Cloud computing service providers Microsoft and Amazon have been locked in a battle to win the contract for the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program. That battle has now come to an end, with Microsoft coming out on top. Since winning the JEDI deal, worth up to $10 billion over ten years, Microsoft has been moving quickly with hirings to prepare for its work with the DoD.
Today the Pentagon operates over 500 separate cloud systems, which creates many seams and additional layers of complexity for America’s warfighters. The scattering of data across the multitude of clouds or “data silos” creates issues when warfighters need to analyze critical data.
JEDI looks to reduce the number of these data silos and establish a common operating baseline and set of interfaces to support a wide array of applications. The strategy will reduce the number of DoD clouds and data centers which should reduce cost and speed of access for critical data.
Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan is the Director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said in his speech at a DoD media presentation in August 2019:
The warfighter needed enterprise cloud yesterday. Dominance in A.I. is not a question of software engineering. But instead, it’s the result of combining capabilities at multiple levels: code, data, compute and continuous integration and continuous delivery. All of these require the provisioning of hyper-scale commercial cloud.
For A.I. across DOD, enterprise cloud is existential. Without enterprise cloud, there is no A.I. at scale. A.I. will remain a series of small-scale stovepipe projects with little to no means to make A.I. available or useful to warfighters. That is, it will be too hard to develop, secure, update and use in the field.
JEDI will provide on-demand, elastic compute at scale, data at scale, substantial network and transport advantages, DevOps and a secure operating environment at all classification levels. […]
In this future high-end fight we envision a world of algorithmic warfare and autonomy where competitive advantage goes to the side that understands how to harness 5G, A.I., enterprise cloud and quantum, when quantum’s available, into a viable operational model, all part of the department’s transformation from a hardware — hardware-centric to an all-domain digital force. This digital more — modernization is a war-fighting imperative that demands a palpable sense of urgency, and it’s one that will be fueled by an enterprise cloud solution. […]
We don’t want to waste any more time moving forward because we know our potential adversaries are doing it at their own speed, whether it’s Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, SenseTime, they’re all coming up with their own cloud solutions and then don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make them 1,000 feet tall, they’re going to have their own cloud interoperability challenges.
But the level of investment and the number of people they’re putting at the problem, they’re moving at a very rapid pace and what I can’t afford to do is slow down anymore. We want to move equally fast and actually outpace them and they do — they — they’re taking a very similar approach, they know the importance of an enterprise cloud solution to what they’re doing with artificial intelligence.
And Russia’s not that far behind, a little bit different approach in how they do it, but in general, your point is well taken that we’ve got to — we’ve got to keep our speed up.
Dana Deasy, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Defense, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 29th, 2019, that he watched soldiers in Afghanistan use three separate systems to find the information they needed. One to identify the adversary, another to decide what actions to take, and then finally the third system to see where friendly assets were on the ground. He went on to say, “We don’t have an enterprise approach. We have a bunch of siloed solutions we built. We have lots of vendors we’re using for cloud solutions, but we’ve never stepped back and created a holistic solution.” JEDI hopes to paint a single picture of the battlefield by connecting hundreds of DoD data silos. JEDI’s expected completion date is October 24th, 2029.
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