NASA taps Amazon Web Services to bring earth science data to the cloud

This is one data set that a federal agency is keen to make public.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

NASA has tapped Amazon Web Services as its partner in the cloud for bringing more of its earch science and satellite data available to the public.

Intended primarily for researchers rather than operating as a direct Google Earth competitor, the project is set up more with a self-service approach in mind.

That is to say that the data management console and services are meant to initiate research and collaboration among geoscience professionals, primarily in the United States.

Naturally, NASA isn't making all of its data on the subject available.

Nevertheless, some of the selected works will include real-time data about temperature, precipitation, and forest cover as well as data processing tools from the NASA Earth Exchange stemming from the space agency's Advanced Supercomputer Facility at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

NASA has already uploaded "terabytes of data" from three satellite and computer modeling datasets to the AWS-based portal.

One example provided by NASA was a data set covering high-resolution climate change projections for the 48 contiguous U.S. states. 

Amazon is typically competing with the likes of IBM and Oracle, among others, for an increasing number of cloud-related projects. The usual focus is typically signing contracts associated with uploading years of data and other services from legacy hardware infrastructures to the cloud -- all under the strictest levels of legal compliance.

Combined with some of the releases coming out of the cloud giant's second annual developer conference this week, the NASA project serves as another potential, high-profile use case that falls outside the norm for government cloud contracts.

The AWS team made its case in a blog post on Tuesday morning, arguing that "up until now, it has been logistically difficult for researchers to gain easy access to this data due to its dynamic nature and immense size (tens of terabytes)," citing limitations such as bandwidth, local storage, and power costs.

To remedy that, AWS is opening up about its new OpenNEX project for making more data of this nature available to researchers and students worldwide via Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

The Amazon Public Data Sets online platform for NASA is accessible to the public now.

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