are looking at the procurement and considering options but it is a heavy lift given that DOD is looking for platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. They aren’t trying to buy software as a service.

A second caveat is that this is just a draft solicitation so it is subject to change, according to DOD officials. They want and expect comment that will shape the final RFP.

But to me those caveats sounded like an attempt to placate large portions of the government contracting community that support a hybrid cloud approach.

I’m not buying the subject to change comments either because DOD has been hearing complaints about a single award approach since it started down this path last summer.

It has said multiple times it wants a single award but then when slammed with complaints, it has hedge a bit. But they’ve never abandoned it.

Now with the draft out and the tight turnaround time on comments before the final RFP is released in early May, it is doubtful that there is anything anyone can say now that hasn’t already been said.

The single award as well as the technical requirements in the draft RFP has only reinforced the complaints of those who see this award being shaped for a win by Amazon Web Services.

It didn’t help that during the press call acting DOD CIO Essye Miller said she has been talking to the intelligence community about their experiences with the cloud AWS has built for them.

She said they want lessons learned but they also want to make sure that what DOD does can integrate with the intelligence community cloud.

So that’s another point in favor of AWS.

What’s next:

  • Look for industry to pound DOD with comments, and yes, there will be some in favor but my sense from the crowd at yesterday’s industry day is that most will be complaints and suggestions for changes.
  • Look for the schedule to slip. It is hard to imagine how they’ll get through comments and issue a final solicitation by early May.
  • Look for them to miss the September award date. Even if the solicitation comes out in May, they will have to get through the gates and establish a competitive range. Then there are demos and discussions before the final proposals.
  • Look for protests. Whether it is AWS or Azure, the loser will protest. They almost have to.
  • Watch for any teams that form. Just because this looks like a battle between two cloud service providers, they’ll have teammates. There also is a 30 percent small business requirement that the winning contract will need to meet.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.


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