NASA’s Evolving Role In OpenStack: From Founder To Customer

In a little less than two years, OpenStack, the open source cloud operating system that Rackspace co-founded with NASA, has seen explosive growth. There are more than 180 participating organizations, more than 100 known deployments and more than 200 individuals from 55 companies contributing to the latest software release.

That makes this a good time for a shout-out to NASA, whose contributions, through the Nebula initiative, helped OpenStack achieve lift off.

OpenStack now is in orbit. The community has swelled. Support for it is vast. And production OpenStack environments have emerged. It’s only natural that NASA’s role now is shifting, from founder to customer of OpenStack and other cloud platforms. NASA is handing the reins over to the OpenStack community, including Rackspace — a move that is winning praise from industry analysts.

Like former NASA cloud architect and founder of OpenStack startup Piston Computing Joshua McKenty said, “NASA never stopped using space pens or aluminum foil — but they did stop investing in R&D and manufacturing of those items, once there were commercial entities engaged.”

As NASA continues to explore the many uses of cloud computing and looks to be a “smart consumer” of commercial cloud services, we’re confident OpenStack will be a mainstay. While NASA may not be a core participant in OpenStack development, it has made clear that it already has OpenStack projects in the works as it move to fulfill the federal mandate for agencies to make broader use of cloud computing.

OpenStack, like cloud computing in general, remains a work in progress. This isn’t the end of the journey; it’s just the beginning as we head toward the era of the Open Cloud.

NASA has helped to set the stage and build OpenStack from the ground up. The technology that it helped to develop launched the Open Cloud revolution. Now it’s up to us at Rackspace, and the rest of the OpenStack community, to build on its momentum.

Through OpenStack and our Open Cloud we’re looking to create true choice in the public cloud, and in August, OpenStack will be the engine of Rackspace’s public cloud. NASA and other agencies will have plenty of options for public cloud services from Rackspace and a host of others.

None of this would’ve been possible without NASA’s early participation in OpenStack, for which all cloud users should be grateful.