“This is one of the most talked about contracts in cloud history,” said Lauren Nelson, vice president of research for Forrester Research, “and it’s probably not over yet.”
Nelson was referring to the $10 Billion JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract awarding cloud services to Microsoft Azure. She said that such a single-source contract is “very common” in government. The idea behind such a single source contract is to reduce the time and effort that goes with the byzantine federal contracting process. However, Nelson said that it doesn’t mesh with current practices.
I think it’s a potential game changer because it legitimizes Azure in the cloud
“Right now the trend is multi-cloud,” Nelson explained, “Which is how companies are using multiple cloud technologies, and leverage multiple vendors. JEDI is unique because they have a sole cloud provider that for the government’s needs.”
Nelson said that it’s likely that Amazon will protest the award to Microsoft, but at this point the company hasn’t revealed its intentions. She said that it’s possible that recent anti-Amazon comments by President Trump might give the company some leverage in its protest.
However, Marty Puranik, CEO of cloud provider Atlantic.net, doesn’t think that any protest based on such a preference would be successful. “The procurement people will know that Trump’s comments will come up,” he said, “and they would be sure to cross their T’s and dot their I’s.”
“I think it’s a potential game changer because it legitimizes Azure in the cloud,” Puranik added. He said that before this, AWS was so far along in the process that it seemed to be a fast track for Amazon Web Services.
“It’s a huge win for the enterprise and for business,” Puranik said.
“With this high visibility it reinforces the notion that cloud has matured,” said Jack Gold, principle analyst at J. Gold Associates. “It’s getting more secure, and in many cases it’s more secure than what corporations do behind their own firewall. We need to take this more seriously.”
On evaluation the government is convinced that Azure is safe for deploying,” Gold explained. “It also builds a base from which Microsoft can build to other agencies, and even internationally. It allows them to raise a flag that they’re secure enough for your business.”
Gold said that he thinks that this government contract, along with others such as an award by the CIA to Amazon for AWS, will go a long way towards convincing companies that cloud computing is a better way to go than keeping everything in your own data center behind a firewall.
But Gold isn’t sure that companies will stop using their own data centers for everything. “The future of cloud is there,” he said, “there’s no doubt that this is the path we’re going down, the question is what is a cloud and where does it reside? Is it a public cloud, private cloud or a hybrid?” A hybrid is a cloud implementation in which part of the cloud is on your premises and part is at a cloud provider.
“Mostly we’re going to see a hybrid,” Gold said. “We’re starting to see more instances of at least a partial deployment in the public cloud. That doesn’t mean that they’re eliminating internal deployments. It depends on what functions or features you want.”
“It’s going to legitimize the idea of putting business in the cloud,” Puranik said.
But Nelson said that despite the JEDI award, most of the cloud business is going to multiple vendors. “Should we be multi-clouding?” Nelson asks, pointing out that the multi-cloud trend questions that logic of going to a single vendor.
“Almost every vendor and user says yes to multi-cloud,” she said. “In organizations where change is hard, you’re seeing a lot of this.”
Nelson also wonders what’s going to happen with existing cloud contracts. “Will other services be able to respect the cloud services they already have?”
Right now, those questions remain unanswered. Also unanswered is whether the JEDI contract will be protested by Amazon and whether other cloud providers can be added to JEDI in the future. If a protest is upheld, the result could be delays, perhaps for years, while a new contract is finalized, and who ultimately gets to provide the Department of Defense the cloud services it needs.
But what is clear is that any such contract, including the existing JEDI award, makes it clear to companies that the cloud really is the place for most of their computing services.