Nebula is an open source cloud computing program that provides on-demand computing power for NASA researchers and scientists. Instead of purchasing physical servers, renting data center space or installing new networking equipment, scientists and researchers can access the IT resources they need instantly over a virtual private network (VPN). The software developed for Nebula is a key component of OpenStack Compute, an open source cloud computing initiative.
The Nebula application, along with Cisco Systems’ Unified Computing System and servers from Silicon Mechanics are housed in 40-foot modular datacenters from Verari Systems. Each container can hold up to 15,000 CPU cores or 15 petabytes, making this architecture much more energy efficient than traditional data centers. It is also more flexible, as it can be modified, upgraded, expanded and relocated to accommodate NASA’s changing needs.
Nebula was developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center to facilitate the sharing of large, complex data sets. It is an agency-wide program and is one of three flagship initiatives highlighted in NASA's Open Government Plan. The others are to improve the quality, impact and reuse of NASA software through open source development and a Crowdsourcing project to develop new technologies that will increase public participation in research.
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NASA has more information about the Nebula cloud computing platform.