back to article CIA spooks picked Amazon's 'superior' cloud over IBM

The CIA picked Amazon over IBM for a lucrative government contract not because of price, but because of the company's "superior technical solution" – a view that contrasts with IBM's vision of itself as the go-to tech organization for governments. The revelation came to light on Friday when the US Government Accountability …

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Anonymous Coward

Will the NSA spy on the CIA? For national security they must; it is well known that the CIA has been behind some assassination attempts and some successes. That right there puts national security at risk.

Examples of others:

Sending in troops

Training foreign troops

Sending weapons to rebels or troops

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Coat

The real reason

I understand that it was Amazon's Free Super Saver delivery that really swung the deal.

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Re: The real reason

But on the downside it will come in a box that's twice as big as it needs to be, delivered by a Home Delivery Network driver in a Ford Fiesta and abandoned on the doorstep in the rain...

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Paris Hilton

Re: The real reason

Other customers who stored highly classified information also brought... Wolf howling at a full moon T-shirt... $9.99...

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Re: The real reason

Thankfully Amazon do offer other delivery options - such as pickup from a nearby storefont or delivery to $orkplace.

Several other outfits are not nearly as flexible.

BTW that $LARGEBOX adds virtually zero to the shipping or carbon costs and gives protection against rugby-wannabe couriers dropkicking packages into the van and around the depot (Or in some documented cases, throwing them over a 8 foot high fence to deliver). They don't tend to be so generous in packaging for the storefront pickups.

(My most recent cable/ram deliveries have come in small padded envelopes. They do seem to be sensible about how they send things)

Insert rant about fecking couriers here.

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Re: The real reason

HP once sent me 4 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper on a skid.

Sheet of paper in #10 envelope, in an anti-static bag, in a padded envelope, in a box. X4 in a BIG box with lots of peanuts strapped to a skid.

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Coat

Re: The real reason

Other customers who stored highly classified information also bought... Wolf howling at a full moon T-shirt... $9.99...

I guess they couldn't handle the 3-wolf shirt.

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Re: The real reason

in fairness, you can't go straight to 3 wolves, that's just asking for trouble.

I recommend adding a wolf a year, but no more than 3..... and heaven help us if a 4 wolf shirt falls in to the wrong hands

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually..

"I drive a Kia. It's the best possible car. I've never ever driven anything else because Kia is the best."

So do you actually know that the IBM security team is *worse* than the Amazon guy?

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Re: Actually..

IBM lost our business when they took 3 hours to answer the phone on a 24/7/365 support contract.

Enough said.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually..

Do you know exactly why IBM spent that much time? To find out a person who is knowledgeable enough to resolve the damn issue.(All of the good and knowledge IBM has fired or layed off, to save the money.) On top of all that, IBM hires employees through really cheap contractors, who most of the time do not even check the knowledge nor background check of those the contracting companies employ. To name such (CCI, now known as IS Staffing) hires dumb bricks for less than 13$ an hour to do work of a System Admin or IAM/SARM work. "Senior Management Positions"

Also about 90% of what IBM contracts for their work, wont pass any background checks in order to acquire security clearance to be able to work on some of the government accounts..

One more fact about IBM is: They lobby in Washington D.C. to bring the pay down for all IT, and to make it as equal of a pay as Micky D's...

The real truth about IBM.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually..

What was the response window? 24/7/365 doesn't mean you have a bat phone line into the engineers. With IBM, generally the SLA is 4 hr response, with an option to lower it to 2 hrs.

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Thumb Up

A switched-on Client

Reading between the [Redacted] lines, it sounds as if the CIA has understood the IBM pricing equation, namely:

Actual Price Paid = Initial Contract Price * ( 1 + ( How good IBM's lawyers are / How good the Client's lawyers are ))

And IBM's lawyers are very good at this game.

Good for the CIA.

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Re: A switched-on Client

That was my takeaway too, Amazon guaranteed a price whereas IBM worded it in such a way that it was obvious that they expected extra fees to be coming their way.

And who can run a business like that?

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Meh

Re: A switched-on Client

The reality is, the whole government bidding and contracting system is broken; from both the customer (govt) and vendor sides. The govt RFQ has gone through 7.6247 agencies and 25x that many committies, to ensure compliance, that the original goal is so obfuscated, spindled and contorted that the only possible deliverable will not be fit for purpose/contractually compliant without reams of meetings, comittee reviews, change orders and testing.

As a vendor you have to build some of that into the original contract but it's a fine line to walk. Too much and you're accused of attempting to bilk the govt, too little and you lose money. Any vendor who has ever had a large govt contract knows this, including IBM, so you try to write contracts that never end so there's less chance of underbidding.

Amazon is famous for their loss leading strategies and this will certainly be a loser for them, but maybe they can segue it into a longterm success, who knows. The fact of the matter is that government procurement is fundamentally broken and over time has evolved into the most convoluted scheme imaginable; all at the expense of the taxpayer.

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Anonymous Coward

Does not compute

"concluded that the reports and their knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the outages were not sufficiently detailed to take the outages into account in the past performance evaluation"

Eh what? Did I misunderstand or does that say if you don't explain what went wrong it doesn't count?

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Anonymous Coward

What did anyone at IBM think was going to be the long term result of being a technology implementor instead of a technology developer?

I mean it's not like it's rocket surgery to figure out that when your business as the 'biggest computer company in the world' is feeding multiple 'service companies' that the service companies can't do what you do, so they piggy back on your business. Converting your business to emulate theirs was always a plan to do your business down.

Too late now IBM, you've sold far to much of the Family Silver to get back to being a 'developer/leader/provider of technology', you're not much better equiped than all the other 'support and service companies' now, only they built their businesses on 'support and service', you didn't.

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The big difference is that IBM normally has enough lobbyists to ensure that government contacts don't go to anyone else.

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Anonymous Coward

As an IBMer who works in outsourcing, I'm just surprised a customer chose a supplier on something other than price. We're so used to having to quote the lowest possible figure in order to even get a look in that it's rarely worthwhile putting forward a solution with all the bells and whistles. Of course those bargain basement customers are then shocked when they don't get premium level service but what can you do?

I'm an anonymous coward because IBM doesn't like IBMers commenting on anything at all, regardless of how inane and harmless.

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Anonymous Coward

As an ex-IBM'er, I can vouch for there once having been such things as 'True Blue' customers, who would pay for IBM no matter that it was more expensive than anyone else in the market place, quite simply because IBM delivered good technology, and services.

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Anonymous Coward

Correct choice

AWS has a proven record of reducing prices to customers very often.

IBM have a proven record for screwing over customers (and staff) at every opportunity.

AWS was the correct choice here, with "risk" being the correct highlighted point. Smart choice CIA.

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Re: Correct choice

> Smart choice CIA

Of course negotiating is easier if you are recording all the calls of your supplier !

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Anonymous Coward

IBM stinks

As someone who has worked with their bladecenters extensively they probably lost based on the fact they have 20% right out of the box failure rates(ive heard from former coworkers in some cases its like 100%) not to mention they essentially live in your environment after that fixing the multitudes of broken equipment which is almost always resolvable with a firmware upgrade :rolleyes:. We have one person essentially assigned to babysit their technicians because they are always there. They may have been a tech leader in the past and on their big iron stuff but for x86 they have let the quality and service go to hell and they should have sold it all to Lenovo maybe then they could have saved it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IBM stinks

That isn't an IBM problem, that is an x86 industry problem. When all of the suppliers purchase the lowest cost components and assemble them at the lowest cost possible, quality is not going to come out of that mix. That is what people purchasing x86 want though, lowest cost. x86 is low end gear, regardless of OEM.... IBM's internal IP servers, Power and z, are top notch.

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Crass speculation by article author

Article writer Jack Clark has no idea of or technical proof that Amazon's AWS Cloud services are in " fact that OpenStack is several years behind Amazon Web Services in capability" which he therefore most likely concluded because OpenStack is younger in creation and ongoing development than AWS, but that does not indicate or prove in any way possible that such situation represents "less capability".

Unless Mr. Clark provides a expert and comprehensive analysis of technical report (written and verified by third party) fom nationally recognized and respected "non affiliated" research entity concerning direct comparison between AWS and OpenStack, tuned respectively by their developer organizations, then he needs to stop guessing and shut up.

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Linux

Re: Crass speculation by article author

Awwww. Who's the OpenStack guy with hurt feelings. Sounds like you need a hug big fella; have a penguin instead.

Can you, random commentard, produce the same level of documentation which you so politely request of the author? You are the challenger, it's on you to put up.

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Meh

Re: Crass speculation by article author

Mr Anderson, I believe OpenStack is several years behind Amazon in terms of the amount of features and services it can offer. Its core storage, compute, and network have rapidly matured, but it lacks the broad ecosystem of additional techs that defines Amazon. For proof, please refer to any list of OpenStack's techs and Amazon's techs.

A common complaint I hear from major public cloud users is that OpenStack is "AWS circa 2009". I also speak to companies that want to transition off of Amazon for a variety of reasons and many of them have the same problem - few other clouds have the broad set of capabilities AWS has. If they could move to OpenStack, they would, but it isn't ready. This, of course, will change - but it is not there yet.

I have covered OpenStack closely since its formation in mid-2010. When it is competitive, I'll be the first to say so. Thanks for reading, JC

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WTF?

So...

...Amazon is about to become the next NSA, am I reading this right? What if they decide to allow the IRS access everything the NSA knows about America's citezenry? Disaster, right? Wrong? Anyone?

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rav
WTF?

Amazon managing CIA secretes!!

Does that mean secrets are for sale with Amazon Prime?

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Happy

Re: Amazon managing CIA secretes!!

One day you'll be streaming something from Amazon Instant Video and suddenly you'll be watching a video feed coming from right behind you!

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Anonymous Coward

Proposal fail

Sounds like the IBM's proposal was half baked and the "demo" too. I guess if AWS hosts some stuff for the CIA, the NSA can access it too :-)

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Just to recap - out of five technical areas, Amazon is judged slightly better at 3, really better at 1 (but a "demo" should not really count for much) and IBM is slightly better at 1.

Justifying 50% higher price on such evaluation would not hold water with any semi-competent procurement department. Or the tech guys are unable to write a proper RFQ, just know which toy they want?

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Anonymous Coward

Agree, in order to justify a 50% price delta one solution should be unworkable while the other is a sure thing. It seems like they just wanted Amazon's feature/function and bent the analysis to justify what they wanted to buy. For example, the risk level being "high" with IBM and "low" with Amazon. It would be interesting to see that justification. IBM has been working with the CIA since the foundation of the CIA. They have probably delivered a dozen projects on this scale. Amazon just got into computing services a few years ago and has likely never delivered anything of this scale and security level.... Second, after the contract has been awarded, Amazon comes back and says "you weren't serious about verifying the security of ALL of the software we use, right?... because we can only verify the security of the software we developed, not the open source... which we use extensively." How did they not cancel the contract award right there and go back to the table. It was one of the four key decision criteria and an obvious material change to the bid.

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Holmes

IBM starting price, the cost is in the extras

I have only worked with an IBM project once, they appeared to do nothing until the week of the integration trial, then called asking all the basic questions. That was the fixed bit of the job, all the functionality the customer actually expected was "extra" development after the date. So the CIA probably got the cheaper deal.

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

If you were running the most secretive organization on the planet, what would possess you to use a "private" cloud, presumably meaning separated from the AWS general population, from a retailer instead of building your own private cloud environment?

Clearly it wasn't due to cost as they just paid $55 million more PER YEAR for Amazon than IBM. Although Amazon may have some nice technical features vs. IBM SmartCloud (I wouldn't know), I seriously doubt that the IBM solution would have flat out not worked or could not have worked. You could build a pretty awesome, and secure, Hadoop environment with $600 million.

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