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Amazon legal filing torpedoes Big Blue's spook cloud dreams

Bezos & Co bring in the lawyers to get lucrative CIA cloud contract through

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Amazon and IBM's tussle for a multi-million dollar government cloud contract has moved to DEFCON 3 when Amazon challenged the CIA's decision to take another look at the two companies' bids.

In a complaint filed with the US Court Of Federal Claims on Wednesday, Amazon tried to short-circuit any future attempts by IBM to protest the CIA's choice of Amazon, should the agency pick Bezos & Co again for the basis of a massive cloud project.

The CIA had originally awarded Amazon the contract over IBM on the grounds that Amazon's proposed technology was superior (though more expensive), and the company posed a less risky proposition as a vendor than IBM. Big Blue lawyered up and disputed this, arguing that its own proposal had not been evaluated properly by the CIA.

The government accountability office (GAO) recognized two of IBM's points and the CIA is understood to have taken the organization's recommendations to reopen the contract with both companies./

Now, Amazon is putting its lawyers to work in an attempt to prevent IBM from contesting future CIA decisions, and to perhaps get the existing mooted contract through sooner than would otherwise happen.

"We believe strongly that the CIA got it right the first time," an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement given to The Register. "Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology."

"We believe that the CIA selected AWS based on AWS's technically superior, best value solution, which will allow the Agency to rapidly innovate while delivering the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems. We look forward to a fast resolution so the Agency can move forward with this important contract."

To say that Amazon being awarded the contract caused anxiety at IBM is an understatement – government contracts are the grass that IBM uses to make its piles of hay, and for another vendor to appear on the field poses a major strategic threat to the company. IBM was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

We understand that as this is a new contract neither Amazon or IBM had any significant presence inside the CIA for a technology of this type before, and so the contract represents not only a big wedge of money, but a chance for either vendor to lead a new project within an influential part of the government.

Given the CIA's immense information processing and storage needs, this contract has the potential to be very, very sticky, so if Amazon gets inside the agency then IBM, HP and other traditional enterprise IT firms will have to face a brash incumbent on their home turf.

This is how momentous technology changes happen – not with fluffy press releases or exciting new technology, but with procedural legal tussles between companies as they vie to get their technology into the most lucrative, change averse environment – the government. ®

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