NASA cloud pioneer leaves agency

March 17, 2011

Chris Kemp, NASA’s chief technology officer for IT, is leaving the agency. Kemp announced his resignation on his agency blog saying, “As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I saw my vision for the future slowly slip further from my grasp.”

Kemp was one of the pioneers behind NASA’s nebula cloud while the chief information officer at NASA Ames, the position he held before coming to Headquarters. Kemp also helped launch Apps.gov while working at Ames. Apps.gov helps agencies buy cloud computing services.

Kemp has also been a big supporter of open source computing. Information Week reports, “the agency donated code from Nebula to OpenStack, an open-source cloud computing project, and at the end of the month, just after his departure, it will host its first-ever open-source summit.”

Kemp has worked for NASA for five years.

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Cloud computing tips from NASA’s Chris Kemp

January 3, 2011

NASA’s Nebula Cloud Computing Platform has gotten a lot of attention from agencies looking to move into the cloud. Chris Kemp, the Chief Technology Officer for IT at NASA, spoke with Federal News Radio about his agency’s use of the cloud and how that has morphed over the years.

Initially, the Nebula cloud was developed to get NASA’s thousands of public-facing websites all on the same platform. However, the agency also realized it could use the cloud as an infrastructure-as-a-service offering for compute and storage. Kemp said this is the area that has really gained traction at the agency.

Using the cloud in this way has also helped NASA with efficiency. Kemp said typical utilization of infrastructure is 20 percent but Nebula allows NASA to run at 80-90 percent efficiency.

To help understand all of the various cloud platforms available (both internally at NASA and externally in the private sector), Kemp said NASA has developed a cloud service office.  

“By having expertise in all these areas, as we have a new application, we can consult with them and send them to the right place. Architect [a] solution that involves cloud but that appropriately uses these different technologies because every cloud has different characteristics.”

Kemp recommends all agencies form a group like this as cloud becomes an even bigger focus in 2011 and beyond.

Listen to the full interview with NASA’s Chris Kemp.


NASA discusses challenges of data center consolidation

November 3, 2010

It’s been more than nine months since the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative began with the intent to reduce energy usage, lower IT costs and improve security. And some federal agencies are discovering that it’s difficult to reduce spending without putting some money upfront first.

NASA is just one of the federal agencies trying to streamline their IT practices and improve efficiency. Chris Kemp, NASA’s chief technology officer for IT, says it’s been a challenge to consolidate because the agency uses many different types of IT infrastructure.

Kemp says aggregating data wouldn’t be such a daunting task if the agency had the same type and size of servers and other universal equipment. The virtualization transition will take several years and Kemp says the IT department is researching how they can achieve maximum savings.

NASA is also working with company that provides software-as-a-service model that will collect information from an appliance installed on the network and send that information back to an analytical engine in their own data center.

Federal agencies submitted their data center consolidation plans to the Office of Management and Budget two months ago. OMB is going through the plans and hopes they’ll be put into action next year.


Looking at NASA’s Nebula in 2010

December 31, 2009

We told you earlier about the Digital Government Conference.

One of the speakers was Chris Kemp, Chief Information Officer at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

He gave a presentation, Government Cloud Computing for 2010: Moving Towards Efficient Operations.

After his talk, we were able to catch up with him — and we bring you excerpts of our conversation with him now.

Fed Cloud Blog: Let’s start out with the 2010 budget guidance. We know there’s some sensitivities around it, but you mentioned the fact that there’s some requirements — some language — around cloud. Can you offer us a little more about it?

Chris Kemp: The first thing that I read a couple of months ago was that pilot projects should be pursued by federal agencies. Nebula is a pilot project that NASA’s been pursuing, and I think that other projects within other agencies, like DISA working with RACE, as an example of a pilot project — until we start having pilot projects, we don’t understand how to change our policies, procedures, processes and begin inserting the wedges in our budgets to start being more service-oriented and less infrastructure-oriented. So, I think it is necessary that, as soon as possible, agencies begin experimenting with the technology to begin understanding what impact this will have on their budgets and their infrastructure.

FCB: You mentioned that you guys are working on three or four different pilots, Nebula being one. You talked about the Microsoft telescope project with Mars, another one with Google — what’s the status. Are we looking at those happening in 2010 and beyond? Have they already started?

CK: I believe that, early next year, you’re going to see a full public release of Mars. This was something we announced we were working on a few months ago, so we’re going to be literally allowing every American to zoom in and see what’s going on in real time on Mars. So, every time we get a new image, we’re going to be recompiling it. It’s going to be live from the surface of Mars.

We’re also using Nebula to do some of the data processing behind Google, as well. So our goal is to use these platforms that have quite a following to make NASA’s mission more accessible to the public.

FCB: The idea behind this, we imagine, is that you have all this data. It’s publicly available. There’s no sensitivities behind it — let’s put it on the cloud and see what happens. Is that kind of the bigger idea?

CK: Right. A lot of this data has been on NASA Web sites but, if you’re a 5th grade student working on a science project, being able to go to a JPL Web site and pull down image ABC123 from camera C with with a spectral — that’s hard. Going into Google Earth, which you have probably on your computer in your classroom, zooming in and being able to see all the rich 3D panorama content that we’ve created — being able to go into Worldwide Telescope and see the tours of nebulas and planets and constellations — is a really new way for us to engage the public. Fortunately we’ve been able to do public-private partnerships with Microsoft and Google, so taxpayers aren’t even paying for this. We’re being reimbursed for the time spent making our data accessible on these platforms.

FCB: One of the things you mentioned about Nebula is moving it to Apps.gov within the next few months. You’re going to also release the business model so people can see the breakdown of how money’s being spent. It seems like you guys are not trying to make this a fee-for-service, but you’re really trying to say — this is what you can do with cloud. This is how it works.

CK: We’re trying to accelerate NASA’s ability to leverage this technology to support our mission. So, as we work on Nebula, what we’re trying to do is bake in the high data rates, the high performance, the requirements that we have as an agency into the DNA of cloud computing so we’re able to buy these things and procure these things from commerical providers in the future — that’s already baked i


Upcoming cloud events around town

December 4, 2009

Today we bring you news about events around town regarding the cloud.

Dec. 8, 2009
First up — we already told you about FedScoop’s Cloud Computing Shoot Out. It’s their second event that will focus on U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra’s five pillars of transparent government. This time, panelists will address concerns related to issues surrounding cloud portability, interoperability and security.

Some of the attendees:

  • Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon.com
  • Yousef A. Khalidi, Distinguished Engineer, Cloud Computing, Microsoft Corporation
  • Michael G. Hill, Vice President, Enterprise Initiatives IBM
  • Prasad L. Rampalli, Vice President, Intel Architecture Group, Intel Corporation
  • Eran Feigenbaum, Director of Security, Google Enterprise
  • Kaveh Vessali, Vice President of Public Sector Solutions, Salesforce.com
  • Jeff Bergeron, Chief Technologist, U.S. Public Sector, HP

The Shoot Out will be held at the Newseum and starts at 8 a.m. Register here.

Dec. 9, 2009
The Digital Government Institute presents its Cloud Computing Conference.

Chris Kemp, Chief Information Officer, Ames Research Center, NASA, will deliver the keynote, Government Cloud Computing for 2010: Moving Towards Efficient Operations.

Also, Chris Dorobek of DorobekInsider and Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief will moderate the panel How to Take Advantage of Cloud Computing Today.

You can register for it here.

Dec. 17, 2009
Also, AFCEA Bethesda Chapter presents IT Infrastructure Management as part of its monthly breakfast series.

The panel will focus on how cloud computing environments, such as NASA’s Nebula and DISA’s Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE), are changing the landscape of government IT infrastructure management, as well as helping to streamline system, network and storage management.

Speakers include:

  • Casey Coleman, Chief Information Officer, General Services Administration (moderator)
  • Chris Kemp, Chief Information Officer, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Alfred Rivera, Director, Computer Services Directorate, Defense Information Systems Agency
  • Keith Trippie, Executive Director, Enterprise System Development Office (ESDO), Office of the Chief Information Officer, Department of Homeland Security
  • Pete Tseronis, Associate Chief Information Officer, Department of Energy

Register here.

FCB will, of course, attend all of these events and report back, just in case you can’t make it.


Cloud Conversations on ‘GITSS’

September 22, 2009

We call it ‘GITSS’, but the real name of the show is Government IT Solutions Spotlight.

Federal News Radio’s own Chris Dorobek is joined by WTOP’s Adam Tuss to talk about all sorts of issues surrounding IT every Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Which, of course, inevitably brings us to the cloud.

This week, Chris and Adam talk about Nebula with Chris Kemp, CIO at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

If you don’t know anything about Nebula — NASA’s cloud platform — I urge you to listen. This is a fascinating interview about how a federal agency is using open source to work in a 2.0 world.

Also, I wanted to highlight a story published on our site last week by Internet Editor Emily Jarvis.

The Daily Debrief talked a lot about the cloud last week, and Emily took two excellent interviews — one with GSA’s Casey Coleman and Dave McClure; and one with Alan Murphy of F5 Networks — to discuss the new site apps.gov, among other things.

To fully understand the changes that Apps.gov brings to cloud computing, it is first important to have the most up to date version of what the cloud is and what it is supposed to do.

NIST defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.”

Apps.gov is just the most recent development to the cloud. The website is the federal government’s cloud computing storefront.

I urge you to read more here.