DOD's huge cloud vehicle should open doors to innovation .shock

Each bidder may be on the potential $9 billion contract, but their competition for work will be fierce and fuel advancements in battlefield tech.

The Defense Department has awarded its large commercial cloud computing contract, which should quickly get up and running after every company that wanted a position got one.

No surprises emerge from the list of which four got on the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract, but there is definitely a bifurcation of the winners.

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are the cloud market's established players with substantial market share. Not winning a spot would have been a surprise of seismic portions.

For Google and Oracle however, their wins were slightly less assured. At one time, there were questions whether the Pentagon would consider them to be qualified to even bid.

But given the multi-year run up to JWCC that includes the JEDI years, both Google and Oracle made the necessary investments to compete for cloud infrastructure business with the Defense Department.

Now a field of four will compete for task orders under JWCC.

DOD's announcement touts nine capabilities they say buyers can now acquire through JWCC:

  • global accessibility
  • available and resilient services
  • centralized management and distributed control
  • ease of use
  • commercial parity
  • elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure
  • advanced data analytics
  • fortified security
  • tactical edge devices

Separately, the Defense Information Systems Agency has established the Hosting and Compute Center or HaCC (pronounced “hack”) as the mechanism to market and sell cloud services to DOD users. HaCC offers other cloud-related services and contracts aside from what is on JWCC.

Ease of use is an overriding goal of JWCC. The Pentagon wants buyers to be able to quickly access, buy and deploy cloud-enabled services.

AWS and Microsoft will likely love that aspect, but it could be even more advantageous for Google and Oracle.

The harder it is for a customer to buy, the more likely it is to stick with a more established player. An easy buying process should open the door for more pilots and experiments.

Competitions at the task order level will be fierce, but that is a good thing.

The ease-of-use aspect also should help fuel innovation and get innovations into the hands of soldiers more quickly. Speed of innovation should be a measure of success for JWCC.

The structure of JWCC also defaults to a multi-cloud future. Quite a reversal from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, which would have had a single winner. From JEDI’s initial inception, DOD received heavy criticism for the single-cloud approach.

I have to think that DOD wasted a couple years defending that approach before JEDI imploded.

DOD's move to a multiple-cloud approach has national security as a top consideration. Not to oversimplify it, but a single supplier creates one point of failure. Having multiple providers means redundancies and fail-over processes can be in place.

One aspect of JWCC that I’ll keep tabs on is edge computing. Soldiers can find themselves in a wide range of environments -- connected, semi-connected, or even totally disconnected. Battlefields are fluid environments with a plethora of targets.

Bringing the soldiers the ability to use the power of the cloud anywhere they are for communications, data sharing, situational awareness and decision-making is a huge challenge. But one that industry is embracing.

One of the things many hope for is that JWCC unlocks is innovation. With easy access to solutions from any of these four cloud infrastructure providers, soldiers will drive innovation in ways we haven’t imagined yet.