Did NASA ditch OpenStack for Amazon?

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If folks were given to reading tea leaves, they might read a lot into a recent blog post by NASA CIO Linda Cureton in which she discussed IT reform at the U.S. space agency.

She mentioned a few specific cloud computing efforts, including a project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that uploaded 250,000 photos of Mars onto Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform as a service. The resulting Be A Martian initiative served up more than 2.5 million data queries, “proving that the cloud can be a terrific way to reach and engage the public,” she wrote.

She also said Amazon Web Services played a big role at NASA:

NASA shifted to a new web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure. This cloud-based model supports a wide variety of web applications and sites using an interoperable, standards-based, and secure environment while providing almost a million dollars in cost savings each year.

What she did not mention was anything about OpenStack, the infrastructure as a service platform that grew out of initial work by NASA and Rackspace. OpenStack is being pushed as an alternative to Amazon Web Services by several tech heavyweights including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Red Hat. This blog piqued my interest because, in late March, another NASA official said publicly that the agency is backing off additional OpenStack development.

At the time of that earlier report, a NASA spokesman elaborated via email:

If NASA’s cloud computing requirements can be met through commercially available services, then it is not necessary for NASA to continue in a development role in cloud computing. NASA continues to have significant interest in using the OpenStack platform, and takes pride in the contributions made to the furthering of that technology area. Further OpenStack development is desirable and would increase the interest of commercial providers which ultimately benefits NASA and other seekers of cloud services.

So NASA was stepping back from development work, which made sense, but it could still be using OpenStack. Now, however, Cureton’s blog  —  which Amazon evangelist Jeff Barr highlighted on the AWS site —  raises questions about whether NASA is changing technology partners.  The space agency, after all, is undergoing a change of mission itself. I pinged NASA and OpenStack for comment Monday and will update this with their response.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user jurvetson

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