NASA, MyCase, and the Benefits of Cloud Computing

Mars planet 2 (Nasa image enhanced)

(Photo credit: J.Gabás Esteban)

Last month, the Mars landing was big news when, amid much fanfare, NASA’s rover Curiosity successfully landed on the surface of Mars. Within moments, the Curiosity began transmitting images back to earth and will continue to do so for some time.

For geeks and non-geeks alike, the Curiosity’s arrival at Mars was an unforgettable event and, by all accounts, was an engineering and scientific marvel.

Interestingly, as it turns out, cloud computing (where data is stored on servers owned and maintained by a third party) was and continues to be instrumental to the success of NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory‘s Mars mission. The reason for the importance of cloud computing to this mission is explained in this Los Angeles Times article:

With so much large-scale data processing to be done, JPL is leading the way in the adoption of cloud computing in the federal government, said Khawaja Shams, manager for data services at La Canada Flintridge-based JPL.

“At this point, JPL’s data centers are filled to capacity, so we’re looking for ways to cost effectively expand the computational horsepower that we have at our disposal,” he said. “Cloud computing is giving us that opportunity.”

In other words, cloud computing saves NASA money and dramatically increases its computing power, making the Mars mission both feasible and affordable.

So, who is the lucky cloud computing provider of choice for NASA? It just happens to be Amazon Web Services (AWS), the very same cloud computing services provider used by MyCase:

Better known for being an e-commerce giant, Amazon has become a major player in cloud computing, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory using the company’s Amazon Web Services to capture and store images and metadata collected from the Mars Exploration Rover and Mars Science Laboratory missions…

Using AWS’s cloud to operate the website, Shams noted, enables JPL to get images, videos and developments to the public quickly, without having to build and operate the infrastructure in-house.

According to Amazon, AWS enabled JPL to construct a scalable Web infrastructure in only two to three weeks instead of months.

So, for NASA cloud computing offers a multitude of benefits, including security, flexibility, and scalability. Coincidentally, according to the American Bar Association’s 2011 Legal Technology Survey, these are the very same reasons that lawyers are increasingly relying on cloud computing in their law practices.

Specifically, the ABA survey established that the main reason lawyers use cloud computing platforms is convenience. 70% of attorneys who use these services cited the ability to access data from anywhere as the main incentive, while 55% stressed the importance of 24/7 access to data. Simplicity and affordability were also cited as important factors. Low cost was important to 49%, quick start up time was a factor for 44% and 43% appreciated the ability to eliminate IT staff and software management requirements.

So, whether it’s lawyers or NASA–cloud computing facilitates convenient, secure computing that is both powerful and affordable. It’s not surprising then that both MyCase and NASA use Amazon Web Services to deliver cloud computing services to their end users in a reliable and secure environment.

That NASA and many other governmental agencies are transitioning to the cloud is overwhelming proof that cloud computing is the future of computing. Still not convinced? Consider these facts from this Wired blog post:

  • According to AMD (1/12), 70 percent of businesses are either using or investigating cloud computing solutions.
  • According to an IBM survey (2011) of 2,000 midsize companies, two-thirds were planning or had already deployed cloud-based technologies, and 70 percent were actively pursuing cloud-based analytics for greater insight and efficiency.
  • 90 percent of Microsoft’s 2011 R&D budget was spent on cloud computing strategy and products.
  • In a 2011 Avanade-commissioned study of C-level executives from 18 countries to learn how cloud computing is being used in the enterprise, it found:
    • 60% reported cloud computing as their highest IT priority.
    • 74% are already using some form of cloud computing technology.
    • 64% are investing in training new and current employees on their cloud expertise.
  • Worldwide IT spending on cloud computing has increased more than 25 percent from 2008 to 2012.
  • 30% of small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) used cloud software in 2011.
  • A study by Mimecast in 2010 found that 70 pecent of companies that were using cloud computing services are willing to and will move new applications to the cloud.
  • 48 percent of U.S. government agencies moved at least one workflow to the cloud following the new requirement that federal agencies adopt a “cloud-first” policy…
  • Cloud providers have increased personnel from nil in 2007 to over 550,000 in 2010.

The writing is on the wall. Cloud computing is here to stay. For businesses, including law firms, and governmental agencies like NASA, cloud computing is the future and the future is now–on Mars and beyond.

–Niki Black

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