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Latest JEDI Cloud Doc Sheds Light On Channel Opportunity

The Department of Defense, in trying to shoot down ‘myths’ around the military's cloud transformation initiative, has elaborated on the role still available for partners to play to implement its massive transformation initiative.

The Pentagon wants to clear the air on JEDI after more than a year of controversy largely driven by misconceptions about its enterprise cloud transformation initiative.

In debunking "myths" around the looming Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract in a recently created document, the Department of Defense also elaborated on the massive opportunity that still awaits the channel.

Solution providers, whether they partner with the soon-to-be-announced JEDI winner or not, will have ample chances to deliver migration services, develops apps, implement artificial intelligence, extend edge deployments and integrate advanced security, according to that latest document and other informational sources and statements from military leaders.

[Related: Trump Says He 'Will Look Closely' At JEDI Cloud Contract]

The "myth" that DoD unreasonably restricted JEDI competition is seemingly evidenced by the large number of technology companies that expressed interest at an industry day event—compared to the few that actually vied for the final award.

As far as the "general purpose" cloud that's at the heart of JEDI, however, there were only four real bidders: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

Most of the other companies exploring the military's cloud transformation objectives and requirements were solution providers—and their opportunity is still very real.

"A majority of the companies that attended the JEDI Cloud Industry Day and provided market research materials specialized in cloud migration services or were cloud resellers, both of which are outside the scope of JEDI," the document reads.

But "customers of JEDI Cloud are free to contract for migration services, application development services, and other cloud implementation services, which will be competed among companies that specialize in those areas," it said.

Those "customers" are specific units within the branches of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and Pentagon's administrative apparatus.

That work will not be limited to partners of either Microsoft or Amazon Web Services—the two finalists for the JEDI award that was initially expected to be delivered this month, but now appears on an indefinite hold.

That's because the DoD's overarching cloud strategy, revealed earlier this year, makes a distinction between the need for a "General Purpose" cloud, and ones that will be "Fit For Purpose"

The "General Purpose" cloud provided by the winner of the JEDI sweepstakes will be the military's cloud of first-choice, meaning it will benefit from a "primary implementation bias" for all defense agencies.

But "when mission needs cannot be supported" by that provider, the "Fit For Purpose alternatives" will be explored, the document reads.

In those situations, "mission owners" can submit an "Exception Brief" to the DoD's CIO explaining why they believe the capability they require cannot be met by the JEDI provider, be it AWS or Microsoft.

The "Fit-for-Purpose Program" will enable individual agencies to select from multiple vendors that meet their needs—the basis for the Pentagon's claim that it is adopting an overall multi-cloud posture.

Those resources will also be complemented by "a variety of Software as a Service (SaaS) capabilities" purchased from other vendors, according to the cloud strategy report. Email, chat and collaboration services are a good example of the SaaS options.

With the Fit for Purpose and SaaS components, the military's cloud transformation endeavor is still in play for a wide swath of vendors—and their channels of consultancies, resellers and integrators.

But as far as the General Purpose component that's dominated the acrimonious debate, there are only a handful of companies in the world that can provide cloud capabilities on the scale required by the Pentagon, the latest DoD document states.

The DoD referenced Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant for IaaS, which it says establishes "that there are only five non-Chinese companies seriously competing in the hyperscale cloud marketplace."

Gartner limits its Magic Quadrant to Alibaba, AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle.

Alibaba is the Chinese company, and Google withdrew from JEDI bidding.

Oracle and IBM were eliminated for not meeting certain capability thresholds, referred to in procurement parlance as "gating criteria." Oracle challenged those criteria as arbitrary in a losing lawsuit.

Beyond the issue of restricted competition, many aspects of the looming contract, including its cost, are misunderstood, the military claimed.

The award is often touted as amounting to $10 billion, but that's only if the armed forces exercise every option in the contract over 10 years. The minimum spend is only $1 million.

And the time frame of 10 years is also misleading, as the Pentagon can migrate between providers if it decides not to commit to three- and five-year extensions stipulated in the contract.

Leveraging application containers is one way that military IT leaders believe they can avoid vendor lock-in.

The latest document also stresses that allegations of "inside negotiations" to benefit Amazon Web Services have been investigated and deemed to not have impacted the integrity of the bidding process, as Oracle pleaded in its recently dismissed lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

A final decision for a General Purpose vendor was expected this month, but that time frame became uncertain after President Trump waded into the affair.

Last week, a DoD spokesperson said new Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered another review, and no final decision will come down until it's completed. A time frame wasn't provided.

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