US space agency now in the cloud

Think your organization is too big to move to the cloud? Not so — take a look at the U.S. space agency (NASA), which in the past 18 months moved about 110 applications and websites to parts of Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform.

And it’s not finished.

The effort, outlined in this piece at Computerworld U.S., included migrating 65 applications in the last 22 weeks.

What Canadian organizations can learn from this project is the thought process that NASA’s IT leaders had to go through. For example, the shift to the cloud was realization that an aging content management system had to be replaced.

“I didn’t go out saying I want to use Amazon cloud,” Roopangi Kadakia, NASA’s Web services executive, is quoted as saying. “I had these apps that needed a much better return on investment. I was able to show, right from the beginning, about a 40 per cent [year-over-year] cost savings on operations and maintenance — not doing any consolidations or cleanup. It was 40 per cent right off the bat.”

Now that they’re on the cloud, updating the websites has gone from taking about 20 minutes to two minutes, the article notes.

Among the goals is to give staff a repository on the cloud where they could share and reuse code, and possibly do  disaster recovery as a service.

But here are the questions Kadakia asked about moving to the cloud or keeping applications in-house, which any IT leader should be asking: “What are you trying to protect? How does hosting it internally give you more protection than having it hosted externally?  Just because a server is in your own data center does not make it secure. It’s not about where the information is but how it’s protected. It’s about the controls used. The government has to abide by regulations and there are hundreds of controls. Who has access? Do they have continuous guards? Do they have lockable casings in their data centers? Do they have redundant cabling? What Amazon does with their data center is going to be evaluated.”

Even after moving to the cloud the learning continued. For example, her team found that some cloud-based apps were only using about one per cent of the dedicated processor power, even at peak levels. Shifting to lower-powered servers saved a chunk of money.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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