Think Cloud, Think Nebula

NASA Cloud Computing Platform May Be One of the Most Advanced

Let's face it, most cloud computing examples are nothing more than existing infrastructure wrapped in cloud hyperbole. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes. The most commonly cited examples of real cloud infrastructure and services come from Amazon (AWS/EC2), Google (Google AppEngine), and Microsoft (Azure). Here is another tried-and-true cloud implementation to add to this list: NASA's Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. Nebula is a pilot project but it is intended to act as NASA's cloud for highly-scalable infrastructure, platform(s), and applications. This isn't just some publicly-funded science project either. NASA plans to use Nebula for shared services, storage capacity, and computing cycles to reduce its cost, support the private sector, and improve transparency. Here are a few more noteworthy points about Nebula: 1. Nebula is based upon Open Source. Nebula takes advantage of Open Source technologies like Django, Xen, Eucalyptus, and the Lustre file system. This keeps the cost relatively low while stressing integration and customization. NASA isn't held back by proprietary vendor agendas. 2. Nebula offers AWS-like deployment ease. Like its commercially-available cloud brethren, Nebula is a fully integrated offering of hardware, software, and resource provisioning. As such, it is set up for one-off tasks or highly-scalable, resource-intensive computing. It is also flexible enough to offer infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, or software-as-a-service consumption models. 3. Nebula is built to link with the public cloud. For example, the Eucalyptus software is "an API-compatible open source clone of Amazon AWS." This means that AWS tools and services should work with Nebula and AWS should work with Nebula. Since Nebula is buried within NASA, a federal agency, it is relatively unknown outside the Federal space. In my opinion, this is a crime since Nebula looks like a very strong cloud computing foundation. Vendors helping NASA with its Nebula project should turn up the volume -- this is a bonifide cloud implementation that deserves more attention. With all the cloud rhetoric out there, a real project like Nebula should be more visible than it is.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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