NASA is Answering the Call

Today,more than ever, is the ideal time for the Federal Government to focus onimproving operating inefficiencies and reducing the costs of IT investments asopposed to spending over $80 billion per year as it has done in the past.  One alternative- which Federal ChiefInformation Officer, Vivek Kundra, strives to implement in his 25-pointplan for IT Reform is a “Cloud First Policy.”   This policy requires that agencies default to cloud-basedsolutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.   This will ultimately improve operating inefficiencies and overallservice delivery for Federal agencies.

In December 2010, NASA’s Ames Research Center and GoddardSpace Flight Center collaborated to spearhead efforts to provide cloudcomputing as a viable option to NASA scientists and engineers.

NASA’scomputing strategy involves various technologies to include Cloud Computing(CC). Currently, NASA has invested in the OpenStack software for CC andis working to operationalize a specific version of this software, which NASAcalls Nebula.  The Nebula CC software will provide NASA personnel, whoneed a private CC solution, with IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service); later implementationsof Nebula will offer PaaS (Platform as a Service).  

NASAis also working on various technologies that support the conservation of energy(i.e., so-called Green Technologies) and the environment (i.e., so-called CleanTechnologies) such as containerized computing, which offers energy efficiency,a compact footprint, dense computing power, and reduces the demand forcomputing facilities within buildings.  A few other technologies, whichNASA has as part of its computing strategy are:

·   Thin-client, zero-client, and remote thick-client technologies;

·   Data-center consolidations;

·   Server consolidations via virtual computing environments (VCEs)and CC environments (CCEs);

·   Implementing Green Technologies and Clean Technologies in newbuilding endeavors as well as renovations of existing buildings;

·   Computing-environment consolidations;

·   Smart manufacturing environments that provide improvedcapabilities, availability, safety, reliability, and agility; and

·   An IT Storefront concept, which provides a mechanism forallowing customers and users to specify their needs in their terms and let theunderlying storefront software select a best-practice solution.  This may be a CC solution, a mobilitysolution, a thick- or thin-client solution, or a combination of these orsomething else.

Either way, utilization of these technologies will not onlyhelp NASA’s personnel to focus more on their missions and less on computinginfrastructures; but it will also help the Agency to accrue benefits frominnovations, improve resource utilization, and ultimately lead tosustainability that is critical in our current fiscal environment.

In the upcoming months, I’m excited to see the how CC will play a role in our science here at Goddard Space Flight Center.  Eventually, the phrase, take it to the Cloud, will be commonly iterated amongst our scientists and engineers.