August 15, 2018

Microsoft Vs Amazon- The War For Cloud Clearance

Microsoft, the office software giant, is making the headlines again. It has caught up with the leading online shopping store Amazon regarding the cloud clearance.

Winning the federal security approvals have given Microsoft Corp. an edge over other bidders of the winner-take-all competition by Pentagon. This competition was a multimillion-dollar contract for cloud computing.

The Controversy of cloud clearance

The award is to be declared by September and so, the Department of Defence is moving slowly towards that path.  It has called JEDI, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, for issuing the final request for the project’s proposal.

However, other potential bidders have voiced their complaints that the contract plans favor Amazon. Hence, they have requested for bifurcating the award among multiple contenders.

A few days back, the House passed a provision in the annual defense-spending bill. This provision would hold up the Cloud project’s funding until the Pentagon presents a strategy for sustaining multiple-cloud service provider and the competition.

The Cloud Clearance

The cloud Clearance Terms

The cloud clearances terms that any winning contractor must obtain from Pentagon has been given less public attention. It says that a winner must qualify to host

  • within 30 days, the unclassified information
  • within six months, the classified information, and
  • within nine months, top-secret information.

The process of obtaining security authorization for delivering the cloud service to the federal government is long and very expensive. This has been one reason why leading technology companies like  Oracle Corp., Alphabet’s Google and IBM Corp are lagging behind Amazon.

Any commercial cloud service providers who want to provide services to the federal government should acquire the certificate from the FedRAMP. FedRAMP is the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program that provides the approvals based on the sensitivity of the data hosted by the service.

To say, a low-level certification works well for the cloud services used for the public. However, for hosting the secret government information a cloud-based service would need a high-level certification. And for the Department of Defense, they need a special clearance from DISA. DISA- the Defense Information Systems Agency. issues the authorizations for security ranging from IL-2 to IL-6. IL-2 is for hosting unclassified data and IL-6 is for sensitive and classified data like national security information.

the Cloud Clearance

Hiring A Babysitter

This is one analogy that keeps going around a lot of times. It feels like employing a babysitter. Even if the sitter is very competent, you are still leaving your kid with someone else. By the end of the day, you still end up worrying. So. you ask your neighbor to keep an eye or you install cameras.

On an average, the cloud clearance service provider spends $2.25 million for obtaining the  FedRAMP authorization. And then, it spends $1 million every year to maintain it. The only best news is that FedRAMP has made some changes in its program. These changes have reduced the time it used to take for becoming authorized.

Microsoft is doing everything possible to prove itself competent and safe for the Department of Defence.

Other Companies In The Race

The Redmond is one of the big names that has come up in the race. This Washington-based company already holds FedRAMP’s high ratings for its business of Azure Government. It also has an IL-5 clearance from DISA. Last October, the Redmond announced it was going for IL-6 clearance. Amazon is one company that already holds that level of clearance.

Recently, the Redmond has also secured a profitable cloud deal. This deal allows 17 intelligence offices and agencies to use the Azure Government of Microsoft.

On the other hand, Microsoft is also making quite some progress in the field of the cloud. It brags about the ability to support hybrid technology, that is, mixing cloud systems with legacy on-premise computing.

However, the procurement experts have stated that a company can’t surely win just because it already has approvals. if the Pentagon gives the green signal, major technology companies, that are expert in federal security standards, can also move through the authorization process.

The Twist In The Tale

Pentagon is now open for accepting the bids from a team of companies. this has open the gates of opportunities for the potential candidates.

They can now pair with another tech firm to make up for any disadvantage they are facing. This has led to the entrance of many new bidders and potential candidates.

Wrapping It Up

Obtaining the cloud clearance for serving the government isn’t an easy task. They are accessed by a third party, answers a hundred questions and even invest for obtaining the approval.

Amazon web services got its head start in 2013 by winning a  $600 million contract, in security accreditation from the Central Intelligence Agency. And that’s not it. And this has led to a tail of companies follow in obtaining the approvals like the Redmond. Also, there is Google, IBM, and Oracle as a few known names.

However, this is now the race between Amazon and Microsoft and in September we will see the Winner.