Cloud Computing and NASA
Investments in space technology have produced many spinoff inventions that we now take for granted in everyday modern life. Advances in comfort, such as memory foam and shoe insoles, and life-saving technologies, such as smoke detectors and safety grooving in roads and runways, were all inspired by NASA research.
The popular open source Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform OpenStack also originated from a NASA program. At the Ames Research Center in 2009, NASA established its own private cloud computing environment – and became the first federal program to do so. NASA then teamed up with Rackspace and together they released OpenStack in 2010.
In April 2011, Chris Kemp left his job as Chief Technical Officer of NASA to found his own startup, Nebula. Kemp’s experience as one of the architects of the OpenStack project intrigued many investors. In September 2012, as part of a round of investments led by Comcast Ventures, Nebula raised over $25 million in capital.
All this investment led to the development of the company’s flagship product, Nebula One, which was released in April 2013 and allows businesses to replace traditional servers with their own private cloud server that runs on the OpenStack cloud network.
OpenStack isn’t the only place where NASA and cloud computing intersect. Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have teamed up for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project. This project involves the construction of a $2 billion telescope that will collect 915 petabytes (960 million gigabytes) of data per day, and this project just might answer the age-old question: Are we alone in this universe?
So where does NASA come in? Well, all this data has to be processed before any information about flying saucers or Reese’s Pieces loving extraterrestrials can be discovered. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is developing software that employs cloud computing techniques to organize and manage these enormous sums of data.
NASA has however recently stumbled in its position as a contender in cloud computing technology. A 2013 internal audit found that NASA’s private cloud servers have fallen behind the performance of public servers offered by Microsoft and Amazon, which were deemed cheaper and more reliable, as well as being better protected from security risks. But, despite whatever their current status may be, the cloud computing community will always owe an enormous debt to the innovators at NASA.
By Adam Ritchie