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NASA takes off with an open government and cloud infrastructure plan

Don’t be surprised if NASA’s Nebula cloud becomes the model — and maybe the mother — of cloud infrastructure in the U.S. NASA is embarking on an ambitious plan to overhaul its existing data center infrastructure to standardize on open source technologies and ideas.

At the forefront of the Obama administration’s efforts to consolidate data centers and adopt cloud services, Washington, D.C.-based NASA has “aggressively consolidated” 32% of its data centers in the past 12 months, according to Deborah Diaz, the agency’s deputy CIO. That had been a goal to be reached by 2015, but now NASA expects to consolidate 66% percent of its data centers by then.

“We’re looking at this holistically,” said Diaz, who is heading up a transformation that involves virtualization and such new technologies as geothermal power. The goal is not simply a reduction in the number of data centers, but also the “better utilization of computing resources,” she said. The result will be a hybrid cloud infrastructure that standardizes on open source technologies to save the American public money and further the agency’s lauded Open Government plan.

Diaz is leading an initiative as part of NASA’s IT Infrastructure Integration Program that’s called the computing services platform. Next month on, I’ll look at how she’s bringing together virtualized data centers that combine cloud infrastructure with high-performance computing and energy efficiency. She was in the private sector before she launched and became CIO of Homeland Security.

NASA was founded in 1958 to “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information,” and its principles of open government are deeply embedded in its culture. Yet new initiatives are designed to take that to the next level by giving the public a voice in future endeavors. NASA’s Citizen Engagement Tool, for example, deployed through its Participatory Exploration Office, netted 420 ideas from 280 individuals in February and March.

NASA also co-founded (with Rackspace Hosting) the OpenStack initiative to foster open source development in the private sector. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Red Hat and JBossWorld conference in Boston in two weeks, where I’ll learn about the latest in open source cloud computing. Are you going? Email me at [email protected].

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