Some disclaimersIm an employee of Dell working on government contract Dells Services Federal GovtIm certainly not an official NASA spokespersonNothing I’m about to share with you is close to being top secret. In fact, it’s been previously shared in official government releaes in the form of procurement vehicles.I blog about what I do at nasawebude.com, but sadly its been a few months since I posted something.Anyway, the background picture is from Moffet Field in Mountain View California. Ames Research Center is a NASA facility at Moffett FieldOnce a Naval base. If you’ve spent anytime in Silicon Valley, driving on the 101, the big hanger off the distance is pretty hard to miss. Specifically, this is a photo of Hangar One as it was being built in the 1930s
Oddly enough it looks very much the same now. Hangar one is actually in the process of being torn down
Who knows what this is?If you don’t you’ve very disconnected from any news media outlets this week.That’s MarsAnd the shadow Mars Science Laboratory. Also known as the MSL. also known as CuriosityIn the distance is whats called Mt Sharp. One of the things Curiosity is going to do in the next 2 years is climb that mourtain and hopefully tell us how it got there.Because at this point we don’t really know how Mt Sharp was formed as the planet Mars does not have tectonic plates like Earth does.Yes, its been a pretty big week for NASA. One of those weeks that reminds those of us who work with NASA why we do what we do for NASA.And while I may not be an official NASA civil servant, I’m pretty comfortable referring to NASA as “WE”Because Im also human being. And sending unmanned spacecraft 352 million miles to another planet and remotely landing something on Mars the sign of an SUV . That’s a pretty big deal for all of humanity.
To me the real crazy thing about that is that after those 352 million miles there were actually some cameras in place to capture the moment. This is an image taken by the Mars Renaissance Orbiter. Which while orbiting the planet Mars managed to grab a snapshotAlso the reason we should also be comfortable saying things like “We landed on Mars” , I’m also an American citizen paying taxes to fund NASA. That also makes it our space program and something we should be proud of. One of the things I have an interest in during my work at NASA is figuring out ways we can integrate participatory government concepts at NASA. I think New Media technology (including web and social) is a natural mechanism by which the public can find ways to get involved with what NASA does.
For me, as a Web Technologist the landing of Curiosity of Mars on Sunday night was also very much about the Web at its very best. The Web is the most amazing information distribution in history. NASA is using that mechansim most effectively when using it to share its knowledge to both educate and inspire the human race.Early statistics are showing that more people watched the landing of curiosity via Ustream than watched it on traditional TV.
So Im here today to tell you about How NASA uses PHP. But that question cant be answered until a few other items are understand.Whats the mission of Information Technology at a federal government agency at NASAAnd what role does the web play in that mission. Following that, I can show how PHP is utilized by NASA in tapping into the power of the Web.Lastly, I want to talk a bit about some of the things I’m working on presently at NASA – what I like to refer to as a Mission Ready Enterprise Web Platform. And during that part of my talk, perhaps I’ll leave you with some thoughts to approaches you take back to the companies you work at or the communities of people you work on projects with.
NASA is very much a mission culture. Everything we do is centered around missions. Mars and the human exploration program is one of NASA’s missionsEarth Sciences is another one of NASA’s missions.So at NASA, even Information Technology has a mission. And it is … To increase the productivity of scientists, enginneers.,
And at NASA, that’s an interesting challenge. Because all those scientists, researchers, and mission support personnel are highly distributed.They are distributed along the lines of the subject matter they work on (building a better nuclear rocket is slightly different from studying potential asteroid impacts to Earth)And they are distributed geographically. NASA has 10 field centers scattered across the U.S. In addition, NASA partners with scientists and researchers all over the globe. The international space station is a partnership with Russia, France, and Japan among others.Quite honestly, one of the interesting things about NASA to me and one of the challenged NASA I.T. managers and policy makers are currently facing is the fact that there probably isnt a NASA program or project that doesn’t involve a non-NASA resource involved in the scientific and research process. NASA is very, very, very concerned about I.T. security and goes to great lenghts to ensure that sensivtive and classified information is secured appropriately. One of the current problems are that some of the current processes put in place to ensure information security can’t function at the same pace that NASA resources want to work at with their external partners.Apple…IBM…Siemens…they all face similar problems of dencentralized information.
But no one has this challenge. Content originating from outer space.This is an astronaut sending a tweet and an accompanyning picture from the International Space StationDepending on your view of social media…you either think that’s an awesome step forward for technology and information sharing…or possibly a sign of an apocalypse
So whats the role of the Web?NASA’s original charter states that NASA has a responsibility to share all that learns with humanity. And we’re in luck. Because the internet and the Web are the most effective information distribution tool in the history of the human race.That humanitarian role of NASA is one my favorite parts of working on forward thinking Web at NASA. As cheesy as it may sound, the
List of roles that web plays at NASA
The most important role for NASA’s web content.Furthermore, in the U.S. we don’t have as many children and young adults studying and getting advanced degrees in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There are some people that think this is a major, major crisis. That ultimately it has impacts on the global balance of power. I’d like to think that NASA’s sharing of what it knows and inspiring today’s youth can help with that.
Visible EarthMy favorite web site from an inspiring that next generation happens to be the Visible earth web site. NASA collects petabytes of imagery from its various satelitte cameras and sensors orbiting the planet.Visible earth effectively catalogues them and presents them to you in a structure way.You can choose the type of sensor or camera that captured the image.You can also choose a collection of images by what it’s a photo of…for example is a satelittel photo of an ocean or ice caps, hurricane images, or elements of the biosphereIt so happens that visible earth was custom built using PHP
We’ve used PHP as the application middleware for the development of portal dashboard. This is actually a site I help code back in 2003…back in that pre-blogging era when portals were still the rage. InsideAmes is Ames’ intranet, aggregating all the disparate program and project websites around Ames as well as distribute the latest organizational news.Theres also some basic centerbusiness workflow integrated into this site. Such as visitor badge requests.
Theres no lack of science and research programs using PHP solutions to share what they’re working on and what they’re learning.The NASA astrobiology institute uses Drupal for its public web site
The Earth Observatory Program at NASA has been heavy adopters of PHP"Reverb", the next generation metadata and service discovery tool. You can use reverb as an interface for discovering Earth Science data
That same NASA Program – Earth Observatory Systems uses php based MediaWiki to document their available metadata
Another example of PHP in the scientific process is in usage in interfacing in RESTful API’s various NASA programs have made availableThis API allows you to interface with regional climate data that one NASA program has been collecting.
Making data easily accessible and available for the public to use is one of the areas of emphasis in NASA I.T. Data transparency has been one of the big buzzwords in the federal govt I.T. sector in recent years. Example of web efforts based upon this you may be familiar with are recovery.govRecovery.gov is the U.S. government's official website that provides easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse. Data.gov is another federal website developed by the GSA for making govt data more available to U.S. taxpayers, who after all helped pay for its collection in the first place
NASA is adopting a similar spirit with its data.nasa.govThis site does what you think it does – it aggregates and catalogues various data sets from NASAData.nasa.gov is built on WordPress
And also has its own API returingJaSONfpr,atted results
That API was modeled directly after the JaSON API for WordPress pluginIn addition to transparent data being one the IT trends at NASA, open source is another concept that NASA is finally fully and properly embracing.
And by properly, I mean that NASA is trying to no longer be a consumer of open source technologies but also a willing participant in open sourceThis is a far, FAR cry from the state of affairs when I started at NASA in 2001. Back then, there was a lot of fear of open source. It was considered totally insecure and there was a high degree discomfort with the fact that you couldn’t get an expensive support contract like you could from companies like Sun, Silicon Graphics, and Microsoft. I spent a lot of my early years at NASA arguing for the transition from expensive IBM Websphere servers to web servers utilizing Apache. Similarly, when I started at NASA, the preferred web dev language within OCIO communities was Cold Fusion. The discussion to emphasize languages such as PHP and Java took a while
Code.nasa.gov is currently NASA’s best representation of open source software written at NASAAnd it shows that NASA utilizes languages other than PHP.As you might expect with vast decentralization, NASA develops in Java
And Python. To name but a few. Technologists, scientists, and researchs are given plenty of freedom and runway to do things as they see fit. Standardization at the science in research levels doesn’t really exist. From a management perspective, that’s a bit of pain in the ass.But from a science, research, and mission perspective, its almost necessary. Having looser reins provides greater opportunity for innovation.
So what I’ve been doing lately at NASA is thinking how the Web can help those scientists, researchers, and mission support personel. I want the web to work for them. Not something they’re fighting against to harness properly to achieve their mission goals.I spend a lot of time thinking about what a mission enabled web platform actually is at NASA. What are the common web elements that eveyone at NASA needs, but still leaves room for innovation.My goal for the web is that its seen as a critical utility in getting the job done. In the same way that e-mail or phones or even electricity is viewed.
But how?How can you harness the power of the web effectively for NASAFurthermore, how do we take what we’ve learned in the open source transition years and apply that to the next era. The cloud computing transition years
A few different approaches… some high level vision statements for what the web should be
Then, we taken a look at a high level from technological perspective. And sorting out thinking based on these architectural levels
And the more specifically, began defining the standard technological attributes that we want to be part of any Web solution.
Then…Make sure you are reaching out to the right peopleIf you are embarking on forming a cloud computing plan, I’m sure you become versed in these terms. The different layers do different things and they impact differenadueinces.So…Depending on the depth and reach of your cloud initiative, you’re going to have to message to different groups. The message is not the same for all of these groups.Idenitfying the end user communites helped us then identify what the use cases for web solutions might be. And what we found was we were underserving developers. And not empowering content owners enoughIt’s a pain to be a software developer at NASA. In many ways because of the lack of standardized approachesContent owners want to share, but the tools for web publising are archaic.
Cloud computing – NASA generated a pretty good understanding of Infrastructure as a ServiceUnlike open source, NASA did its best to put itself in front of this. NASA Nebula importance of NASA nebula wasn't so much about NASA playing a part in creating an open source cloud computing product (and now a growing ecosystem and industry around; repeating what has happened with things like Linux, PHP, even Drupal), but being a shepherd of such a product. Allowing the public to participate in NASA software code.It's taken just as long to get developers to start leveraging Nebula as it was to build the infrastructure itself.
But in talking with web developers and trying to onboard them onto nebula, it was realized that IaaS wasn’t what they were looking for.They didn’t want to spend time installing middleware. They wanted to write code.Recently,we’ve been looking at PaaS solutions that are emerging in the marketplace such as Red Hat’s Open Shift.OpenShift basically sits on top of Amazon Web Services.
This diagram outlines the target platform we’re looking to deploy and provide mission ready web solutions.We’ve talked a bit about the platform layerOn the software layer, theres a variety of end user/consumer level solutions. Content managements software systems for www.nasa.gov and other enterprise web assets like blogs.nasa.govEnterprise searchContent delivery solutions – such as streaming media, cdn caching networksWeb based collaboration tools – wiki.nasa.gov is something im presently working on trying to overhaul.
None of this technology problem. This can all be done.The reality is that it’s a change management problem. One person once called it a hearts and minds campaign inside NASA.If we’re talking about targeting develoeprs and content publishers and getting them onboard, you’re talking about a big bottom up process. Somewhere along the lines you’ll need a tipping point. Another thing I like to think about with big innovative approaches is what the tipping point. Whats the thing that going to make my plan explode beyond my early adopeter mavens to impact my entire organization.
Look at exising developer programs and see what makes them tick. With I.T. shifts you need to get the builders on board. Learn how to work with them. Amazon, Twitter, Apple and more all have robust developer programs. What are the attributes of them that you could easily adopt to attrack the builders
First baby steps. Start a mailing list.Marketers know the value of the mailing list. That’s where the money is. For you, it will become where the knowledge is.The rule of 6 – if you can create a mailing list where there are 6 people actively and contributing, then you’re close to stricking gold. At 6 people, the number of lurkers you have on your list becomes less significant. At 6 people you can spend less time converting lurkers and activating them into contributing and more time just brainstorming and sharing.Tools like posterous will let you have a private group where interaction is primarily via email, but there are also web interfaces and archives that have archived search tools
The mailing list is also an enabler of communities.In today’s tech landscape, the most important thing is be part community. Or many communities. Don’t work alone. Work with others. Share with others. learn with others. One person start ups don’t typically work. Find a partner. If you have some corporate job, invoke start up mentalities and find a partner in crime in the office.Even two people is a community. If you’re an open source convert, you already know about this. And its probably one reason why you choose to come to this conference this weekend. This conference offers you a chance to deepen your community relationships and forge new ones. Do enjoy yourself and with that…
I thank you for your time.
NASA, PHP, & THE MISSION READY WEBJ.J. ToothmanWeb StrategistNASA Ames Research CenterPresented at Northeast PHP 2012 1
firstname.lastname@example.org://nasawebdude.comTwitter: @jjtoothmanDell Services Federal GovernmentNASA Ames Research Center (2001-2007; 2010 – present) 2
The I.T. Mission at NASAThe role of the Web in that missionHow NASA uses PHPMission Ready Enterprise Web Platforms
Even IT has a mission at NASA “To increase the productivity of scientists, engineers, and mission support personnel by responsively and efficiently delivering reliable, innovative and secure IT services.”http://www.flickr.com/photos/epitti/2370873167/ 9
A mission enabled Web platform• Cost effective• Time effective• Low barrier to entry• Improved emphasis on onboarding, adoption, and training materials• Extensible• Ability to use your own resources
Vision statements for Web• Modernize the web experience for the knowledge enterprise• Leave a smaller I.T. footprint while increasing security, agility, and flexibility• enable/enrich a culture of knowledge Use the web to creation, sharing, and remixing• Balance autonomy and control within the enterprise• Expand the definition of web to incorporate mobile and social media
Architectural domain vision for Web• Data Center• Applications• Communications• Security• Information• End-user
Web Technology Statements of IntentREST based Development Cloud Requirements Open Sourcedata service Process (Agile (All Services Based basedinterfaces <-> Waterfall) Cloud based) Services solutionsVendor Make Vs Buy Data will be Enterprise AgencyIndependence exportable Search AuthenticationFit process toapplication
Identify the right audienceImage credit: http://www.gunthergerlach.com/2009/04/defining-cloud-computing-from-the-scratch/ 35