NASA Takes Cloud on Mars Mission

By Nicole Hemsoth

November 8, 2010

Last week NASA announced that its Mars Exploration Rover Project has been the first space agency mission to use cloud resources for daily operations. According to reports from NASA, the cloud is being used to access the software and data that the flight team uses to manage their daily plans for the rover’s activities.

Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who manage the mission worked with members of Amazon Web Services team at both the planning and implementation stages in conjunction with the JPL team who built the rover’s daily activity-planning software, which is called Maestro.

JPL CIO, Tomas Soderstrom admitted in a recent release that his team has been working with a number of cloud vendors since 2007 to find the best ways to take advantage of cloud computing and that the agency set forth to “pragmatically look past the hype about cloud computing to find the practical, cost-efficient real mission applications.”

With the readily-available NASA Nebula cloud resource officially at the disposal of the agency following the recent announcement of NASA Cloud Services, one has to wonder why the JPL decided on using an external cloud services provider. Soderstrom, in an interview with Information Week, noted that the agency decided not to use its own cloud for the Rover project because “it has had more time to evaluate the worldwide reach of Amazon than Nebula so far” but that the JPL would indeed evaluate the use of Nebula for coming projects. 

A Mission Well-Suited for Cloud

As it stands, there are two rovers on the surface of Mars—Spirit and Opportunity—but at this point, only Opportunity is on duty since Spirit went into low-power hibernation mode in March. Originally, these were planned as three-month missions but as the program has grown, extended missions have been added, which means there is far more data than researchers initially planned for when initially considering expected capacity.

Since the mission has been extended far past what NASA engineers anticipated, the volume of data has outgrown the systems that were put into place to handle it. Khawaja Shames, a software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, noted that using the cloud means that the team’s mission is no longer bound by these restrictions, which is one element that made cloud computing an attractive option back in 2007 when the team started to scan for options.

Interestingly, the reasons that drove the decision to adopt cloud computing for these particular needs are not so different than those that inspire enterprise organizations to consider making the move to remote resources. For one thing, the JPL was facing a decision about either building out its current infrastructure to handle the unexpected increase in data following the move to extend the mission.

Project Manager for the Mars Rover project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, John Callas, remarked “when we need more computing capacity, we don’t need to install more servers if we can rent more capacity from the cloud for just the time we need it. This way we don’t waste electricity and air conditioning with servers idling waiting to be used and we don’t have to worry about hardware maintenance and operating system obsolescence.”

In addition to being a good fit due to the unexpected demands for storage and compute capacity, Shames also noted that the cloud is well-suited for this project because of the added boost it gives to the collaborative efforts that keep the project going.  In his view, using the cloud means that these disparate contributors to the mission are able to share information in near real-time.

Before the agency adopted the model, members of the Rover team had to send data to users who were geographically scattered based on their location versus sending the data from a central location, which sped up workflow—an important factor in the overall sense of satisfaction with the fit of cloud as strategy to improve operations. 

JPL on Cutting Edge of Cloud

NASA’s JPL has been among the early adopters of cloud computing, although in somewhat different contexts, for a number of years. For instance, the JPL formed a partnership with Google in which the NASA researchers used Google’s resources to develop an educational application that allowed elementary students to tag and label images from the spacecraft.

The JPL also formed a partnership between Microsoft and the JPL called “Be a Martian,” which came into play in 2009. This project, which can be found at http://www.beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov uses its 54,000 users who analyze data to help improve the Mars mapping projects as well as aid in other research endeavors.

While the JPL’s use of Amazon as its primary resource has occurred in part because the need for a solution came far before the agency was able to fully evaluate what Nebula would have to offer, there is a clear effort on the part of NASA to remain vendor-neutral when making decisions. Given its partnerships with Microsoft and Google before this foray into Amazon, it does seem clear that the agency is willing to give vendors a fair shake if they have services to offer that are ideally suited for their projects.

The Bigger Picture for Clouds in Government

As a release from the JPL noted early this week, “The extended missions of Spirit and Opportunity have provided a resource for testing innovations during an active space mission for possible use in future missions. New software uploads giving the rovers added autonomy have been one example, and cloud computing is another…JPL is currently building and testing NASA’s next Mars rover, Curiosity, for launch in late 2011 in the Mars Science Laboratory mission.”

One can only imagine that if all goes well in this cloud, it will be a central feature during the Curiosity mission as well.

Out of all agencies and departments in the United States government, there has yet been no parallel to NASA’s efforts in exploring and providing a research commitment to cloud computing. Between Nebula, which is its own internal cloud that will soon be opened to other agencies, and its practical implementation of other cloud-driven research projects, NASA is setting the trend for cloud adoption for government agency research.

While granted, the agency might not face some of the security hurdles that other agencies that have massive privacy and security restrictions, at least in terms of this particular project, this is nonetheless demonstrating that the cloud can be a cost-effective solution to handle peak loads and problems that occur when data outgrows the systems meant to handle it.

Cloud computing has been making a stronger appearance in releases from governments worldwide, but in the United States, adoption has been slow yet steady as benchmarking and authorization procedures to mitigate security concerns continue to add delays.

Thus far, outside of the General Services Administration (GSA) clouds have been discussed to death but are still in the mid-implementation stages. NASA, however, has taken a proactive approach with its Nebula resource and now, with a growing number of users adopting it for research uses and the utilization of Amazon, Microsoft and other cloud services resources, news from government agencies containing actual cloud use studies is expected to start trickling in at a faster pace—a good sign for those who advocate cloud adoption for research and government agencies.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Manufacturers Reaping the Benefits of Remote Visualization

Today’s manufacturers are operating in an ever-changing atmosphere, and finding new ways to boost productivity has never been more vital.

This is why manufacturers are ramping up their investments in high performance computing (HPC), a trend which has helped give rise to the “connected factory” and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts that are proliferating throughout the industry today. Read more…

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This