Learn How NASA Is Using the Cloud to Save Millions

Clouds are usually a problem for the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA): simply put, they prevent rockets from getting launched. But cloud computing, on the other hand, seems to have presented a groundbreaking opportunity for NASA and the same can be true for your service company.

On June 8, NASA CIO Linda Cureton posted a blog about the major steps the leading scientific and engineering agency has taken to improve communication and function–steps which resulted in the closure of 20 datacenters. What’s more, she made clear that the benefits of cloud computing serve both the organization itself and its taxpaying constituents. “These reforms represent the start of a journey that affects our very culture by changing the way we do business,” she wrote. For Cureton, the consolidation of databases via cloud technology has resulted in the kind of efficiency that matters most to small businesses: savings.

In NASA’s case, those savings add up to the sizable amount of approximately one million dollars, all in just one year after the agency transitioned several of its software components to the cloud. Cureton wrote about her intentions to alter the face of NASA’s IT presence as early as 2011, and the results are coming through now. Improvements are visible both in the organization’s increased adoption of cloud services and in the range of products cloud services have enabled. Among these is SERVIR, what Cureton calls “a cloud-based geospatial information technology infrastructure” aimed at synthesizing forecast models with satellite and ground-obtained data in order to improve response to natural disasters. And recently, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) uploaded a quarter-million pictures of Mars into the Microsoft Windows Azure platform. This move allows students, teachers, and the public to access exciting research materials.

For NASA, the cloud means improved financial prospects–the organization’s New Media Team also released an iPhone app -signalling the importance of incorporating mobile devices and clouds into their business model. But the cloud’s field applications are even more diverse. During natural disasters, SERVIR provides assistance to life-saving response teams. JPL’s appropriation of cloud-based programming supports a culture of public scientific inquiry. These humanitarian goals wouldn’t be possible without the cloud.

Still, the notion of cloud computing is a tricky one for many business owners and software users. There are several interests at stake. Users want privacy, but also want their information and activities to come to them at increasingly rapid speeds. Many also worry about security if cloud computing models employ off-site servers to fulfill their user’s needs. The solution, though, is all in the approach. NASA has enlisted the help of its Chief Technology Officer for IT, Dr. Sasi Pillay, to ensure that security for the administration’s cloud is so rigorous younger employees will be able to link their own devices to it.

Whether a government agency or private enterprise, users can take advantage of the gains of cloud computing without losing sleep over its risks. Choosing the right on-demand software and service company is all that matters.

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