As some of you might have read, NASA has been busy working on their own cloud project, and it’s pretty interesting to see their choices on infrastructure. Why? Simply put, they are building a brand new Web architecture that uses cloud computing, open source tools and social media. This is for not just their internal systems, but for public facing ones. This movement is part of the Open Government effort, but is it a good choice for other organizations and governments?
President Obama first started the Open Government Initiative back in 2009, with NASA being one of the first agencies. It’s not surprising since NASA has been on the web since the early 1990s and rack up a staggering 600,000 visitors daily and 140 million annually. And being NASA, there is lots of cool things that they can do to keep the infatuation with space going. As part of their media strategy they have over 250 social media accounts over more than eight media platforms.
But where does the cloud strategy come from? Well, when you have an agency like NASA which is responsible for development and hosting for 140 web applications and almost 1600 websites on various systems created by different teams. It is clear that keeping this type of model going for smaller agencies is a nightmare, but managing all the resources under NASA is simply not sustainable. The IT requirements alone from a personnel standpoint to keep systems up and running is reason enough to look at new ways of doing business.
So what does NASA have in mind for their new strategy? Interestingly enough, NASA is basing their new infrastructure that uses open standards based platforms to support PaaS, IaaS and SaaS deployments for internal and external agency websites and applications. This platform will run on custom-built systems and use agile development processes. It will also leverage Open data that will help “liberate NASA data and content through published APIs and functional interfaces”. This is going to be one of the first (and largest) examples of this type of model, and could help drive a new standard for government agencies if all goes well.
While it will take time for this transition to take place, NASA is optimistic that they will already start delivering content on this new platform in the next year and everything done within two. Along the way, they are sharing their code repository, code.nasa.gov to help give insight into this new open source effort. It’s exciting to say the least, and what better agency to lead the way than the one that brought us the universe?