SAN FRANCISCO : The pentagon awarded Microsoft a $10 billion cloud computing contract, snubbing early front runner Amazon, whose competitive bid drew criticism from President Donald Trump and its business rivals.

Bidding for the huge project, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI pitted leading tech titans Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and IBM against one another.

The giant contract has attracted more attention than most, sparked by speculation early in the process that Amazon would be the sole winner of the deal.

Tech powerhouses, Oracle and IBM pushed back with their own bids and also formally protested the  bidding process last year.

Oracle later challenged the process in federal court, but lost.

Trump waded into the fray in July, saying that the administration would ''take a very long look'' at the process, saying he had heard complaints. Trump has frequently expressed his ire for Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos, who also own the Washington Post. At the time, he said other companies told him that the contract ''wasn't competitively bid.''

Defence Secretary Mark Esper recused himself from the controversial bidding process earlier last week, citing a conflict of interest because his son works in for one of the companies that originally bid.

The JEDI system will store and process vast amounts classified data, allowing the US military to use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities.

A cloud strategy document unveiled by the Defense Department last year called for replacing the military's ''disjointed and stove-piped information systems'' with a commercial cloud service ''that will empower the warfighter with data and is critical to maintaining our military's technological advantage.''

The Pentagon emphasised in an announcement that the process was fair and followed procurement guidelines. It noted that over the past two years, it has awarded more than $11 billion in ten separate cloud-computing contracts, and said the JEDI award ''continues our strategy of multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment.''

The deal is a major win for Microsoft's cloud business Azure, which has long been catching-up to    Amazon's market leading Amazon Web Services. Microsoft it was preparing a statement.

Amazon said on Friday it was surprised by the decision. [AP]


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