NASA demos open source cloud computing

Friday - 2/18/2011, 5:07pm EST

Chris Kemp, CTO, NASA

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By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

NASA is pairing its Nebula platform with open source cloud initiatives to pave the way in governmentwide transitions between private and public cloud computing.

"NASA is increasingly becoming a data driven agency. I think a lot of companies and other agencies are finding themselves swimming in data. We can either throw the data away or we can store the data, process the data, share the data and work with the data," said Chris Kemp, chief technology officer at the agency, during a presentation Thursday at the Cloud/Gov 2011 conference in Washington.

NASA collects more than a terabyte of information a day and went to the cloud platform, called Nebula, to deal with the deluge of data.

Kemp said Nebula is an open source cloud computing project that lets large amounts of data be stored on systems that can be accessed from any computer, cutting costs and increasing storage.

There are currently more than 400 uses of the Nebula platform across the country among NASA and its research facilities.

With such a large amount of users requesting the platform, NASA collaborated with OpenStack, an open source cloud hosting service. The Nebula platform is open to anyone who would like to incorporate it in their enterprise, Kemp said.

"If you are interested in doing a cloud, but you have some use case that precludes you from using a public cloud, but you still want to run VMware, or you still want to run hyper-V, or you still want to run Xenserver, now you can," said Kemp.

Many agencies are debating whether to move to private or public cloud services. Kemp said private cloud computing requires the user to "treat the cloud computing stuff separately than the virtualization stuff and the data center consolidation stuff. I think that people looking at developing separate strategies for this is the right approach."

Kemp also said that a true cloud is elastic, letting the users de-provision resources just as fast as they can provision them, making Nebula a secure, efficient, cost effective step in the direction of public cloud computing.

"Agencies that adopt private clouds are helping every single project take more than one step towards the public cloud; I'd say 90 percent of the way to a public cloud," Kemp said. "So as we work these issues out, there will be a tidal wave of additional savings once we don't have to operate any infrastructure internally within the government."

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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