JEDI and C2E: Is it worth comparing the DOD and ODNI cloud plans?

The intelligence community's top IT official said that DOD is "where we were five years ago" when the CIA opted to pursue a single vendor, single cloud solution.

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The Department of Defense has caught a lot of flak over the past two years for its decision to place warfighter data in one big commercial cloud hosted by a single vendor.

The intelligence community is going in a different direction. After relying on Amazon Web Services for six years to host the intelligence community's classified and sensitive data, the CIA is now pursuing a two-phase procurement to expand into a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment called Commercial Cloud Enterprise or C2E.

Some opponents of the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement have cited the intelligence community's shift to a multi-cloud plan as evidence that DOD's effort is mired in the past.

According to John Sherman, CIO for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, C2E is "not a great comparison with JEDI because we're further along in our cloud maturity than DOD's environment."

Sherman said the intelligence community needed to first lay down foundational IT infrastructure – with its 2013 C2S cloud buy -- and acclimate agencies to accessing sensitive, mission-critical data in the cloud before they could embark on a more ambitious, complex expansion strategy.

"[DOD] is where we were five years ago," said Sherman. "Them starting with a single cloud is very analogous to where we started."

A recent House Appropriations Committee report complained that the JEDI procurement could "lock the Department of Defense into a single provider as long as 10 years" and lead to missed opportunities for innovation.

The report quotes the CIA's own market survey materials for their C2E procurement, which notes that the intelligence community "is pursuing a multiple cloud strategy to increase access to cloud innovation and reduce the disadvantages associated with using a single cloud service provider,'' and urges DOD "to adopt lessons learned from the CIA's experience implementing cloud computing over the past five years."

IBM's Sam Gordy told FCW in April that the intelligence community "clearly recognizes the value of multi-cloud while encouraging competition, supporting legacy applications and ensuring agency's access to future innovations."

IBM and Oracle each protested the JEDI solicitation, and Oracle followed up on its protest with a lawsuit that is currently pending in the Court of Federal Claims. Oracle's filings are full of citations from Gartner and others claiming that industry best practices argue against a single-cloud approach.