How NASA & Cloud Computing are connected

From open-source cloud computing via the Nebula platform to the Mars Rover Mission…NASA and Cloud Computing certainly have a history together


Since the beginning of the NASA program, certain types of technological breakthroughs were often necessary in order to facilitate the larger goal or mission at hand, whether that meant achieving Earth orbit, landing on the moon, or placing a rover on the surface of Mars. Often times, the breakthroughs made at NASA find their way into the public sector in the form of new products, which are often referred to as NASA “Spin-offs”.

In all actuality, you probably came into contact with at least a couple of pieces of commercial technology today that originated from technologies that NASA helped to develop. Coatings for metals, insulating materials for your refrigerator, machine lubricants, automated computer systems, Medical Lasers, Medical Imaging systems, and even cordless power tools found their way to us by way of NASA.  NASA and Cloud Computing

Like many other forms of technology, Cloud Computing has also been advanced through direct action from NASA. The project, for example, is part of an ongoing attempt to create a universal platform for all of its ongoing web-related projects (with the focus being transparency). By emphasizing focus on services and a type of IT infrastructure which could be considered highly flexible and “reusable”, NASA was actually building a cloud (whether or not they realized it), specifically, IaaS. This breakthrough led directly to NASA acting as a cloud provider, servicing many of other organizations that are part of its professional community. The name of that program was NASA Nebula.

Instead of hiding or squirreling away its newly developed cloud technologies, NASA instead opted to make them effectively open-source. That is to say, they sought to create a loose society around Nebula’s open-source code and its apparent widespread potential applications. This move attracted the interest of Rackspace (a name that is now synonymous with cloud computing); they ended up merging and Openstack was created (which is concerned with providing open-source software for constructing private or public clouds). In other words, through the actions of NASA, cloud companies and developers now have a dedicated open-source platform for building future crucial cloud technologies.

In the days since then, NASA has turned away from development in the cloud computing sector and instead opted to become a user of the tech.  For instance, the Mars Rover Mission is making direct use of cloud computing technology in a number of startling ways. By working directly with some of the top cloud providers like Amazon, NASA is using cloud computing as a form of on-demand computing service that can be tapped to provide the extra power it needs to perform calculations and conduct operations. Just like virtually any other company or business out there with its eyes set on cloud computing, NASA is also ecstatic about the ability of the cloud to trim costs and provide critical services in times of need.

Perhaps the most amazing application of NASA’s cloud computing technology is their “Be a Martian” program. This amazing program allows ordinary scientists and citizens to sign up and help or assist in some way with analyzing data from Mars. This is all part of an effort to create better surface maps and basically employ “crowdfunding” to speed along research.

Curiosity, the upcoming Mars Rover Project which is slated to hit the surface of Mars sometime in the fall of this year (2012), is also making direct use of cloud computing technologies through JPL’s private cloud.

As you can clearly see, NASA and other related organizations like JPL are helping to pave the way for great advancements in cloud computing. It should also be noted that organizations such as NASA rarely elect to use or rely on flimsy, fly-by-night technologies. The simple fact that cloud computing has made such an impact in the space and science communities is proof positive that there’s more to cloud computing than meets the eye and that it certainly has a long future ahead of it.

Get involved, get prepared, and take advantage of this momentous business opportunity
Given that there are so many institutions openly working on the further development of advanced cloud computing technologies we should continue to expect the potential application for use of them in a business-related capacity. Quite simply, if you own a business and are reliant on computing, networking and/or IT services, you should know that cloud computing can open new doors for you. Likewise, given the extremely fast rate of development, cloud computing is poised to replace traditional IT entirely (perhaps in the next few years). While this might create a sense of panic for some, this situation actually presents businesses with some truly great opportunities to take advantage of the many features cloud computing will be able to offer them. Along with creating a formalized plan for a cloud computing transition, it is absolutely imperative that you look into additional professional development for your IT personnel at this time (cloud computing certification and training).

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