This is going to come as a real shock to some readers, but Oracle is not, in fact, a public service organization and the statements it makes under a cloak of “public interest” are more than likely to have a very real ulterior motive. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder, chairman and (other than for a formality) CEO is well known as a combative, aggressive and shrewd businessman. What he isn’t known for is frilly public-good initiatives.

(As an aside, I attended a dinner at Ellison’s Woodside mansion a few years ago at which the attendant analysts were told by one of Ellison’s handlers just how much he loves animals and that he has a real penchant for taking in stray cats and dogs. The quip from the braver souls there was that the only picture they could conjure up of Ellison with a furry animal was one of him biting their heads off. But I digress…)

So, as I suggested, when Ellison and his company come out with a claim, it’s worth looking a bit more deeply at it than what we see at face value.

No single JEDI says Oracle

A good case in point is the official complaint that Oracle has just filed with the US government that revolved around the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract. More specifically, the complaint lies over Pentagon plans to award the contract to a single vendor. No points for guessing that, in all likelihood, if one vendor was to be chosen, it wouldn’t be our favorite red company from Redwood City, but rather a very different company that headquarters itself in Washington (and which, very soon, might have another headquarters in an, as yet, undecided location).

Let’s face it. As of today, any organization that is going to go all-in on a single public cloud vendor will, in all probability, go with AWS.

And this is a seriously big deal. The JEDI contract is, in technical terms, yuge. It will run for up to 10 years across all branches of the military and is potentially worth $10B. That’s a lot of dollars and a contract worth fighting for.

The argument at face value

And so, Oracle is fighting hard and has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office asking that the RFP be amended to cover multiple cloud vendors. In this desire, it has to be said, Oracle is joined by others – vendors, the tech lobby and some parts of Congress. In Oracle’s view, a single vendor contract will impede innovation, competition, and security. According to the company, and in typically bombastic Oracle terms the stated approach towards JEDI:

virtually assures DoD will be locked into legacy cloud for a decade or more. The single-award approach is contrary to industry’s multi-cloud strategy, which promotes constant competition, fosters innovation and lowers prices

The protest continues, but you no doubt get the gist – competition, flexibility, innovation and technology change are all aspects included in the protest documentation. Somewhat ironically, given Oracle’s history, the protest states that:

Standardizing on a single cloud today makes no more sense than standardizing on a single on premise computing architecture decades ago

One can only ruminate on what Oracle’s viewpoint would have been had it been confident that it would have been the likely sole recipient of the contract.

The reality. Maybe Larry has a point

Let’s for a minute think back to the dawn of the cloud age, back in the mid-2000’s. Back then, those of us who spent our days opining on the cloud has some very specific perceptions as to what the future of the cloud would look like. Reading back on some of my older posts, I half chuckle and half grimace at the innocence of a new frontier of technology.

Fast forward to today and we have a far more mature perspective – cloud has become the default way that technology is delivered, but that default comes with a bunch of pragmatic caveats. Most people accept that multi-cloud (that is, cloud services from multiple vendors and platforms) and hybrid cloud (some blend of public and private cloud, not to mention some legacy infrastructure) will be the norm for the foreseeable future. Or at least the foreseeable future as far as we can see it.

And that’s the point – technology is dynamic. The technology industry change frequently. As such, a contract that seeks to lock in a technology approach for ten years is the wrong way to look at the problem. Hell, at his most conciliatory, even Andy Jassy, AWS’ CEO, would agree that over 10 years, a degree of flexibility is the best thing to have.

The Feds believe there’s a method to their madness

For their part, the Feds responsible for JEDI aren’t simply being stubborn. They want to make the bidding process a quick one and suggest that going with multiple vendors would slow down the contract process, increase the costs and have a longer-term impact in terms of increased management overhead.

And, to a point, they’re correct. But that needs to be contrasted by the very real risks that come from locking the Federal infrastructure up in today’s best-practice approach and preeminent vendor – that is today’s measure and doesn’t in any way future proof.


I’m not usually an advocate for Larry Ellison, but in this case, I reckon he has a valid point. While it might cause some time and process hassles at the outset, doing the job properly, and ensuring flexibility in the future makes a ton of sense. And, at the very least, it allows for the prediction that Larry has been making for years (to the general guffaws of the analyst community), that Oracle will become the world best and biggest cloud vendor.


It should also be noted that this isn’t the first time that Oracle has moaned and whined taken an action to the GAO. It did so earlier this year when Rean Cloud was awarded another defense contract. In that case, Oracle was successful in overturning the $1 billion contract, Larry and his buddies will take heart from that decision.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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