Why The US Military Shouldn’t Give Amazon 10 Billion Dollars

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The US military is apparently close to signing a potentially $10B deal to use Amazon’s cloud computing services. This would make Amazon an even more dominant company, and it’s less secure for the military.


In the case of the cloud, Amazon’s open-source repositories mostly contain ways to connect to its servers.  It’s primarily a free SDK, in many different programming languages, to talk to Amazon’s infrastructure.

People have built cross-platform cloud APIs.  There’s a popular library written in Python called libcloud, which supports 30 cloud providers.  Amazon on its website recommends the custom ones Amazon built.

Moving applications to an external cloud is a security risk.  Even if the data is encrypted over the wire, and on the hard drive, the application server processing the data has all the information un-encrypted.

The Defense Department can always afford soldiers to guard and maintain its computers.  It’s easy to run a datacenter compared to an aircraft-carrier.  With OpenStack, a small team of people can manage hundreds of computers.

The RFP mentions a requirement for 50 petabytes (or 50,000 terabytes) of online storage.  This is a huge number to anyone in the computer industry, who usually deals in megabytes or gigabytes, but you can buy a 6T drive for $114 on Amazon.  You could buy all the storage for $800,000.

Note that 8,300 hard drives is probably not enough.  You will want more for redundancy, and even more for performance.  Some drives could be so busy that you want to make copies or split the data up to handle the load.  So you could triple the cost to be safe.  It’s still far less than one F-35 airplane.

The RFP mentions needing 46,000 compute cores.  On Lenovo’s website, you can purchase a 16-core server for $4,000.  It would take 2,800 of those servers, and cost about $11 million.  That is still less than an F-35.

These are just partial estimates, but it does put the $10 billion in perspective.


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h/t keithcu


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