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Who will win the CIA's cloud business-- IBM or Amazon?

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June 8, 2013

Amazon Web Services 'sort of' confirmed to the media that it's getting ready to build a very large cloud for the CIA.

But meanwhile, IBM is still in the running, after the company's protest at the choice of Amazon was recognized by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Amazon Web Services confirms the existence of a contract between it and the Central Intelligence Agency.

AWS then reserved several barbed comments for IBM's protest.

The statement in full follows.

Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology. The CIA selected AWS based on its superior technological platform which will allow the Agency to rapidly innovate while delivering the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems. The Agency conducted a very detailed, thorough procurement that took many months to award. We look forward to a fast resolution of the two issues raised by the GAO so the Agency can move forward with this important contract.

Big Blue attempted to get the contract as well, and when it lost out to AWS it lodged protests with the government. Federal and government contracts are a huge business for IBM, and considered home turf by the company.

The AWS statement follows the U.S. Government Accountability Office ruling on Thursday that the CIA had failed to properly evaluate the cloud prices, and recommend that the CIA reopen negotiations with the two companies, according to Bloomberg.

Though the contract could now go to IBM after another evaluation, the anointment of Amazon by the CIA in the first case represents a sea change in attitudes towards IT procurement, one that has been brewing on both sides of the Atlantic under various G-Cloud programs for years, but one that had not – until now – seen any government spend serious tax payer's money on the non-legacy cloud.

The decision by the CIA to use Amazon Web Services' technology caps off an evolution by the company from a provider of low-cost utility computing services into a fleshed-out enterprise provider-– one whose rise poses a grave threat to legacy OEMs.

In just seven years, Amazon Web Services has developed from a simple offering of storage (S3) and compute (EC2) into a multi-headed IT services mammoth that legacy OEMs such as Microsoft and upstart tech titans such as Google have been forced to compete with.

Getting a CIA contract puts Amazon alongside IBM and a few other corporations with close ties to the U.S. government, such as Cisco and HP as well.

Details of the size of the contract, which was alleged by IT gov mag FCW to be $600 million and the scope of the deal, were unavailable at this time.

However, one thing is for certain-– the news will be met with skepticism by executives at VMware, who just three short months ago characterized Amazon as just another bookseller, and said it was VMware's destiny to own the corporate workload now and forever.

Whether or not AWS gets the contract is at this point immaterial. The fact that the CIA's original choice was Amazon and not IBM, and not the other way around, is what matters.

The news of the contract follows a week packed of revelations about the alleged links between nine gigantic tech companies and the U.S. National Security Agency via a scheme called PRISM.

But although Amazon wasn't one of the nine named companies, Dropbox was indicated to be coming onboard – and Dropbox uses AWS.

In other IT news

Getting a free email address from Gmail or Yahoo that doesn't even require the registration of a domain name and its hosting account can be tempting at first. After all, they are quick to setup and they work.

Of course, unless you're in business that is, in which case and for marketing reasons you'd prefer to have something like

Case in point-- apart from the fact that Gmail's service is identified to Google instead of your business or company name, there's also something else that you need to know. Gmail has in its email system something that some people aren't even aware of, and it's called the invisible dot.

The issue is that it could cause other people's personal messages to land in your inbox. Gmail's current addressing methodology has one small flaw. Not only could some people with common names receive the personal messages of like-named strangers, but a Gmail alias of their account name could also be used to sign them up for a service they never asked for.

Here's how it works. If you get an email address say, Gmail's current addressing method doesn't recognize the dot between mike and smith.

So if someone sends you an email to, will also get that email, since the system can't 'see' the dot in between the first and the last name in the email address.

The misdirected messages could potentially include some sensitive and personal information. And if you're in business, this could even cost you some lost opportunities, not to mention some PR snaffus.

Because Gmail doesn't recognize dots in its addresses, people often use an account name they believe is unique but is actually shared. Someone likely to get a confirmation email for a service ordered using will also inadvertently send the same message to since Gmail thinks it's the same person when in fact it's not.

Google insists that the solution to misaddressed messages such as this is public education to let people know dots and capitalization in address names are not recognized. But commercial e-mail systems do distinguish addresses with dots without any issue.

A Google representative suggests that the best way to prevent receiving other people's private mail is to avoid signing up for a generic Gmail account.

Gmail works, but its generic name system has rendered it a security risk and a major privacy issue at the same time. The Google Groups thread "Someone else is using my e-mail address" includes posts from Gmail users who regularly receive other people's messages.

In some instances, two people have the same name but slightly different Gmail addresses. In others, one person receives many other people's mail. Often a sender simply enters the wrong address.

Most of the people posting to a similar Google Groups thread from July 2012 claim that the issue is due to someone using the account name as their own by mistake rather than on purpose.

It's difficult to convince people that these are not cases of accounts being hacked. No one else has signed into or otherwise attempted to access the account. Someone has mistaken your Gmail address for theirs, and probably vice versa.

Here's the solution to all of this!
At Sure Mail™, you have two choices: if you decide to order an email address such as, the dot does work and Sure Mail's system will differentiate an address such as from as being two different persons.

Your second choice, and if you own your own business, you will want to register your own domain for marketing reasons. You can register your domain directly through Sure Mail™ or through your own domain registrar if you prefer.

That way, you can have your own email address such as Sure Mail™ also offers different email packages with additional email options as you need them.

Sure Mail™ addresses are available in both the .us as well as the .ca extensions depending if you live in the U.S. or Canada. And there's another important feature. Sure Mail™ offers a fully redundant email service, since the service relies on multiple mail servers in several data centers located in the U.S. and Canada.

If ever one server fails, your emails are automatically routed through other mail servers. The service is completely transparent. SureMail™ is owned and managed by Sun Hosting, one of Canada's oldest and largest hosting company.

Source: Bloomberg.

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