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US DoD cancels JEDI; seeks new proposals from Microsoft and Amazon

The US Department of Defense cancelled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud solicitation, which was previously awarded to Microsoft, and has initiated contract termination procedures on Tuesday. The department also announced that it was seeking Proposals from Microsoft and Amazon regarding “new cloud efforts”.

The department has also stated that it will engage with the industry and conduct market research to determine whether any other “US Based hyper-scale CSPs” can meet the department’s requirements apart from Amazon and Microsoft. 

“JEDI was developed at a time when the Department’s needs were different, and both the CSPs technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature. In light of new initiatives like JADC2 and AI and Data Acceleration (ADA), the evolution of the cloud ecosystem within DoD, and changes in user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments to execute the mission, our landscape has advanced, and a new way ahead is warranted to achieve dominance in both traditional and non-traditional warfighting domains,” said John Sherman, acting DoD Cheif Information Officer.

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The fallen JEDI

The $10 billion JEDI contract, which extended over 10 years, had cloud companies going nuts, mainly because the contract was supposed to go to one company to make it easy for the department to adapt to the new infrastructure. Initially, Google looked likely to sweep the contract until there was pushback from its employees because of the contract conflicting with Google’s corporate values in October 2018.

Other companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and REAN Cloud (part of Hitachi Data Systems), had their hats in the ring as well. However, this time Amazon looked most likely to get the contract until it was eventually awarded to Microsoft in October 2019 after awarding the contract was put on hold based on complaints against favouritism towards Amazon on the orders of then-president Donald Trump. 

Microsoft, too, faced backlash from its employees initially against the contract regarding the secrecy surrounding the JEDI project’s application. Employees stated in an open letter published just before the contract’s deadline that “the contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building.”

Oracle had filed a pre-award protest in August 2018, stating that the contract shouldn’t go to a single company. IBM also protested this a few months later in October, stating that ” No business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade. JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress, and the administration is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind.” Regardless, both companies continued their bid for the contract.

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What’s next for DoD’s ‘Death Star’?

20 months after awarding the contract to Microsoft, the DoD has decided to end the contract to avoid the years-long litigation battle ahead. Microsoft also put out a blog post stating that the department had a difficult choice to make and that the cancellation of one contract doesn’t impact their relationship with the DoD whatsoever. 

The department still seems to have plans for cloud infrastructure — the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability program or the JWCC. While there may not be any pop culture references stemming from the program’s name, the department seems to have learnt its lessons from JEDI. 

The program will be a multi-cloud/multi-vendor indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract. However, while the department may have avoided some trouble by not awarding the contract to a single company, it’s still only seeking proposals from a select few companies, namely Microsoft and Amazon. 

As stated by the DoD, the reason for this is that these are currently the only two CSPs (Cloud Service Providers) that match the department’s requirements. However, according to its Pre-Solicitation notice, the department will be looking into the industry and conducting market research to discover other CSPs that could match its requirements and negotiate with them.

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