Israel pushes ahead with tender for massive cloud-based data center

Tech giant Amazon and other major players said to be interested in bidding for project; 30-day public comment period opens

An illustrative image of a data center; server farm (cybrain; iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative image of a data center; server farm (cybrain; iStock by Getty Images)

The government moved ahead this week with plans for a major cloud-based regional data center that may bring some of the tech industries biggest giants to Israel.

On Sunday, the Finance Ministry’s Government Procurement Administration announced that it was preparing a tender “for the provision of public-platform-based cloud services to the government ministries and additional governmental units.” The cloud-based data center region is meant to give these institutions improved access to servers, storage, databases and application services.

The announcement opened a 30-day public comment period.

The announcement comes half a year after the government announced its interest in setting up local cloud infrastructure and a month after it was first reported that American tech giant Amazon was in talks with Israeli officials regarding its possible participation in the project.

Illustrative: An IT worker stands in a server farm (Evgeniy Shkolenko; iStock by Getty Images)

The eventual provider of such cloud services will need to set up an Israel-region data center that “will meet the security, durability and operational continuity requirements” of the nation, according to the ministry. Furthermore, the local infrastructure will have to be “operational completely separately from the public-cloud services provided by the provider in any other region in the world.”

Two physically separate “domains” will have to be set up in Israel, each with one or more data centers.

The ministry appears to be eyeing only the largest corporate cloud providers, specifying that only bidders with $2 billion in annual cloud-based revenue since 2017 will be eligible to participate and that interested companies must have a “global presence” with operations in multiple countries.

This would narrow down the field of eligible candidates to only the largest corporate cloud operations.

The pre-qualification stage of the tender is scheduled to be published in December or January.

Last month, the Finance Ministry said in a statement that “the biggest suppliers in this field have expressed interest in the tender.”

Yeruham Mayor Tal Ohana (Courtesy)

The ministry declined to reveal the names of possible contenders, but Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM and Amazon Web Services are among the world’s largest suppliers of public cloud services.

Microsoft in June said its first data center regions in the Middle East — in Abu Dhabi and Dubai — are now online.

Amazon officials have expressed an interest in taking part in the tender and setting up the data center. They told the mayor of Yeruham, Tal Ohana, that should they win the tender they see no reason not to set it up in the southern town, she told The Times of Israel in July.

“We are looking to set up a data center with them,” Ohana said. She had met with Yaron Altshuler, Israel Country Lead, Amazon Web Services Public Sector to discuss the matter, she added.

Ohana later clarified that Amazon has not yet made a decision to take part in the tender.

AWS told The Times of Israel it does not comment “on speculation and rumors.”

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