NASA pulls back from open-source community with praise

NASA is shifting its emphasis away from developing cloud services and toward being a “smart consumer” of commercial cloud services. The agency announced the shift earlier this month at the Uptime Institute’s symposium in Santa Clara, Calif., and now a NASA official has shared more insight on an agency blog.

The road NASA is on with the effort started in 2008, when it formed an initiative called NASA.net to consolidate NASA's web space onto a unified platform, wrote Raymond O’Brien, acting CIO at the NASA Ames Research Center, on a blog established to chronicle the progress of the program. The program was eventually renamed Nebula.

NASA developed an open-source controller program, which it used in conjunction with a storage system from Rackspace, which took a similar technological approach, O'Brien wrote. NASA and Rackspace then teamed up to create the OpenStack initiative.

“Our hope was that a community would form around these two pieces of software toward the construction of an open-source cloud operating system. To say that our greatest hopes in this regard were met would be an understatement,” O'Brien wrote. “OpenStack today has the support of hundreds of individuals and organizations around the world, all set on realizing the original vision for the project.”

However, NASA's greatest contributions of code came during OpenStack's early days, and now the developer community has grown dramatically, making the agency's role less and less crucial.

“In fact, the vast majority of code contributions over the past year of intense OpenStack development have come from community members other than NASA,” he added.

O'Brien concluded the post with his perspective of the importance of the development.

“We celebrate this milestone in OpenStack’s development: it has reached a point of self-sustaining growth along a community-driven trajectory such that the project will continue to go forward without our direct involvement,” he wrote. “This outcome has always been one of our highest goals for Nebula, and now permits us to transition from the role of developer to that of enthusiastic adopter of a broad range of cloud services.”

And as for OpenStack? “NASA has a rich heritage of developing and transferring technology to the private sector for continued commercial development, and OpenStack adds one more stunningly successful entry to that list,” he wrote.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader comments

Mon, Jun 4, 2012 Just Visiting

What does anyone expect NASA to say ? We wasted millions of dollars on empty promises ? OpenStack is junk technology much at the level of high school software projects. As soon as it was being used in commercial applications the quality flaws were exposed. Rackspace attempted to create a foundation and divest themselves of the cost burden to produce a working cloud management software. NASA went running and screaming from OpenStack as soon as they could after the leadership in OSTP and Ames, that forced it on them, left for greener pastures before independent audits on cost saving could be completed. This is what happens when you invest in hype-based and junk technologies as infrastructure policy, billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted. Now, OSTP has made the same poor judgment call for "Big Data". All while meaningful, cost saving, hard technical work goes unfunded.

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