Day: February 22, 2012

Mission to The Cloud: NASA Takes Off to Cloud Computing!

Whether you are running an e-commerce business or sending people to the moon, the flexible Cloud can be scaled up or down in response to your security and performance needs.

In its 64 years, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has historically been at the cutting-edge of technology, whether its sights were set on putting man into orbit (1962), putting a man on the moon (1968), or building recurrent-use space shuttles and space stations. The rockets and spacecraft that physically propelled its operations were the most world’s most advanced. NASA’s state-of-the-art computing technology played an important support role, too, in the design, analysis, simulation, and communications components of the agency’s many missions and projects. The IBM System 360 Model 95 mainframes used for the Apollo missions were the most powerful of their time (though they had only 4MB of memory and could be outperformed by today’s smartphones). Many years later, NASA stands at the forefront of yet another advance in computing technology: cloud computing. But while even the largest enterprises 50 years ago could not acquire the mainframes and supercomputers used at the same time by NASA, today’s most advanced and most dynamic computing technology, cloud computing, can be utilized by small businesses with even the most restrictive budgets and least existing technical knowledge and infrastructure.

NASA constructed its own cloud computing infrastructure in 2007. The NASA website describes some of the benefits of its cloud system, code-named Nebula: “Nebula allows NASA to realize significant cost savings through better resource utilization, reduced energy consumption, and by reducing the labor required to procure infrastructure or create new Web applications. Many of NASA’s dedicated compute and storage servers are underutilized but still require expensive environmental controls and a high level of on-going energy investment. Nebula allows NASA scientists to pool IT resources, only using what services they need for the time period they need it, and enabling those resources to be used by others when they no longer need them.”

In connection with NASA’s increasing reliance on cloud computing has been a corresponding downsizing of its on-site IT infrastructure. This month NASA retired the last of its mainframes, an IBM Z9. A mainframe, basically an extremely powerful, extremely centralized server, will completely perform its assigned tasks using its own processing power, in contrast with normal servers that share the processing burden with other servers or the client (desktop, tablet, smart phone) that sent the processing task. Two developments have made mainframes obsolete: 1) client devices have become more powerful and can share more of the processing burden; 2) scalable platforms allow multiple servers to combine into a consolidated pseudo-mainframe (essentially a cloud), and groups of servers still cost far less than a single mainframe.

In addition to NASA, currently around 60% of enterprises employ some form of cloud computing. About half of the companies avoiding cloud computing say that security concerns or questions about the cloud’s performance level influenced their decision. But if NASA, with its strict security requirements and the complexity of operations, can use cloud computing safely and effectively, then clearly these concerns are misguided. And the benefits to private organizations, particularly SMBs, are much greater because of the lowered costs (50-70% reduction) and their lack of much an existing on-site IT infrastructure to integrate with or dispose of.

IronOrbit builds, hosts, and manages private and hybrid clouds primarily for SMBs. As a rule we make our clouds as secure, high-performance, and cost-effective as possible, but we can also customize them for greater security or faster performance according the requirements of our customers. In other words, whether you are running an e-commerce business or sending people to the moon, the flexible Cloud can be scaled up or down in response to your security and performance needs. Here are some of the highlights of our standard cloud infrastructure package:

-Industry-leading virtualization platforms from VMware and Citrix

-Enterprise-level 24x7x365 technical support

-Top-flight data centers featuring biometric access controls, N+1 cooling systems, fire suppression systems, uninterruptible power solutions, and multi-homed Internet connectivity, operated in partnership with SAVVIS and Level 3, companies that manage the networks of some of the world’s largest telecom companies, internet service providers, wireless service providers, and cable providers

-Networks with redundant SAN storage arrays, loaded balanced switching network antivirus, state of the art Cisco firewalls, and intrusion detection systems