Request for Information (RFI): Second Draft Specification for Conformant Cloud Providers

Notice Number: NOT-LM-16-002

Key Dates
Release Date:   December 22, 2015
Response Date: January 22, 2016

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Library of Medicine (NLM)


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds basic and applied research in the biomedical and health sciences, generating large amounts of new research data every year. As the scope and scale of research data have increased, the standard mechanisms by which data are found and shared (indexes, web portals, journal articles, scientific conferences, direct transmission of data via electronic networks, to name a few) are insufficient. Further, federal policies now require that data generated with federal support be shared, making them broadly accessible, easily computable and readily sharable.

As part of its efforts to resolve this problem, NIH is developing the Commons1, a shared, virtual space for sharing data, software, digital learning resources, workflows and other products of research. The Commons will help ensure that the digital artifacts of publicly funded research are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR). NIH is supporting implementation of the Commons concept via a variety of pilot activities within the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program. 

Computational infrastructure for the Commons is initially envisioned as employing cloud computing services. A “conformant provider” of cloud services for the Commons would offer an array of options, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). A conformant provider is one that meets NIH defined requirements for business relationships, interfaces, capacity, networking and connectivity, information assurance and authentication and authorization.

On Dec 23, 2014, NIH released a Sources Sought Notice2, SS-NIHCOMMONS-2015, in FedBizOps, requesting information on an initial set of proposed conformance requirements. Comments were received and the initial requirements revised.  NIH is now requesting comments on the revised version of the conformance requirements, prior to identifying conformant providers.    

NIH intends to finalize these requirements based on industry and scientific feedback during January of 2016, and to open a process for providers of cloud compute services to become conformant as soon as practicable after the requirements are finalized. Although all details of the conformance certification process have not been finalized, NIH intends to utilize a reviewed self-certification process during the pilot phase.

Information Requested

NIH is requests input in two major areas:

1. NIH wishes to obtain feedback from potential providers about (a) their ability to meet these proposed conformance requirements, (b) their interest in acting as providers and (c) any requirement deemed by the provider to be sufficiently burdensome that it would prevent the potential provider from participating.

2. NIH wishes to obtain feedback from potential users of conformant cloud services, that is, from the research community, as to (a) whether services described by the proposed conformance requirements would meet their needs, (b) If additional capabilities are required, what types of capabilities would be necessary to meet general requirements for scientific computing and (c) barriers researchers have experienced in using cloud services to host data sets. NIH is particularly interested in responses from those who already use cloud services to store data and make it widely available

The draft conformance requirements are posted at:

How to Submit a Response

Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to no later than 30 days after the publication of this RFI.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary. This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health, or individual NIH institutes or Centers. The NIH does not intend to make any type of award based on responses to this RFI or to pay for either the preparation of information submitted or the Government’s use of such information.

The NIH will use the information submitted in response to the RFI at its discretion. Respondents are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information provided and will not provide feedback to respondents. The information submitted will be analyzed and may be shared internally, incorporated into future changes to the NIH cloud conformance requirements, as appropriate and at the Government’s discretion. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response.


Please direct all inquiries to:

George A. Komatsoulis, Ph.D.
National Library of Medicine (NLM) Telephone:  301-594-7875

Vivien Bonazzi, Ph.D.
Office of the NIH Associate Director for Data Science (ADDS)
Telephone:  301-451-8276