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NASA Cloud Guru Named CTO For IT

The brains behind the Nebula cloud computing effort moves to NASA HQ to drive IT innovation for the space agency.

NASA's Nebula container arrives at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
(click for image gallery)

NASA has named Chris Kemp, formerly CIO of NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif., to a new role as the space agency's first CTO for IT, where he'll drive innovative IT projects for NASA.

At NASA Ames, Kemp led the development of NASA's Nebula cloud computing platform and formed research and development partnerships with both Google and Microsoft that have already helped develop, provide data for, and expand efforts like Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope and Google Moon.

NASA makes a clear distinction between space technology and IT, said a NASA spokeswoman, so NASA chief technologies lead Robert Braun will remain CTO equivalent for space technology, while Kemp will oversee IT innovation.

Kemp's new office, established in conjunction with NASA's open government plan, is part of NASA's CIO organization under Linda Cureton. The role will let Kemp develop and "explore" pilot projects like Nebula and the use of semantic search to query NASA's historical data, according to NASA's open government plan. Kemp will also be tasked with determining ways to make NASA's IT environment more energy efficient.

Nebula, which includes a containerized data center and other distributed resources, was arguably Kemp's flagship project at NASA Ames.

NASA's open government plan provides an explicit timeline for Nebula's future. By July, the agency will incorporate Nebula into its data center consolidation plan and release an infrastructure-as-a-service beta and a platform-as-a-service prototype. NASA plans to eventually make cloud services available agency-wide and even to other government agencies.

"Large-scale infrastructure is the name of the game at NASA, and the challenge is that we have missions that are wildly successful and missions that never launch," Kemp said at in a speech at an event in March. "So, in NASA's case, a shared infrastructure is a boon, because it's an infrastructure that can be leveraged across missions."

As CTO for IT, Kemp will also oversee a new Chief Technology for IT Officers Council composed of CTOs from each of NASA's 10 centers. This new council will look to the long term to make predictions, think about innovations, and foster creative ideas for NASA's IT environment.

Before joining NASA, Kemp was CEO and co-founder of vacation rental management software company Escapia and online grocery shopping start-up Netran, which launched Kroger's first online shopping service. He was also part of the founding team of

James Williams, formerly NASA Ames' deputy CIO, is now acting CIO of NASA Ames.

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