Microsoft President Brad Smith has spoken about the company’s recent win of the Pentagon’s lucrative and controversial JEDI cloud contract. The $10 billion deal was struck in October and prompted fast legal action by Amazon’s AWS, who was the favorite.
In an interview with Business Insider at the World Economic Forum, Smith talked a little about why he believes the company triumphed. According to the executive and chief legal officer, it came down not to favoritism, but investment and hard work.
“What was surprising to the outside world in terms of end result was less surprising to us,” he said. “We knew how hard we had been working and, perhaps more importantly, how much progress we made in not just satisfying but exceeding the requirements.”
With two years between the announcement of JEDI and the decision, Microsoft began to rapidly expand its capabilities. Rather than focusing on what it has already built, it looked at the requirements and how it could work to exceed them.
“What we did was think about this not just as a sales opportunity, but really, a very large-scale engineering project,” Smith continued. “We didn’t stop improving the project or a feature when we got to the point where we met the requirement. We saw each area as potentially an opportunity to exceed the requirement and the feature that the Pentagon wanted.”
Amazon’s Legal Action
It’s a statement AWS CEO Andy Jassy would be unlikely to agree with. When Amazon launched its legal challenge, he said, “If you do any thorough, apples-to-apples, objective comparison of AWS versus Microsoft you don’t come out deciding that they’re comparable platforms”.
However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella previously argued that Microsoft Azure has unique offerings in the area of hybrid cloud, where Amazon isn’t as strong, and this aided it significantly.
“We stayed and said ‘Look, somebody like the Department of Defense is going to need forward deployment that is not going to be like, ‘Oh, here’s the cloud,” he said “We just built basically a leadership position in what people describe as hybrid computing.”
Hybrid cloud refers to the practice of using a mix of private and public cloud. An organization can keep its classified data on a private cloud while seamlessly running workloads and applications that rely on the data on Azure. It’s clearly a structure that could appeal to the Pentagon, who handles swathes of classified data.
Just over a week ago, though, Amazon reportedly filed temporarily stop Microsoft working on JEDI. As well as the technological element, it says there are questions to be asked about President Donald Trump’s involvement, who reportedly told his Defense secretary to “screw Amazon” out of the contract.
Undoubtedly, the arguments will continue well into the future, with Microsoft insisting it won out of merit, and AWS out of preferential treatment.