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Microsoft contests decision to award AWS $10bn NSA cloud contract

Microsoft and AWS are in the midst of another dispute over the outcome of a $10bn US goverment cloud contract

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft are at loggerheads once more over the outcome of a $10bn US government cloud contract.

The contract in question has been awarded to AWS by the US National Security Agency (NSA), as part of an on-going push by the intelligence agency to move more of its data to the cloud.

News of the deal first emerged at the end of July 2021 in a report on US government tech news site, Washington Technology Daily, with the publication revealing that Microsoft had contested the outcome of the $10bn procurement by claiming the NSA had not conducted a “proper evaluation” before awarding the deal to AWS.

If it had, the report claimed, Microsoft would have been awarded the contract, which the publication also revealed had been codenamed “WildandStormy” during the procurement process.

Microsoft has filed a bid protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on 21 July 2021, with a report by Nextgov claiming this occurred two weeks after AWS was first selected as the provider of choice for the single-supplier contract.

The GAO is expected to share its take on Microsoft’s protest by 29 October 2021.

Microsoft confirmed the submission in a statement and added: “We are exercising our legal rights and will do so carefully and responsibly.”

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In a statement to Computer Weekly, an NSA spokesperson confirmed some of the outline details of the dispute but stopped short of naming the parties involved. “NSA recently awarded a contract for cloud computing services to support the Agency. The unsuccessful offeror has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Agency will respond to the protest in accordance with appropriate federal regulations,” the spokesperson said, in a statement.

Computer Weekly contacted AWS for comment on this story, but no response had been forthcoming at the time of publication.

The NSA is part of the US Department of Defense (DoD), who confirmed in early July 2021 it had shelved a $10bn, single-supplier, decade-long cloud contract that was at the centre of a legal battle between Microsoft and AWS.  

The Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, as it was known, was geared towards providing the DoD with a general purpose cloud environment that could be used to host its applications and workloads, as it worked towards downsizing its datacentre estate.

That contract was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019 after years of delays and disputez from other tech giants that the procurement was unfairly weighted in AWS’s favour.

After AWS lost out to Microsoft on the contract, Amazon sought to contest the deal in the courts, claiming it had been subject to “political interference” by former US president Donald Trump.

The DoD confirmed, at the time of JEDI’s cancellation, that it would be replacing the contract with one that favoured the use of multi-suppliers, with both technologies from AWS and Microsoft expected to feature.

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