Technology

Pentagon tech is grossly flawed, AWS frontrunner in JEDI cloud procurement

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most likely frontrunner to receive the Pentagon’s cloud procurement dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud.

According to a report in Nextgov, “AWS, which won the CIA’s 10-year, single-award cloud procurement four years ago, is considered to be a frontrunner for the JEDI cloud award.”

The Department of Defense (DoD) updated its objectives for needing a cloud solution on Monday stating, “The Department of Defense (Department)’s lack of a coordinated enterprise-level approach to cloud infrastructure makes it virtually impossible for our warfighters and leaders to make critical data-driven decisions at ‘mission-speed,’ negatively affecting outcomes.”

Enclosed in the statement of objectives (SOO) draft for the JEDI cloud bid, the DoD said that it is looking for a well-established, commercial company that can fit the needs of the government.

“The purpose of this SOO is to enable the acquisition of modern, enterprise-level cloud services in support of Department related missions and projects from a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) with an existing, large, globally available public offering,” the statement reads.

Since the government is looking for only one company for a single award, Nextgov reports that this comes as unsettling news to some of Amazon’s competitors in the cloud space such as Microsoft and IBM.

Microsoft: “We believe the best approach is one that leverages the innovations of multiple cloud service providers.”

IBM: “The Pentagon would never limit the Air Force to flying only cargo planes for every mission. Locking the entire U.S. military into a single, restrictive cloud environment would be equally flawed.”

The solicitation to become the Pentagon’s cloud service provider; however, is still open. Companies have until March 21 to submit their questions or comments.

The DoD reminded potential companies, “It is important that you remember that the Department is crafting a requirement that best suits its interests, and is not seeking to tailor that requirement to your particular business niche or position.”

What will the JEDI cloud service will be used for?

In a nutshell the Pentagon is using an obsolete and cluttered framework that is slow and tedious. It looks to commercial providers to bring it back up to speed in order to carry out its work to the fullest potential.

According to the DoD, the government is not technologically prepared nor equipped with 21st century capabilities that would put it at a bigger advantage over its adversaries.

“In the absence of modern services, warfighters and leaders are forced to choose between foregoing capabilities or slogging through a lengthy acquisition, rollout, and provisioning process.”

These security measures are not just limited to cybersecurity, but on a physical, flesh-and-bone level as well in the case of a real attack, or more cynically, when something goes wrong when attacking others.

“Increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks from multiple adversaries, known and unknown, demand that the Department develop an updated security framework. There is a clear and immediate need for repeatable, verifiable, and measurable security from the physical level, through the logical layer, and down to the datasets.”

Right now, the Pentagon’s data is locally stored and badly organized.

“A fragmented and largely on-premise computing and storage solution forces the warfighter into tedious data and application management processes, compromising their ability to rapidly access, manipulate, and analyze data at the home front and tactical edge.”

Basically, there is a lot of data on the government’s servers, but nobody knows how to make sense of it. They need to pull the best information forward, fast, so they can act quickly.

“Most importantly, current environments are not optimized to support large, cross domain analysis using advanced capabilities such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to meet current and future warfighting needs and requirements.”

What is the JEDI cloud service looking for?

There are many requirements the DoD is looking for in a commercial CSP. Among these requirements, CSPs should provide:

  • a “tactical edge” computing and storage capability which is durable, ruggedized, and portable.
  • the ability for JEDI Cloud to scale, in the continental United States (CONUS) and outside the continental United States (OCONUS).
  • robust network capacity, suitable for handling a high volume of traffic globally, in and out of the provider’s cloud boundary.
  • Computing and storage capability at the “tactical edge” should be able to automatically synchronize with connected JEDI Cloud regions, integrating new data and analysis generated while “disconnected”, once network connectivity is re-established.
  • dynamic scalability and resiliency through industry standard mechanisms.

Security threats are the primary source of risk for any cloud solution. The JEDI cloud initiative looks to meet this challenge through robustness against known threats and an antifragile posture against future ones.

According to the DoD, “The volatility of technology is not a weakness; it is an opportunity for growth.”

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is a veteran journalist whose passions include writing about how technology impacts society and Artificial Intelligence. He prefers writing in-depth, interesting features that people actually want to read. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa, and Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co