Even as the dust settles on this contract award, including the inevitable requests for reconsideration and protest, DoD’s objectives from the solicitation are apparent.
DOD’s JEDI Objectives
Public Cloud is the Future DoD IT Backbone
A quick look at the JEDI statement of objectives illustrates the government’s comprehensive enterprise expectations with this procurement:
- Fix fragmented, largely on-premises computing and storage solutions – This fragmentation is making it impossible to make data-driven decisions at “mission-speed”, negatively impacting outcomes. Not to mention that the rise in the level of cyber-attacks requires a comprehensive, repeatable, verifiable, and measurable security posture.
- Commercial parity with cloud offerings for all classification levels – A cordoned off dedicated government cloud that lags in features is no longer acceptable. Furthermore, it is acceptable for the unclassified data center locations to not be dedicated to a cloud exclusive to the government.
- Globally accessible and highly available, resilient infrastructure – The need for infrastructure that is reliable, durable, and can continue to operate despite catastrophic failure of pieces of infrastructure is crucial. The infrastructure must be capable of supporting geographically dispersed users at all classification levels, including in closed-loop networks.
- Centralized management and distributed control – Apply security policies; monitor security compliance and service usage across the network; and accredit standardized service configurations.
- Fortified Security that enables enhanced cyber defenses from the root level – These cyber defenses are enabled through the application layer and down to the data layer with improved capabilities including continuous monitoring, auditing, and automated threat identification.
- Edge computing and storage capabilities – These capabilities must be able to function totally disconnected, including provisioning IaaS and PaaS services and running containerized applications, data analytics, and processing data locally. These capabilities must also provide for automated bidirectional synchronization of data storage with the cloud environment when a connection is re-established.
- Advanced data analytics – An environment that securely enables timely, data-driven decision making and supports advanced data analytics capabilities such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Key Considerations: Agility and Faster Time to Market
From its inception, with the Sep 2017 memo announcing the formation of Cloud Executive Steering Group that culminated with the release of RFP in July 2018, DoD has been clear – They wanted a single cloud contract. They deemed a multi-cloud approach to be too slow and costly. Pentagon’s Chief Management officer defended a single cloud approach by suggesting that multi-cloud contract “could prevent DoD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable”, resulting in “additional costs and technical complexity on the Department in adopting enterprise-scale cloud technologies under a multiple-award contract. Requiring multiple vendors to provide cloud capabilities to the global tactical edge would require investment from each vendor to scale up their capabilities, adding expense without commensurate increase in capabilities”
A Single, Unified Cloud Platform Was Required
The JEDI solicitation expected a unified cloud platform that supports a broad set of workloads, with detailed requirements for scale and long-term price projections.
- Unclassified webserver with a peak load of 400,000 requests per minute
- High volume ERP system – ~30,000 active users
- IoT + Tactical Edge – A set of sensors that captures 12 GB of High Definition Audio and Video data per hour
- Large data set analysis – 200 GB of storage per day, 4.5 TB of online result data, 4.5 TB of nearline result data, and 72 TB of offline result data
- Small form-factor data center – 100 PB of storage with 2000 cores that is deliverable within 30 days of request and be able to fit inside a U.S. military cargo aircraft
Massive Validation for the Azure Platform
The fact that the Azure platform is the “last cloud standing” at the end of the long and arduous selection process is massive validation from our perspective.
As other bidders have discovered, much to their chagrin, the capabilities described above are not developed overnight. It’s a testament to Microsoft’s sustained commitment to meeting the wide-ranging requirements of the JEDI solicitation.
Lately, almost every major cloud provider has invested in bringing the latest innovations in compute (GPUs, FPGAs, ASICs), storage (very high IOPS, HPC), and network (VMs with 25 Gbps bandwidth) to their respective platforms. In the end, what I believe differentiates Azure is a long-standing focus on understanding and investing in enterprise IT needs. Here are a few examples:
- Investments in Azure Stack started 2010 with the announcement of Azure Appliance. It took over seven years of learnings to finally run Azure completely in an isolated mode. Since then, the investments in Data Box Edge, Azure Sphere and commitment to hybrid solutions have been a key differentiator for Azure.
- With 54 Azure regions worldwide that ( available in 140 countries) including dedicated Azure government regions – US DoD Central, US DoD East, US Gov Arizona, US Gov Iowa, US Gov Texas, US Gov Virginia, US Sec East, US Sec West – Azure team has accorded the highest priority on establishing a global footprint. Additionally, having a common team that builds, manages, and secures Azure’s cloud infrastructure has meant that even the public Azure services have DoD CC SRG IL 2, FedRAMP moderate and high designations.
- Whether it is embracing Linux or Docker, providing the highest number of contributions to GitHub projects, or open-sourcing the majority of Azure SDKs and services, Microsoft has demonstrated a leading commitment to open source solutions.
- Decades of investment in Microsoft Research, including the core Microsoft Research Labs and Microsoft Research AI, has meant that they have the most well-rounded story for advanced data analytics and AI.
- Documentation and ease of use have been accorded the highest engineering priorities. Case in point, rebuilding Azure docs entirely on Github. This has allowed an open feedback mechanism powered by Github issues.