Anthony Hall -

AWS vs Microsoft: US JEDI contract dispute develops into war of words between tech giants

Amazon and Microsoft are embroiled in a ‘battle of the blogs’ over the former’s continued efforts to get its claims that it lost out on a major US cloud contract due to ‘significant political interference’ fully investigated

The ongoing legal wrangle between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the US government over its decision to award Microsoft a $10bn cloud contract has resulted in a public war of words breaking out between the two tech giants.

Microsoft was awarded the decade-long Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) in October 2019, much to the dismay of AWS which – up until that point – had been widely expected to secure the contract.

Since then, AWS has repeatedly gone on record to contest the outcome of the procurement process, claiming “significant political interference” from the White House was to blame for it losing out on the deal to Microsoft.

AWS is currently in the midst of pursuing legal action in an attempt to overturn the results of the procurement, and is understood to have filed another protest with the DoD on 5 May 2020 pertaining to the contract. This protest is confidential and no details about the nature of it have been made public, at the time of writing.

In response to AWS’s latest complaint, Microsoft published a blog post on 7 May 2020 in which its corporate vice-president of communications, Frank Shaw, accused Amazon of forcing warfighters across the US to wait even longer to access the technology they need to protect their country.

“Amazon’s complaint is confidential, so we don’t know what it says. However, if its latest complaint mirrors the arguments Amazon made in court, it’s likely yet another attempt to force a re-do because it bid high and lost the first time,” wrote Shaw.

“The only thing that’s certain about Amazon’s new complaint is that it will force American warfighters to wait even longer for the 21st-century technology they need – perpetuating Amazon’s record of putting its own interests ahead of theirs.”

“Amazon is at it again, trying to grind this process to a halt, keeping vital technology from the men and women in uniform – the very people Amazon says it supports”
Frank Shaw, Microsoft

The JEDI contract centres on the provision of a general-purpose cloud environment that the DoD can use to supports its efforts to downsize its on-premise datacentre estate by moving more of its applications and workloads off-premise.

Shaw also went on to accuse Amazon of trying to “bog down” the delivery of the JEDI strategy with “complaints, litigation and other delays” in an attempt to force the DoD to repeat the procurement process and rescue its “failed bid”.

“Think about it: Amazon spent the better part of last month fighting in court to prevent the DoD from taking a 120-day pause to address a concern flagged by the judge and re-evaluate the bids. Amazon fought for a complete re-do and more delay. Amazon lost. The judge granted the DoD’s request for a timeout in the litigation to address her concerns,” he said.

“And now Amazon is at it again, trying to grind this process to a halt, keeping vital technology from the men and women in uniform – the very people Amazon says it supports.”

While Amazon has cited political interference as the reason it lost out on the contract, Shaw claims Amazon’s bid was too high, which is why the firm is doggedly attempting to appeal against the outcome so that it can submit a revised bid.

This claim was also recently made in another Microsoft blog post, authored by its general counsel, Jon Palmer, in mid-April 2020.

“Amazon may make a lot of noise about bias and interference, but the DoD’s independent inspector general made it clear that the department established and followed a proper procurement process,” said Shaw.

“No one forced Amazon to bid high in the procurement. Amazon alone made the choice to bid high, but now wants to find a way to avoid the consequences of its own bad business decisions.”

AWS responded to Shaw’s post in kind with a blog of its own, written by its vice-president of worldwide communications, Drew Herdener. In it, Microsoft is accused of attempting to mislead the public with its “self-righteous” and “pontificating” blogs about Amazon’s reasons for contesting the outcome of the JEDI contract.

“Microsoft is doing an awful lot of posturing. We understand why. Nobody knowledgeable and objective believes they have the better offering. And, this has been further underscored by its spotty operational performance during the Covid-19 crisis (and in 2020 YTD),” wrote Herdener.

“Microsoft wants us to just be quiet and go away. But, as we’ve said all along, we believe it’s critical for the DoD, the country, and future US government procurements that agencies make decisions free from political retribution and interference, and based fairly and on the facts.”

“To be clear, we won’t back down on this front regardless of whether Microsoft chooses to try to bully its way to an unjust victory”
Drew Herdener, AWS

Herdener went on to conclude his post with a warning to Microsoft that AWS has no plans scale back its commitment to getting the procurement process fully scrutinised.

“To be clear, we won’t back down on this front regardless of whether Microsoft chooses to try to bully its way to an unjust victory,” he wrote.

“We also won’t allow blatant political interference or inferior technology to become an acceptable standard. We have great respect and admiration for those who serve and are honoured to support the DoD, but we will not sit idle nor apologise for doing what we believe is right, fair and just.”

Read more about the JEDI cloud contract

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