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Intelligence Community planning huge cloud contract

The intelligence community is embarking on a massive cloud initiative that could be worth tens of billions of dollars and will involve multiple contracts with commercial cloud providers.

The contract follows the CIA’s 2013 contract with Amazon Web Services that many say was a turning point in how the government looked at commercial cloud services.

A final solicitation for the Commercial Cloud Enterprise contract, or C2E, isn’t expected until May 2020.

In the meantime, the intelligence community plans a series of requests for information, pre-solicitation discussions, drafting of a statement of objectives and requirements, an industry day and a draft request for proposals. A final award is expected no later than July 2021, according to slides from a March 22 industry day.

The intelligence community’s approach stands in stark contrast to the Defense Department and its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract that will go to a single winner. It is mired in a U.S. Court of Federal Claims battle after Oracle filed a lawsuit objecting to the strategy. DOD also is investigating potential conflicts of interest in how JEDI was developed.

JEDI proposals were submitted in the fall but until the investigations and the court case is resolved, the contract is stalled.

But the difference between the two approaches is more than noteworthy.

Both the intelligence community and DOD say they want to use the commercial cloud for more mission-oriented work such as intelligence analysis and to take advantage of advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other technologies.

DOD quickly came under fire for its single-award approach to JEDI when it launched that initiative in August 2017. Many in industry argued that a single cloud wasn’t the right strategy in part because different clouds are better suited for different missions. For example, one cloud might be better at analyzing and distributing video data while another is better suited for analyzing open source information.

Despite industry pushback and congressional pressure, DOD has not budged from its single-award approach.

The intelligence community, however, is doing the opposite. Multiple cloud providers are at the heart of its strategy.

According to slides from a March 22 industry day, the IC is looking at procuring infrastructure, platform and software in as a service formats. They want cloud computing services “at tactical edge locations” globally.

Bloomberg first reported the IC’s plan on Friday. Washington Technology also obtained the slides and of a copy of the market research survey that is underway.

The new IC plan eyes a greater expansion of the work Amazon Web Services has done since 2013 as evidenced by the value of this new contract. AWS’ contract was worth $600 million to build a private cloud inside the CIA’s firewall.

This time the CIA is fully embracing the public cloud for all levels of information -- unclassified, secret and top secret designations. Cloud services need to be available globally and support technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, distributed computing, mobile device platforms, high performance computing and cloud service automation.

They also want a marketplace capability for the use and billing of a “bring your own license” platform and software-as-a-service offerings. Cloud security offerings also are a priority.

The new contract also will be structured so that the commercial cloud providers pass on their commercial pricing changes to the government within 30 days. They also want technical parity with the commercial world with new services quickly becoming available in the C2E environment after they are introduced in the commercial market.

Cloud migration services and consulting on cloud architecture, infrastructure, development, integration and security also are a requirement. This might open the competition beyond the primary cloud services providers.

The initiative also will have two phases. Phase one will have multiple commercial cloud vendors that can provide what the government is calling “foundational cloud services" that span infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service. Phase two will include multiple vehicles specializing in "PaaS" and "SaaS," as well as multiple cloud management capabilities that augment Phase 2.

The overall objective as stated in the slides is that the IC wants to acquire cloud computing services directly from commercial cloud providers who have established records for innovation and operational excellence. They also need a large customer base.

All of the usual suspects are expected to bid: AWS, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. They are all bidders on JEDI. I’d also include Google as a possibility based on recent reports of a meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and President Donald Trump.

But based on reading the slides, it will be interesting to see what companies such as Leidos, General Dynamics IT, Perspecta, Science Applications International Corp., Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International and other systems integrators do. They’d have to partner with the one of the cloud providers. 

One question is whether Leidos, for example, could have AWS as a partner while also pursuing the contract as a prime? Probably not, but I think we’ll see broader alliances form than we’ve seen with JEDI, which doesn’t include the consulting and migration services that the intelligence community is asking for with C2E.

The contract will open AWS up to more competition at the CIA and the intelligence community in general, but I wouldn’t read that as any indication of unhappiness with AWS.

On the contrary, C2E is a strong indicator that the intelligence community sees even greater potential in a wider and broader use of the commercial cloud and by extension commercial technologies in general.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The IC has released a market survey in the Acquisition Resource Center. Responses are due by the close of business on April 8.

During May and June, the IC will conduct one-on-one meetings (or exchanges as they call it) with vendors.

A draft RFP is expected in January 2020 and a final RFP will be in out in May 2020.

Awards in July 2021.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 01, 2019 at 8:56 AM


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