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By Brian Robinson

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NASA cloud goes open source, but where are feds heading?

NASA has been one of the leading cloud computing lights in the federal government with its homegrown Nebula technology; now it’s making a play for the same reputation in open source cloud circles through an association with a new industry initiative called OpenStack.

Rackspace, which claims a four-year tenure as a cloud hosting company, is the main industry player, but others include Citrix and Dell. OpenStack founders hope more companies will join, including some of the current big players in the market.

The idea, apparently, is to use OpenStack to drive both public and private cloud computing in the same way that other open source endeavors such as Linux, Apache and mySQL have influenced their segments of the IT business. Arguably, computing and applications development would not be as far along as it is without those keeping proprietary elements -- e.g. Microsoft and Windows -- on their toes.

Nebula will be the cornerstone for one of OpenStack’s first projects, which is to provide code for provisioning and managing large-scale deployments of compute instances. Anyone will be able to download that code and start developing their own cloud deployments.

It will be interesting to see just how this influences the development of the cloud industry. Recent polls seem to confirm what’s been the recent trend of IT executives looking to private clouds as their major interest. That certainly seems to be the direction in which government agencies are going, given concerns over security in public clouds.

However, whether or not private clouds are actually clouds or just the traditional data centers with hosted applications jazzed up with a different name is something open to debate. According to the naysayers, real (meaning public) clouds offer far more return than the private version.

NASA has been one of the few federal agencies to embrace the notion of the public cloud, albeit in the hybrid version with hooks from its private NASA Nebula cloud to public clouds such as those offered by Amazon. Now it’s thrown its hat, or at least its technology, into the open source arena, it will be interesting to see what that will mean for government cloud development overall.

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM


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