Former NASA CTO and co-founder of OpenStack, Chris Kemp, took the stage at CeBit Australia 2015 to challenge proprietary Cloud models and the virtues of an open standards Cloud environment.
Already OpenStack has been declared the fastest growing open source project in history, with companies such as Cisco and HP pouring in billions to support the project. But it had a far more humble beginning, as a collaborative tool to help NASA filter and organise the petabytes of data streaming from its various space telescopes, back in the days when gigabytes cost $30-40 dollars a pop.
On its own, Australia's Square Kilometre Array was generating five times as much data as the internet as a whole, Kemp said, laying out the scale of the problem engineers faced in 2010.
"At these prices, not only would we exceed NASA's budget, just for one of these projects, but we'd nearly exceed the federal budget of the entire US government if we were paying that much for storage. We are literally talking about hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars," he said.
"We had to think completely differently about how we were going to build this infrastructure."
Kemp's key project at NASA was to combine the data from the Mars curiosity rover going around the Victoria crater, with the data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was orbiting taking high resolution images of the planet. He formed a partnership with both Google and Microsoft to take all the data from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, translate it into formats that were usable, and render it into the 3D image of Mars that became part of Google Earth.
Kemp moved operations to the birthplace of ARPAnet in the 60s (which became the internet) at MAE-West, in the midst of silicon valley, with cheap land and cheap power - but it was hardly a conventional set up.
"What I was able to do was build in these shipping containers, using the same ideas as Google and Facebook, petabytes of storage, 1000s of cores of compute, and cost about a million dollars, versus the tens of millions of dollars it would've cost to put a traditional datacentre in place."
The project worked a treat, and anyone can now see all the visual information NASA has on Mars via Google Earth, they can swoop through craters, do flybuys, use it in classrooms, and it doesn't cost a cent, a key consideration Kemp wanted to preserve.
"This was a way for NASA to take a whole bunch of information that was probably once only seen by a few hundred people, and we've now made it accessible to literally hundreds of millions of people in the last five years."
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