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By Bruce Sussman
Mon | Aug 12, 2019 | 6:30 AM PDT

In this story, the powerful JEDI is not Luke Skywalker using The Force.

Instead, it is a massive cloud computing environment which will power U.S. warfighters—with more decision making data than ever before.

What does JEDI stand for?

JEDI stands for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.

And this cloud computing environment will be expensive for the government. It likely will be a $10 billion contract awarded to a single cloud provider. Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are considered the front runners because of their enterprise scale.

How will JEDI cloud help the U.S. military?

What will the military get for these billions of dollars?

In an August 2019 press briefing at the Pentagon, military leaders explained the goal of JEDI is to move about 80% of all Department of Defense (DOD) data, across classifications, off premises.

And the leaders believe the JEDI cloud will change the way America fights on this planet by utilizing Artificial Intelligence like never before.

"The warfighter needed the enterprise cloud yesterday," says Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

Dominance in [AI] is not a question of software engineering, but instead, it's a result of combining capabilities at multiple levels. For AI across DOD, enterprise cloud is existential.

Enterprise cloud allows AI cycle speeds that can be measured in updates across an entire enterprise in hours, as opposed to in months, six months or maybe even a year," Shanahan says.

And as the DOD News reports, this move to a massive U.S. Department of Defense cloud is essential for future victories:

"In this future high-end environment, DOD envisions a world of algorithmic warfare and autonomy in which competitive advantage goes to the side that understands how to harness 5G, AI, enterprise cloud in quantum into a viable, operational model."

[Side note: The desire to move to the cloud, and secure it, is why cloud security has become one of the most highly attended sessions at each regional SecureWorld conference across North America.]

Why did the U.S. military shoot down a multi-cloud environment?

Why should the U.S. government award a single cloud provider with a $10 billion contract for JEDI cloud?

Why not develop a multi-cloud environment, instead, as some organizations are opting to do?

The answer to this question appears in a lawsuit just reviewed by SecureWorld, and the government claims it is linked to cybersecurity.

In Oracle America v. the United States and Amazon Web Services, Oracle claims the government's approach to awarding the single cloud contract has been unfair.

The judge's ruling in this pre-bid complaint reveals that the "Cloud Computing Program Office" looked at a multi-cloud solution and reached the following decision:

"Ultimately, it concluded that this approach would be 'technically more complex.' Using multiple vendors would 'significantly complicate management,' 'raise the risk profile,' compromise ease of use, create new security vulnerabilities, and impede interoperability. The office recommended that the agency 'proceed with the acquisition of services from a single” cloud services provider.'"

And the Office of the Inspector General is also investigating the JEDI cloud procurement process. See JEDI Cloud, The Empire Strikes Back, for more.

What if JEDI cloud goes down?

By moving into a single cloud environment, could a cloud outage or cyberattack stop U.S. warfighters?

There is a contingency for that, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan:

"Local military equipment that is connected to the JEDI cloud hardware, could still operate and be used to execute missions in a degraded, disrupted or denied environment, extending enterprise cloud, in other words, all the way out to the tactical edge."

Why is the JEDI cloud contract delayed?

U.S. military leaders have been talking about the JEDI cloud concept for more than seven years now. And just when it looked like awarding the contract was imminent, a newly-appointed Secretary of Defense delayed the process:

"Given that this is a large acquisition program, you would expect any new secretary taking over the DoD to want to have a strong understanding of any major acquisition program. So that's exactly what we are doing here," says Dana Deasy, the Pentagon's Chief Information Officer.

In this government galaxy, things move slowly.

However, it does appear there is a tractor beam pulling the U.S. Department of Defense toward the cloud.

Perhaps it will be even more powerful than The Force was for Luke Skywalker.