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The Pentagon opened a winner-take-all competition Wednesday for a multibillion-dollar cloud services contract, a move that industry groups representing rivals including Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have said would favor Amazon.com Inc.

A draft request for proposals issued Wednesday sought industry input for a two-year base contract with options for renewal over eight more years. A final request would be released in early May with a contract award as soon as September, officials told industry representatives in a briefing near the Pentagon in Washington's Virginia suburbs.

Defense Department officials said the cloud-computing contract is needed to allow worldwide communications among U.S. forces in different military services and commands and is more than just another computer services competition.

"Whichever one of you wins this, I'm challenging you to bring your 'A game,'" Air Force Brig. Gen. David Krumm, deputy director for requirements for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the gathering. "This is going to make a difference like few things have to get data to our war-fighters when and where he or she needs it."

Cloud services -- in which computing power and storage are hosted in remote data centers run by a third-party company rather than on-site in locally owned machines -- can range from powering email and storing personnel files to running complex decision-making algorithms. The Pentagon said it's making the shift to the cloud to strengthen its use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of things.

Having already won two other government cloud contacts, Amazon Web Services is widely perceived as the front-runner for the Defense Department award. Industry groups had called for multiple contract awards, which could improve the opportunities for companies including Oracle, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.'s Google and IBM Corp.

Without directly commenting on Amazon's potential edge for the contract, Chanda Brooks, a Pentagon contracting officer, told the gathering Wednesday that market research shows that multiple companies are capable of meeting the requirements. She said the "full and open competition" would result in a single award.

Sam Gordy, the head of federal business for IBM, said he would prefer for the Defense Department to award multiple cloud contracts competitively.

"God forbid we go to war in the next year to five years, this will be the cloud on which we go to war," he said. America shouldn't be held back "because in peacetime it was simple to throw everything onto one cloud."

Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents defense contractors including Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, said "going to a single vendor closes the market to just that vendor for a decade."

"If you want to access innovation in the marketplace for cloud services, you're going to have to go through that vendor and there'll be other people that have new mousetraps," Waldron said.

Underscoring the scope of the initiative, Essye Miller, the Defense Department's acting chief information officer, said the Pentagon's information technology covers "3.4 million users, approximately 4 million endpoint devices, over 1,700 data centers and approximately 500 different cloud initiatives across the department."

Seattle-based Amazon leads the cloud infrastructure market with 44.2 percent, followed by Microsoft's Azure with 7.1 percent, China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. with 3 percent and Google Cloud Platform at 2.3 percent, based on total cloud industry 2016 revenue, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

Business on 03/08/2018

Print Headline: Pentagon invites companies to vie for cloud-services pact

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