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NASA CIO: We still use OpenStack — and Amazon and Microsoft Azure …

So, NASA continues to use OpenStack after all.

In a recent interview, NASA CIO Linda Cureton addressed that question which arose after she wrote a blog post singing the praises of OpenStack rival Amazon(s amzn) EC2 and Microsoft(s msft) Windows Azure but made no mention of OpenStack, the open source cloud platform that NASA helped bring to life.

OpenStack is backed by Rackspace(s rax), Hewlett-Packard (s hpq), IBM(s ibm), Red Hat (s rhat) and other tech companies as a counterweight to Amazon’s growing power in cloud computing. The cloud platform is called “the Linux of the cloud” by proponents, and the “Unix of the cloud” by detractors who say that because each OpenStack vendor will put its own spin on the platform, it will be a fractured offering at best.

When asked specifically whether NASA uses OpenStack at all any more, Cureton said:

Yes, absolutely. There are pilots going on at several centers. At Ames research center, I think there are two pilots, and there is at least one at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. And there are a few others across the agency and I think that those pilots will probably bear fruit. It’s too early right now to know exactly what’s happening and how well it’s going, but I think they will see more activity as time goes on.

But, she again stressed that NASA will use whatever technology makes the most sense for any given project, whether it happens to be OpenStack or Amazon or Microsoft or whatever.

The only caveat there, I would say, is that these commercial providers are fiercely competitive and they are really putting a lot of energy and emphasis in their cloud offering. They are recognizing that the federal government is a very big customer and a very important customer, so they are not sitting back and letting things go by. I expect that some may go to OpenStack, maybe there are some features that come up in one of the other providers that might appear more attractive, but the beauty of this, I think, for our environment, is to have a cloud computing strategy for the agency that’s flexible, that is fiercely dedicated to the mission needs and not really sacrificing technology or technology preference for what the mission needs are.

In other words, NASA may have worked with Rackspace (s rax) to launch OpenStack, but it will be ruthlessly pragmatic in its technology choices going forward.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Matthew Simantov