Why NASA uses Open Source

From the ‘Best Tech Isn’t Necessarily in Area 51‘ files:

With Billions of dollars and massive technology needs that are literally out-of-this-world, NASA has a lot of unique computing requirements.  As it turns out, some of those requirements can be fulfilled by technology that isn’t all that different from what regular enterprises need too.

In order to save the data from distant spacecraft, satellites and other scientific endeavors, NASA is leveraging open source tech (including Ubuntu Linux) and regular enterprise networking components to meet their mission.

I had the privilege of speaking with NASA’s CTO for IT Chris Kemp this week around the OpenStack project in which NASA is participating. Kemp told me that NASA’s Nebula cloud IT environment was built for science and research and has been optimized for low cost and massive scalability.

He added that NASA is using KVM on Ubuntu’s Lucid LTS. Surprisingly to me, he noted that NASA isn’t paying Canonical for support either at this point — NASA is simply using Ubuntu as a freely available operating system (so no money for Shuttleworth and company, yet)

The NASA Nebula open source cloud technology’s approach to low cost is in stark contrast to some other NASA efforts.

“Right across the street from where we have Nebula, we have the fastest Intel based supercomputer on the planet,” Kemp said. “They have to render in twelve dimensions the network topology of their infiniband network –it’s by far the biggest infiniband network ever created. That doesn’t create an inexpensive infrastructure.”

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