Google reinserts itself into DOD cloud conversation with DIU pilot contract

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Google Cloud has worked its way back into the Department of Defense‘s cloud environment with a new pilot contract to provide a secure multi-cloud management system for the department.

The Defense Innovation Unit awarded a one-year contract to Google Cloud to build a secure cloud management solution on its open-source, multi-cloud Anthos platform, which will allow DIU to manage services and applications across a variety of commercial cloud platforms, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and, of course, Google Cloud.

DIU is the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley-based innovation liaison created to boost work with commercial tech companies. Typically, DIU awards smaller pilot contracts called other transaction agreements (OTAs) that, if successful, can result in larger, scaled production contracts. A spokesperson on behalf of Google said the contract is a “seven-figure deal” and that the hope is to scale the work with DIU across the Pentagon.

“DIU engages technology vendors for the Defense Department through fast and efficient commercial cloud services,” Jeff Kleck, DIU cyber portfolio director, told FedScoop. “DIU’s secure cloud management project’s objective is to enhance our security and control when accessing commercial cloud services, without impacting performance and usability.”

Mike Daniels, vice president of global public sector for Google Cloud,” said in a statement that the “expectation is that the DoD will look at the project as a model for how to implement their own security posture.”

The contract comes after Google stood down from several major defense technology projects in recent years, including the Pentagon’s premier Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, which it said didn’t sit right with the company’s ethical views at the time. Google also notably walked away from a major artificial intelligence contract with the DOD, Project Maven, after employees protested the project and resigned from the company, again because of the ethics surrounding it. Some officials said it left them with a negative perception of Google as a partner to American national security, despite its reputation as one of the top cloud providers in the federal space.

But Google has since been working to develop its own ethical principles for how it navigates the sensitive arena of defense technology. Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs for Google, said last fall it was “frustrating to hear concerns around our commitment to national security and defense. In addition to its reluctance to work with the DOD on JEDI and Project Maven, Google has also bee condemned for its work providing AI development services in China, the U.S.’s biggest military technology competitor.

Walker explained Google stepping away from Maven as “an area where it’s right that we decided to press the reset button until we had the opportunity to develop our own set of AI principles, our own work with regard to internal standards and review processes. But that was a decision focused on a discrete contract — not a broader statement about our willingness or our history of working with the Department of Defense.”

The DIU contract also signals that DOD is leaning toward a multi-cloud future despite the single-award nature of the $10 billion JEDI contract, which Microsoft won last fall. Google’s Anthos, because it is open source, allows DIU to securely manage services from multiple providers at once.

“Multi-cloud is the future. The majority of commercial businesses run multi-cloud environments securely and seamlessly, and this is now coming to the federal government as well,” Daniels said.

The contract also provides Google’s Istio for distributed microservice orchestration and Netskope for cloud security.

Combined, these services provide for better network throughput and access control, reduced costs, enhanced mobility and quicker deployment of services, Google says in a release.

“Google Cloud is a pioneer in ‘zero trust’ security and in deploying innovative approaches to protecting and securing networks worldwide,” Daniels said. “We’re honored to partner with DIU on this critical initiative to protect its network from bad actors that pose threats to our national security.”

-In this Story-

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Department of Defense (DOD), DIU (formerly DIUx), Google Cloud, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), Microsoft, Mike Daniels, Project Maven
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