The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded its Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract to Google, Oracle, Amazon and Microsoft -- a multi-cloud strategy some believe will make it easier for the DOD to acquire cloud technologies and services.
The JWCC totals $9 billion between all four vendors, with the funds awarded "on individual orders as they are issued," according to the DOD. The JWCC allows individual programs and offices within the DOD to acquire commercial cloud offerings directly from all four vendors.
The contract will provide the DOD "with enterprise-wide, globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge," according to a DOD news release.
With the decision to award the contract to multiple cloud providers, the DOD appears to have learned a lesson from its experience with the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract. The DOD's decision to award the JEDI contract to a single vendor, Microsoft, in 2019 received significant backlash.
DOD opts for a multi-cloud contract
The outcry from Microsoft's competitors, including Amazon, Google and Oracle, about the JEDI decision being politically driven gave the agency pause, along with their contention that a single vendor couldn't effectively implement, secure and maintain such a large and vital multi-cloud environment. It resulted in delaying a final decision over a protracted period of time before JEDI was finally scrapped.
"Since the JEDI contract, the government got religion, finally seeing the light that multiple vendors is the way to go on such projects," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects in Washington, D.C. "They also discovered, apparently, that hybrid clouds really do exist and that's the way the rest of the world is going."
A multi-cloud strategy makes sense for the DOD, said Devin Dickerson, analyst at Forrester Research. JWCC follows a growing trend of awarding government contracts to multiple vendors rather than a single provider.
Indeed, Dickerson said the shift to multi-cloud awards signals greater trust in public cloud security and cloud services capabilities, as well as maturing cloud services provider technologies that are increasingly able to meet "rigorous multi-cloud strategies."
Due to the role hybrid clouds play in multi-cloud strategies, Dzubeck said the absence of IBM and Red Hat in the JWCC bidding process was notable. Not only has IBM built its hybrid cloud strategy on Red Hat's offerings, but Red Hat also has hybrid cloud agreements with AWS and Microsoft, each of which uses Red Hat's OpenShift to connect multiple clouds.
Devin DickersonAnalyst, Forrester Research
"If you select AWS but also Azure as part of a hybrid cloud strategy, then it makes sense to choose OpenShift because that's what AWS uses to connect multiple clouds," he said.
JWCC speeds cloud services access
The JWCC is potentially significant for defense programs that otherwise face a difficult road through the lengthy federal acquisition process for critical technologies, Dickerson said.
Now, the JWCC will shave months or even years off acquisition timelines, he said.
"DOD programs sometimes move slow, but this award will actually make it easier and potentially faster for individual programs to take advantage of the cloud," Dickerson said.
Although the award goes to all four vendors, he said the companies will remain competitors throughout the contract's lifecycle, which lasts until 2028. Once individual task orders appear, each vendor will need to demonstrate that its capabilities and prices "are best suited to meet those mission needs."
"It's only when those individual task orders are awarded that funds will be obligated, so the real competition is only just beginning," Dickerson said.
Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.
As Editor at Large in TechTarget Editorial's News Group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals.