NASA’s web environment is well known for providing an unparalleled wealth of information to the public and is critical in fulfilling the agency’s statutory requirement to disseminate information about its programs “to the widest extent practicable.” To external audiences, NASA’s Web capabilities provide direct access to agency programs and information, allowing them to participate in the excitement of research and exploration. Internally, NASA personnel use web sites and services to support NASA’s core business, scientific, research, and computational activities.
The first NASA web sites appeared in the early 1990s, and the Agency’s primary site, NASA.gov, has evolved since then through four major iterations. The most recent version of the public website represented a big step for the Agency in becoming more collaborative, participatory and transparent through the adoption of a variety of social features. Today, the main portal, NASA.gov, is the main touch point for millions of people around the world regarding the agency’s space exploration and aeronautics mission and attracts 600,000 unique visitors per day. The NASA portal alone generates more than 140,000,000 visits a year. NASA.gov also currently serves as a hub for NASA’s social media presence which includes over 250+ accounts across social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google+, YouTube, UStream, and Slideshare.
NASA.gov is only one part of NASA’s entire website infrastructure. The current infrastructure provides development and hosting of approximately 140 internal and external web applications and websites, which are developed using various technology stacks. Our external audience includes not only the interested public, media, students, and educators, but also researchers, industry partners and government partners. As NASA continues to adapt to today’s complex, interlinked and fast-changing environment, NASA recognizes that effectively and efficiently creating, researching, managing, preserving, protecting, and disseminating the information required to achieve the objectives of research and space exploration, as well as other NASA missions, is vital to its continued mission success.
As the Flagship Initiative for the second version of NASA’s Open Government Plan, the Agency will take a fresh look at its web architecture and processes to manage content in order build an accessible, participatory and transparent web environment based on open and interoperable standards. This effort will provide a new Agency-wide capability to create, maintain, and manage the nasa.gov websites and associated services. The Agency will aim to leverage open source software, as well as cloud computing technologies, and take an integrated approach to search, video, and social media. The goal of this effort will be to provide a consistent, capable and agile, cloud-based enterprise infrastructure that provides a Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) supported Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for internal and external web applications and a majority of the 1590 external websites using an interoperable, standards-based and secure environment.
Our hope is that NASA.gov will continue to represent the latest in online innovation and serve as an example of how NASA is rethinking the way its services are delivered online. The new architecture aims to keep NASA relevant across all audiences by creating a flexible platform that can respond to rapidly changing technologies and citizens’ expectations.
Specifically, the new architecture will:
- Strive for vendor independence through the use of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Technology with a preference for Open Source, Government Off-The-Shelf (GOTS) Technology, and then proprietary solutions over custom-built solutions. This includes cloud offerings.
- Utilize open standards based solutions over closed proprietary solutions.
- Strive to deliver business value through the use of incremental, iterative development processes.
- Liberate NASA data and content through published API’s and functional interfaces.
- Develop applications that are capable of migrating to the cloud
- Release an RFP for NASA’s information technology services (1 year)
- Begin a pilot activity to demonstrate the capability of an Open Source Software Content Management System (1 year)
- Consolidate multiple blogging infrastructures to an Open Source Software Content Management System (1 year)
- Transition NASA.gov’s current proprietary content management system to a new open platform. (1 year)
- Develop an API for NASA.gov public content (1 year)
- Migrate other NASA websites into new web infrastructure (2 years)