The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a formal request for information, calling for cloud providers to send preliminary information as it considers moving the bulk of department computing to the cloud.

The request for information is typically sent prior to a request for proposals, and is a method of gathering information for market research before actual proposals are submitted. Specifically, the FBI has requested information on Iaas, PaaS, and SaaS solutions in a bid to understand cloud capabilities, and to comply with U.S. CIO ‘Cloud First’ policy directive.

The Cloud First policy, as structured by the White House and put into place in 2011, requires that any agency considering an investment in IT first evaluate cloud solutions. However, since 2010 the FBI has been under a long-term blanket purchase agreement known as ITSSS, the Information Technology Supplies and Support Services, valued at $30 billion dollars. This is the agency’s first foray into cloud computing under the 2011 guidelines.

According to the RFI, “cloud computing will allow the FBI to efficiently manage, operate and run a very large-scale computing infrastructure to deliver the capacity, availability and performance that will permit end users to focus on mission accomplishment.”

Winning a cloud computing contract for the FBI could prove to be even more valuable to the chosen provider, as the RFI document notes that multiple agencies may pool resources with a single provider “with an existing, large-scale public offering, installed on commercial premises and operated and maintained at the Secret classification level with technology refreshment by the provider as a service.”

The RFI specifically requests information on existing data centres, which must meet specifications such as 99.99% uptime, Tier-III certified backup power, and physical and access security. The provider must have two existing multi-tenant data centres, meeting all of these requirements, located at least 1,000 miles apart within the U.S.

The response due date of March 3 will allow several months for market research and proposal submissions, before the existing FBI IT services contract (ITSSS) expires in October 2018.