More questions than answers remain after DoD JEDI update

Concerns arose earlier this month when top officials from the Defense Department’s Cloud Executive Steering Group announced that its much-anticipated Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud acquisition contract will be awarded to a single vendor for up to 10 years. Those concerns persist as critical questions remain unanswered after DoD provided answers and updated its JEDI request for proposal.

More than 3.4 million end users, 4 million endpoint devices, 1,700 different data centers in use and 500 cloud initiatives that are currently underway at DoD.

The department stands to benefit from cloud technology more than any other government organization. But awarding a contract of this size for a department’s entire cloud ecosystem to a single vendor poses significant risks, including technology lock-in, a single point of failure for our enemies to target and limited innovation.

Designing the JEDI contract to leverage the unique strengths and capabilities among a trusted set of providers will ensure our warfighters can benefit from all that cloud computing has to offer – today and three, five or 10 years from now.

When government becomes so dependent on a single vendor, the leverage to negotiate best pricing, take advantage of future innovations, secure its enterprise and obtain the services its users demand disappears.

The likelihood of a multiyear, multibillion dollar, single award raised dozens of questions from industry, Congress and within DoD. Unfortunately, many critical questions remain unanswered:

  • How will a single award deliver the most flexible and cost-effective solution for DoD?
  • Is there a consensus across the DoD – administrative agencies, military services, IT departments, chief information officers, combatant commands – that a single vendor can meet their diverse requirements, especially a few years out when new innovations from other vendors are coming to market?
  • What is the risk to individual agencies whose mission requirements cannot be met by a single vendor?
  • How does concentrating DoD’s cloud infrastructure and services in one platform create a stronger security posture?
  • What is DoD’s recourse if performance, costs, security and service levels are unsatisfactory?
  • Does having a single vendor of DoD IT traffic, data, and applications in their cloud potentially lead to vendor lock-in?

Acting DoD CIO Essye Miller said her goal is to achieve simplification, standardization and better security – all of which can be achieved by creating a diverse cloud ecosystem that leverages the strengths of multiple vendors.

Today, it is possible to meld private, public, and distributed cloud operating environments with a single point of control to simplify an organization’s IT infrastructure.

Most cloud-mature organizations in the banking, health care, manufacturing sectors and others, contract services from multiple cloud providers and operate a hybrid mix of systems that are on and off premise. There is no reason why DoD should not follow a similar model.

Having multiple vendors does not have to mean a multitude of fragmented work streams. It means having a trusted set of strategic partners who can help DoD innovate, control costs, strengthen its security posture, and provide reliable services to its users.

Despite the verbal assurances from DoD, the updated draft request for proposal for the JEDI program remains in its original form – a single award to a single cloud provider.

A single-award contract may be great for that particular vendor but it does not provide DoD, our warfighters, or taxpayers a long-term DoD cloud environment that is reliable, secure, and innovative, or that will prevent our adversaries from gaining an advantage.

A diverse DoD cloud environment comprised of multiple vendors would enhance the functionality, resiliency, and security of DoD’s cloud, reduce costs, and ensure the highest service levels to our service members and value to taxpayers.

Chris Howard is a vice president of federal sales for Nutanix. He has worked at the intersection of government and technology with an emphasis on virtualization and infrastructure solutions for more than 15 years. Prior to joining Nutanix, he worked for VMware and Dell.