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Mission operations in the cloud
06.03.2009 5:45 PM
Jeff Norris

By Jeff Norris
Supervisor, Planning Software Systems Group

Lately my team has gotten excited about the potential applications of cloud computing in mission operations. Cloud computing is a trendy term that generally refers to the practice of running your applications on a set of virtual remote computers typically provided by another organization as a pay-as-you-go service. Many of the strengths of cloud computing are a great fit for mission operations. First, cloud computing nodes can be brought online and taken offline again at a moment's notice to match the demand for your application. This is ideal for "bursty" applications like mission downlink data processing that happen at predictable intervals. With cloud computing, we could stand up a dozen data processing nodes minutes before downlink begins and shut them down again minutes after processing is completed, or bring nodes online before uplink to enable our users to simulate and validate spacecraft sequences. It's like having the performance of a dedicated Beowulf cluster on call without having to buy or maintain the computers.

One of my team members, Khawaja Shams, has already written a couple of proof-of-concept cloud applications to get a feeling for the technology. Right now we’re working through the security implications and how cloud computing could work within the context of a full mission operations system. This is a new area for JPL and there’s a lot to work through before we’ll be ready to deploy it to a mission, but we see a lot of potential.

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