Amazon takes fight over CIA cloud back to IBM

As expected, the cloud spat between IBM(s ibm) and Amazon (s amzn) over which company should build the now-not-so-secret CIA cloud, is turning into a drawn out affair. The latest wrinkle is that Amazon, which won the contract to build the stealthy cloud late last year, is crying foul over IBM’s challenge  last February of that award.
This week, Amazon filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, basically saying the CIA got the right result the first time out, according to Federal Computer Week‘s Fred Konkel who has been all over this story since the get go.
What was so interesting about the Amazon win was:

  1. that this is, a private cloud whereas Amazon is the king of public cloud. It’s had to struggle to prove its cloud worthy of sensitive workloads and what workloads are more sensitive than the CIA’s?
  2. Amazon won despite the fact that its bid was $54 million higher than IBM’s, something that seemed to make Amazon CTO Werner Vogels uncomfortable when asked about it at GigaOM Structure last month. For Amazon, the message has always been that it’s the low-cost provider — if it costs more than IBM for goodness sake, so much for that argument!

In early June, the Government Accountability Office noted that price discrepency between bids when it recommended that the CIA re-do the process. The CIA, according to FCW, says it has since followed the GAO recommendations but it remains unclear whether Amazon will retain the prize.
This battle shows how big a footprint AWS now has in all cloud arenas. If it wins this fight over IBM, the king of enterprise IT, for what is to be a super-secure cloud, it would be a validation of Amazon’s ability to handle even the most sensitive data and workloads, and would no doubt be used to sell AWS into all sorts of security- and compliance-conscious accounts.
GigaOM has reported that AWS will likely roll out similar mini-me private clouds outside the U.S. where data privacy issues are paramount.
So, this battle over who builds the CIA stealth cloud really, really matters to Amazon. And to IBM.
In other words, watch this space.
 Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user dbking