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11/3/2011
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NASA Plans Cloud Marketplace For Scientists

Cloud services suite to expand with platform as a service, data as a service, and a new cloud computing storefront likened to Apple's AppStore and Google's Android Market.

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NASA, already among the government leaders in cloud computing, plans to offer a cloud storefront where scientists will be able to determine their computing needs and access cloud services from a central location.

The space agency is widely known as a cloud computing success story in the government for its Nebula cloud computing platform, an open source, private cloud platform, primarily for scientific computing. Nebula includes data centers built in shipping containers as part of its infrastructure. Now, however, NASA plans to expand beyond Nebula with a cloud marketplace and new services.

Through Nebula, NASA already offers infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It also offers storage as a service. To that short list will soon be added platform as a service and "data as a service," NASA Goddard CIO Adrian Gardner said at a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cloud computing event Wednesday.

[The feds have big plans for IT. Read U.S. CIO VanRoekel Outlines What's Next For Fed Tech.]

In order to help scientists navigate that newly broadened slate of cloud services, NASA will develop what Gardner termed a cloud storefront and initially release it as a pilot project for a small number of users. The goal, Gardner said, is to get capabilities into the hands of scientists in real time. "It's not really about the technology," Gardner said. "It's about making sure that scientists have the compute they need to accomplish the science mission of NASA and the business of the U.S. government."

The storefront or marketplace won't just serve as a single point of access to NASA's cloud services. Scientists will also be able to enter details on their computing needs, and NASA will offer service suggestions based on those needs. For example, a prospective user might be able to detail the type of application they are using, storage requirements, and other variables, and the marketplace, in return, will make a suggestion about what service to use.

Gardner likened the planned cloud marketplace to Apple's AppStore or Google's Android Market. Several agencies have expressed interest in or are developing mobile app stores, and the General Services Administration has a cloud app store of its own in Apps.gov.

In addition to its new cloud services, NASA Goddard is also working on a major client virtualization effort. "We are looking at how we can virtualize the desktop so you can gain access to your resources from any device, anyplace, anywhere," Gardner said.

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