JEDI: Patience you must have

As the Defense Department works in fits and starts toward a JEDI award, it's important for vendors to stay close to their customers because the road ahead is anything but straight and clear.

Defense Department agencies and industry continue to be frustrated while awaiting decisions about the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program. JEDI still has multiple hurdles to clear before DOD can move ahead with procurement. 

JEDI faces an ongoing lawsuit from Oracle regarding conflict of interest, as well as criticism from lawmakers over the single-vendor strategy that may prevent DOD from taking advantage of cloud innovations occurring over the planned ten-year period of performance. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are the remaining potential bidders on the $10 billion, single-award contract. Appropriators want to block DOD from spending money on JEDI until there is a plan in place to eventually move to a multi-cloud environment, along with releasing more details of how all cloud procurements will be competed in the next few years. 

The timing of these proposed restrictions may be a bit tricky. The earliest lawmakers can bring them into play would be the beginning of October—and DOD wants to award JEDI in mid to late summer.

While awaiting resolution to the above issues, the main two things technology companies can do in the meantime is to continue to stay close to customers that will be affected by the JEDI procurement and do research to better understand defense agencies’ current and planned cloud environments.

DOD’s cloud strategy, released to the public this February, puts JEDI front and center as the “general purpose,” or enterprise cloud, due to its importance in centralizing DOD-wide data that could be leveraged for artificial intelligence purposes. “Fit for purpose” clouds will be established to accommodate data sets that cannot be hosted in the enterprise cloud. The JEDI cloud will be platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS); fit for purpose clouds (which would be commercial or DOD-hosted on premises, as in MilCloud) are software as a service (SaaS), with one well-known example of this being Defense Enterprise Office Solution (DEOS), for enterprise collaboration. 

DOD’s Congressional Cloud Profile, released as part of the IT budget with the President’s Fiscal 2020 Budget Request, shows a total of $656 million requested for cloud spending across DOD—a 17 percent jump from fiscal 2019. The gap between commercial cloud hosting and in-house also continues to narrow: In fiscal 2020, DOD plans to spend 55 percent of its cloud budget on commercial cloud, an increase from 47 percent in fiscal 2019. Note though, that agencies may have their own preferences that need to be considered. The Navy prefers commercial cloud, Army prefers in-house and Air Force has a more balanced split between the two—which points to the importance of knowing your customers’ preferences.

Understanding an agencies’ or office’s preferred platforms and strategy is as important as understanding their current environment, and all the work that must be done to rationalize and migrate data and applications to the cloud of their choosing. Much of the work that lies ahead with cloud computing will be application rationalization and migration—and not all will be hosted in cloud environments. 

Much of this is still being evaluated. While many customers have been forced into a “wait and see” approach before moving to cloud, this can be seen in a positive light. Government customers are going to need to be careful about determining what moves to cloud, and how they do it—and industry will continue to play a key role. Even though JEDI is seen as an enterprise-wide cloud and much of the DOD’s data will be hosted there—the path to getting there will vary by customer. 

Cloud hosting is still a relatively new concept for many customers—and often, there’s a lack of in-house cloud expertise. DOD customers will be looking to industry to help them implement interconnected cloud environments from their legacy applications, which is no small task. 

They will also need help understanding new cost models based on cloud computing and working that into their budget planning process. Hard decisions are going to have to be made when taking inventory of a customer’s current applications portfolio. Technology companies need to continue to stay close to current customers to understand their current applications modernization strategy and how they can best support it. It’s likely that JEDI may face further delays, protests and debate, so it’s important for industry to stay close with customers to work and understand their application challenges, so that you are standing by ready to support once customers get the green light.

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