Microsoft, AWS Shortlisted For Pentagon Cloud Contract

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Two leading cloud providers shortlisted for Pentagon cloud computing contract after Google withdraws

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft are competing head-to-head for a very lucrative cloud computing contract for the US Department of Defense.

The JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract is reported to be worth a cool $10 billion (£7.6bn) and the two shortlisted cloud giants are competing for it, after Oracle and IBM were ruled out.

Until recently, AWS was the only provider with IL-6 clearance, the highest level reserved for data such as national security information. But Microsoft subsequently received the US government’s top security clearance so is able to compete.

JEDI contract

That clearance came after Microsoft’s announcement last October that it was developing a cloud service to handle secret government data, called Azure Government Secret.

So what are the two firms competing for? Well the goal of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (Jedi) cloud deal, which could last up to 10 years, is ambitious.

Essentially, the Pentagon aims to create a single cloud architecture across all the military branches and combatant commands. The idea is to allow a seamless workflow and information-sharing environment.

“I can confirm that AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft are the companies that met the minimum requirements outlined” in the Request for Proposals, department spokeswoman Elissa Smith was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.

This means that Oracle and IBM are no longer being considered.

The other cloud giant that is missing is of course Google.

Google withdraw

Google had pulled out of the bidding in part because the deal could go against principles it published in June last year, following staff protests against the company’s involvement in developing artificial intelligence for military drones.

Almost 4,000 Google staffers had signed an internal petition asking Google to end its participation in Project Maven. They felt the project would “irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent.”

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai responded in June 2018 when he created new principles for AI use at Google, and pledged not to use AI for technology that causes injury to people.

Google then went on to create the ‘Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC)’, to offer guidance on the ethical use of AI.

But less than a week later it announced it was “ending the council”, apparently due to staff concerns at the inclusion of two female members in the council who have made controversial comments.

The Pentagon meanwhile is expected to announce the winner of the JEDI contract sometime in mid-July.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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