back to article Pentagon's $10bn JEDI decision 'risky for the country and democracy,' says AWS CEO Jassy

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy faced the press yesterday at Amazon's re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, and there was one thing above all else that journos wanted to discuss. Why was Amazon heading to court to challenge the US Department of Defense's decision to award its $10bn winner-takes-all JEDI IT project to Microsoft …

  1. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    A Close-Run Thing

    Seems odd to sue over NOT being awarded a contract. Do such people think they are owed ?

    And like it or not, a governing party will have views on different companies, which will factor into choosing providers. Just like say, a future Labour government might avoid Capita. The American constitutional imperative of 'Fairness' seems to have addled corporations' tiny little minds.

    For the record, I dislike Microsoft more than Amazon.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: A Close-Run Thing

      Does it? It seems pretty natural to me.

      If you think you've been discriminated against on grounds of race or sex, you can sue. This is the same thing at a corporate level.

      A future Labour government might avoid Capita, but Capita could sue under similar circumstances. At least, assuming EU competition laws are still in effect when it happens. Presumably those would be one of the first things to go, in the event of a Corbyn Brexit; not sure about Boris's version, but I suspect that he too wants to be able to award contracts to his cronies without interference from courts.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: A Close-Run Thing

        Surely the reason to avoid Crapita is their proven track record of massively under performing and over charging.

        1. EBG

          nope

          one of the stupidities of EU public sector procure law is that past performance cannot be taken into account. Every bid has to be jufged on its own mertis. [ Not a lawyer, but what I've been told a number of ties ]

      2. Mongrel

        Re: A Close-Run Thing

        And given the very public nature of hostilities by the POTUS towards Bezo, and the cramming of key positions with sycophantic lackeys...

        It's pretty easy to argue that the AWS bid wasn't given fair consideration according to the (presumed) rules that are on the Pentagon books. That's what they're suing for, they think they missed out on a lucrative contract because the Pentagon defined rules were broken.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: A Close-Run Thing

        "If you think you've been discriminated against on grounds of race or sex, you can sue. This is the same thing at a corporate level."

        As far as I know, there is US legislation that inhibits or prohibits companies from getting government contracts if they do not meet certain criteria with regard to eg gender/race pay discrimination. I'm not sure if that also includes things like worker safety, nor if it applies at state or federal level or indeed would be applicable to an army contract.

        But in principle it is perfectly OK for a government to adjudicate tenders based on other things besides the quality of the product, as long as it's not in itself discriminatory. Amazon might indeed have the best product, but maybe MS had a good-enough product for cheaper. Maybe Amazon has more lock-in. Maybe US army has more confidence in MS's future development plans than in Amazon's (it's a multi-year project so sensible to look at it holistically not just current snapshot). And so on, and so on.

        A suspicious bastard might also suspect that Amazon might want it's lawyers to get a look at subpoenaed records that could include Microsoft sensitive commercial and technical data. Of course such data should be 'chinese-walled' but, who knows what actually does happen?

    2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: A Close-Run Thing

      Do such people think they are owed ?

      Yes. Yes, they do.

    3. Zog_but_not_the_first
      Devil

      Re: A Close-Run Thing

      "Seems odd to sue over NOT being awarded a contract. Do such people think they are owed ?"

      Richard Branson does it all the time.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: A Close-Run Thing

      Seems odd to sue over NOT being awarded a contract. Do such people think they are owed ?

      Different rules can apply with public procurement to private. So public needs to appear to be fair. So RFPs end up with litigation avoidance in mind, so list of mandatory requirements, SLAs and evaluation criteria. Then responses get scored, and the best bid wins. Downside is the scores are commercially sensitive, so generally not disclosed outside of litigation. Which could be a ploy here, ie finding out why Amazon lost.

      Which can all be very frustrating, ie not being able to include 'nice to haves' because that can be harder to evaluate & compare to other bids. So you can't win a bid by including a feature the bid didn't ask for, generally. I suspect Microsoft won though because it could offer a more complete package of bare-bones hosting and services.

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: A Close-Run Thing

      Companies sue when they think the probable return is higher than the probable cost, or possibly based on the average rate of return if they're looking at a pool of lawsuits.

      Here "return" will include intangibles such as PR (a lawsuit is an effective way to get some extra advertising in the press) and soothing the executive egos.

      With the amount of money at stake in the JEDI contract,1 this lawsuit is basically a high-risk, high-return investment for AWS. Amazon has cash to burn, so why not? I mean, why except ethics and not looking like a bunch of whining children.

      (And JFTR, I have no reason to prefer Microsoft or Amazon for this contract. I don't particularly care for either organization, and I don't expect the project to go well. My feelings are "at least it's not Oracle".)

      1And, let's face it, there will be cost overruns. There are always cost overruns. And who knows if the thing will ever meet its original criteria; most huge IT projects fail.

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AWS vs Microsoft

      Do you have some concrete details on AWS? Share them please. I'm curious to learn about it.

      1. TheVogon

        Re: AWS vs Microsoft

        Azure and almost all its infrastructure is based an an OS / Hypervisor image from a single manufacturer.

        AWS is a bolt together of many many tool and systems - both in house and external.

        Guess which is way way simpler to user and generally performs better? Clue - it isn't AWS.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AWS vs Microsoft

          Having used both I have come to the exact opposite conclusion as you.

          Amazon's product line up is confusing and complicated.

          Microsoft's product line up makes Amazon's look co-ordinated and well designed.

          1. Jonathan Knight

            Re: AWS vs Microsoft

            Me too.

            AWS seemed a seamless single solution and Azure seems to drop into a range of interfaces depending on when that bit got written. The Azure training does emphasise that the primary interface to Azure is powershell and any web interface will lag behind and be less complete so it's not entirely unexpected. AWS seems to have a much more complete web experience for the administrator

            I much prefer the AWS approach of creating VMs secure and then opening them up to the internet rather than the Azure method of creating them on the internet and then closing them down.

            Jon

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        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: AWS vs Microsoft

          Windows is an OS from a single manufacturer.

          Linux is a bolt together of many many tool and systems - both in[-]house and external.

          Guess which is way way simpler to [use] and generally performs better? Oh, wait...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: AWS vs Microsoft

            I know actively hating "lol Mi¢®o$$haft" is the required thing among the older neckbeards here, but Windows is way easier to use than Linux. Let's not kid ourselves.

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    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: AWS vs Microsoft

      What you have suggested is utter bollocks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AWS vs Microsoft

      "Based on my experience with running production services on both, I'd guess that they actually tried to use both platforms before choosing."

      Correct - the DoD did try both and have been moving most new projects to AWS in the last 2-3 years.

      For small scale projects where you want to operate in a similar way to your on-premises Windows environment, Azure offers the least challenges.

      As soon as you want to operate larger scale, heavily automated IaaS services, the tools AWS provides are significantly ahead of their competition outside a few specialist areas.

      And this is reflected in market share.

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        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AWS vs Microsoft

          I agree about the documentation comments in your post, but the rest is rubbish. AWS at scale is precisely what blows Azure out of the water.

          And monitoring - I guess the main thing here is maybe MS does have better monitoring, cos it is needed as Azure constantly drops to its knees (check out independent outage stats). I've been on customer sites so many times when Azure has failed, but what is interesting is that people seem to have accepted/got used to that poor level of service from MS

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AWS vs Microsoft

          "You're referring to the success of govcloud, which is really a credit to the Amazon sales force but not a reflection of AWS quality at all."

          Yes....I was referring to GovCloud because the DoD/JEDI will be based in GovCloud. For the IaaS side of GovCloud, AWS is literally years ahead of Azure.

          The examples you use for failings around AWS are valid BUT are Microsoft really any better across the board in any of the things you mention? Most of the examples you give are relatively new services (i.e. less than 2 years old and rapidly evolving on both platforms) and as such documentation/tools/directions change BUT for like-for-like services, AWS tends to have better documentation/tools because people are actually using it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AWS vs Microsoft

      What complete and utter tosh. Were you involved in the awarding of JEDI as you seem to be following the Trump mantra of 'reverse speak'?

  3. notathome

    AWS already have CIA/FBI/KGB in there cloud with AWS spying on them all.

    Military not taking up the option is a smart move - platform Independence is not a bad point.

    seems like aws management is crying over spilt milk! It's ok AWS dittims there will be other business you can bid on.

    1. sum_of_squares
      Facepalm

      You are concerned about platform independence and spying companies and cheer for.. microsoft?

  4. steviebuk Silver badge

    Only the big players can afford to sue

    So I'm assume AWS put a lot of money in the tender process so now wants it back, so suing is its way of getting it back. But small companies in a tender process just have to accept they lost and move on.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Rice-Davies applies.

  6. Mike Brown

    Best photos in the 'verse. So say we all.

    1. Ordinary Donkey

      Make it so, Freebirth.

  7. TheVogon

    But less risky than choosing AWS.

  8. Matthew Smith

    Respect Babylon 5

    Stop using B5 to prolong your lame joke and give it the respect it deserves. Use an image of Lexx instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Respect Babylon 5

      As someone who watched Babylon 5 back in the 90s, I heartily agree.

      Patrick Stewart must be rolling in his grave.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Respect Babylon 5

        They still haven't used Stargate for this story. Very disappointed.

      2. LenG

        Re: Respect Babylon 5

        Errr, Patrick Stewart was in Star Trek, not B5.

        Mind, we also have a Star Trek image. Maybe pictures from the Star Wars franchise is too expensive for El Reg?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Respect Babylon 5

          "Errr, Patrick Stewart was in Star Trek, not B5."

          It's a long running joke on the topic of JEDI hereabouts - there hasn't been a Star Wars picture used yet, IIRC. Initially it played on the Star Wars/Star Trek conflation by those barbarians that don't care to know the difference, and now brings in B5. *We* all know the difference, and who starred in what (hence the comment about Sir Patrick - who doesn't have a grave to spin in yet!), but sometimes pretend not to.

          There - have I killed that joke sufficiently? I can draw some diagrams if you want :-)

    2. sum_of_squares
      Pint

      Re: Respect Babylon 5

      I watched B5 back in the days and I can still enjoy the images here.

  9. FXi

    Security is an afterthought at AWS

    With the sizable number of servers found "wide open" with confidential information on them I have zero trust in AWS on something as sensitive as our national security. It can be argued that these server setups are the responsibility of their owners but given that AWS takes absolutely zero responsibility for guiding those customers and "securing by default" leaves me with stunned every time we read about another server found wide open. AWS is classic Amazon really. They will do all they can to sell you a product. But taking responsibility for the quality of that product is only done when you force them to do so. They will never, and I think this is literally "corporate culture" take an active role to prevent faulty products. And frankly, with a contract that has this much importance, the track record at AWS over security problems tells me exactly why they should never be given a Pentagon contract.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security is an afterthought at AWS

      Ok, a few facts:

      * When you create an S3 bucket, the default is NO public access.

      * when you create a VPC, the default is NO internet access

      * when you create an EC2 instance, it’s default security group allows NO inbound access from the internet

      * when you create an IAM user or role, by default there are NO permissions defined - hence a default deny

      Of course, people can explicitly change these defaults (just like an on-premises firewall can be changed to allow internet connectivity), but that’s the customer. There are an increasing number of tools that also encourage users to think before enabling public access to these things.

      You can define IAM policies for users that prevent them making these changes; you can configure services to monitor and react to unwanted changes; you can audit exactly who/when/what was changed.

      Finally, AWS never forces a product sale; by its nature, pretty much everything is self service and PAYG; if you don’t like it, stop paying. Makes a nice change from multi-year contracts with penalties for early termination!

  10. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    Jassy

    Jassy is scratching his head thinking gee we even hired two of them to get that contract. A bastion of ethics there.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changing opinions

    Hasn't Amazon already been a government witness for how fair and open this has all been, when Oracle and IBM complained?

    Was it only fair if AWS was favourite?

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