Department of Defense JEDI Project Could Go Multi-Cloud


By: Mary Jander

It seems the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) could become an example of multi-cloud enterprise networking.

The DoD is reportedly reevaluating its General Purpose Enterprise Cloud, also known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud project, with the goal to replace its initial single-vendor cloud strategy for one that includes multiple players.

According to the Wall Street Journal, various sources say a single-vendor solution is outdated and doomed to continuous litigation by vendors who aren’t selected — a fate that seems to have sunk JEDI’s prospects.

JEDI’s Difficult Selection Process

The trouble started back in October 2019, when Microsoft (MSFT) was awarded the JEDI contract, said to be worth roughly $10 billion over a ten-year period. Under the terms, Azure would have been implemented to bring digital transformation to the DoD’s many clouds, systems, and applications. This would bring the various branches of the DoD under a common system. It would also open the way to the use of artificial intelligence to produce data for use in armed conflicts.

The DoD seemed to consider choosing one JEDI vendor to be easier to manage and more secure. But from the outset, that decision met with an outcry from would-be cloud contestants, including Oracle (ORCL), Google (GOOL), and Hitachi Data Systems. And when Microsoft won despite expectations that Amazon (AMZN) would triumph, the outcry rose to a deafening pitch. Amazon embarked on a series of legal motions, attacking the selection process as flawed. And despite a government review that claimed to find no ethical deviations, Amazon kept up its barrage of briefs.

The Pentagon seems to have had enough. It is apparently ready to revisit its JEDI selection process — or abandon it in favor of another, multi-vendor request for proposal.

Other DoD Cloud Projects

The JEDI contract wasn’t the only project aimed at the digital transformation of the DoD. The DoD had a three-pillar plan, including not only JEDI but an effort dubbed milCloud 2.0 and another called the Defense Enterprise Office Solution (DEOS) program. Both of those have been underway for many months, despite having their own series of delays and snags. Both contracts were awarded to General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), which has deployed Amazon’s AWS in milCloud 2.0 and will establish Microsoft Office 365 services for DEOS.

The milCloud 2.0 and DEOS projects are just two of the systems and clouds that JEDI was supposed to draw together. Now its lack points to a complex and hard-to-manage series of clouds, hybrid clouds, and premises systems that comprise the DoD’s IT.

What a New DoD Contract Could Look Like

The Pentagon will probably scrap the idea of a single-vendor award for JEDI due to the legal complexities it’s encountered in dealing with Amazon. It may even have to rework the JEDI concept itself in order to circumvent further litigation. And that would open the way for a new request for proposal that incorporates multi-cloud technologies.

That could be great news for vendors such as Alkira, Aviatrix, Prosimo, and Volterra, which was recently acquired by F5 Networks -- not to mention IBM, VMware (VMW), and all other established players. It would open the way for fleets of other vendors supporting software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), particularly given the government’s increasing vulnerability to security threats.

In any event, the DoD will need to reconsider its expectations. That could bring welcome "co-opetition" and ecosystem cooperation to U.S. government projects — something that will only strengthen those projects and the platforms on which they're based.