Microsoft and Amazon are the two biggest cloud service companies, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) a distant market leader ahead of the successful Microsoft Azure. Now, the two cloud giants are battling to win a lucrative contract dubbed a “war cloud” from the U.S. military.
Yes, this is the exact same contract that used to be called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) plan. This controversial cloud system would see the storage of classified Pentagon data for AI-based war planning.
Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon (AWS) remain the only two competitors for the project. Most cloud service providers have argued the vastness of the proposal should mean more than one provider is used.
Legal issues have put the future of the JEDI program under doubt, and the winner of Microsoft and Amazon is not expected to be announced for some time. Oracle has been a long-time critic of the one-provider approach and has taken its case to the Court of Federal Claims.
The company says there is a conflict of interest between the United States government and Amazon. Oracle says Amazon has a former Defense Department official working for it, creating a conflict of interest. Amazon has played down the significance, saying Oracle has “exaggerated that employee's role in the procurement”.
While that could mean good news for Microsoft, the legal bickering has delayed the announcement of the “war cloud” winner.
Concerns over the project have been widespread, even Microsoft's own staff have protested the company bidding for the contract. Through a Medium blog post, Microsoft employees say they don't want their AI and cloud to be used in war scenarios:
“Many Microsoft employees don't believe that what we build should be used for waging war.”
“When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of 'empowering every person on the planet to achieve more,' not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality,” the open letter added.