Here are the power players at Amazon and Microsoft who will play a key role in their battles over the government cloud market, which could be worth $100 billion (AMZN, MSFT)

cloud war azure v aws 2x1

  • The Pentagon selected Microsoft for JEDI, a contentious $10 billion cloud computing contract, but Amazon isn’t giving up without a fight.
  • Amazon started the process to protest that decision, citing “unmistakable bias” stemming from President Donald Trump’s “disdain” for the company and CEO Jeff Bezos.
  • Regardless of the outcome of that dispute, there’s still billions of dollars in government cloud contracts up for grabs. One expert estimates government spending on cloud computing will reach $100 billion in the next decade.
  • Amazon and Microsoft have assembled influential teams that shape the company’s relationships with governments – and impact their ability to secure those lucrative government contracts.
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Microsoft may have defeated Amazon in the battle for the Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud computing contract, but there’s still billions of dollars worth of government cloud contracts on the table — and both companies have assembled influential teams to fight for their share. 

Microsoft scored a major upset last month when it won that Pentagon deal – the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract – to move the Department of Defense’s sensitive data to the cloud. 

That fight might not be over. Amazon on Thursday started the process to challenge the Pentagon’s decision, citing “unmistakable bias,” with President Donald Trump’s “disdain” for the company (and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post) making the bidding process unfair. In the aftermath, AWS CEO Andy Jassy told employees that its cloud was 24 months ahead of Microsoft’s. 

But that contentious fight is just one piece of a massive potential market. Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives estimates government spending on cloud computing will reach $100 billion in the next decade.

Ives says that much of the battle came down to Bezos and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“While the whole team at Microsoft and Amazon played major roles in this JEDI bake off it came down to a square-off between Nadella and Bezos,” Ives told Business Insider. “We believe both CEOs played an instrumental role and ultimately Nadella and [Microsoft] won in this Game of Thrones-like battle.”

Regardless, those two chief execs have some serious talent on their side, who can help them navigate the complex and ever-changing environment up on Capitol Hill.

Here are the power players at Amazon and Microsoft in their fight for the government IT market, according to analysts and insiders: 


Toni Townes-Whitley

Toni Townes-Whitley was at the helm for Microsoft’s JEDI win. She runs a team of more than 2,000 salespeople  charged with selling Microsoft products to governments and regulated industries — in other words, companies that operate under strict government oversight.

Townes-Whitley took on her role as president of Microsoft US Regulated Industries in July 2018, the same month the Pentagon released its request for proposals for JEDI. She has experience handling big government contracts as the former president of a company called CGI Federal, an IT company that serves the government and intelligence sectors. 

Many of the key players in Microsoft’s fight for government business are related to Azure Government, Microsoft’s dedicated cloud for US government customers and their partners.

Tom Keane is Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Azure Global. He was behind Microsoft’s unveiling of Microsoft Azure Government Secret, which enables the company to handle highly-classified customer information. Secret is a physically isolated cloud with a Department of Defense Impact Level 5 (IL-5) security clearance, one of the highest security clearances.

Lily Kim is partner and general manager of Azure Global. She’s the person responsible for Microsoft’s global strategy for Azure Government. Kim manages the Azure Government cloud network.

Microsoft Azure Government Senior Director Karina Homme is the company’s federal market lead, who acts as a liaison between the federal government and Microsoft Azure engineering. 

John Sampson runs the government affairs team for Microsoft’s government cloud. His job is to sell people in the federal government on Azure’s competitive advantages.

Microsoft General Security Manager Leigh Madden runs the team responsible for customers in the US Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

Winning the JEDI contract included significant participation from Azure engineering and technical employees. An insider named Dean Paron, general manager of Azure Data Box, as a player in Microsoft’s securing of the JEDI contract. Azure Data Box is a cloud service that makes it easier to transfer massive amounts of data to the cloud.


Teresa Carlson

Teresa Carlson is the vice president of worldwide public sector for AWS. She joined the company in 2010 from Microsoft, where she was vice president of federal sales and operations. She’s based in Washington, DC.

Carlson’s involvement in the JEDI process was the subject of controversy, including what an Oracle executive called a “highly irregular” March 2017 dinner with Defense Secretary James Mattis. AWS said at the time that it received “no preferential treatment” as a result of any meetings with Pentagon officials.

Beyond JEDI, Carlson has a lot of influence over Amazon’s public sector business and will likely shape its strategy for going after governmental customers in the future.

Michael Punke joined AWS in February 2017 as global public policy vice president after he spent seven years as an American ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. He moved between the public and private sectors throughout his career, including a stint in the White House as director of international economic affairs in the 1990s.

Intriguingly, Punke is also the author of “The Revenant,” the novel upon which the 2016 Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio was based. He wrote it while working as a partner at an international law firm now called Mayer Brown. During his time at AWS, Punke has become the public face of issues including facial recognition technology, including penning a recent blog post calling for regulation of the technology.

Punke’s team includes Shannon Kellogg, vice president of AWS public policy.

Jay Carney, former White House press secretary to President Barack Obama, joined Amazon in March 2015 as senior vice president of global corporate affairs. He worked in the White House for five years following decades as a White House reporter at Time magazine.

Carney is a “major asset for Amazon in the Beltway,” Wedbush’s Ives said. Carney influences Amazon’s relationship with governments, and with potential customers. 

He’s also a vocal critic of President Donald Trump. Just a couple weeks before Microsoft was announced as the winner of the JEDI contract, Carney spoke at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle, saying he doubted those within the Trump administration were “patriots” and whether they act in the best interest of the county.

The comments drew a response from Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted to Amazon: “So is it your companies official corporate position that [the] thousands of Americans who work in the Trump Administration aren’t ‘patriots’ … ?”

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