Feeds

Google to NASA: Open source will not kill you

'Time to blow up some robots'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Google open source guru Chris DiBona has called on NASA to use more open source code in its aerospace program, urging the government agency to test free software in unmanned flights and "blow-up some robots."

"I've heard people say: 'We don't want to endanger flights. We don't want to endanger lives. Open source software comes from unknown sources.' But that's not what open source software is," DiBona told gathered NASA employees on Wednesday at NASA's inaugural Open Source Summit at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. "Open source software is still software. You have to make sure it fits your mission. You have to make sure it provides utility and security and the 'bug-free-ed-ness' you're looking for. It's just software.

"So much of your software is already being generated – directly or indirectly – from open source code. ... Basically, if open source software is such a problem, then why are you using so much of it?"

NASA, he said, should not be afraid to extensively test open source code with live equipment. "What you need to do is blow-up some robots. It's really OK," he said. "Be more experimental. Unmanned flights can be more risky."

The use of open source within NASA, DiBona said, would speed NASA's software-procurement practices and improve the transfer of technology to and from aerospace programs. The end result, he said, is that projects can come to fruition much faster.

To be fair, NASA's use of open source has been restricted because of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which apply to flight equipment. But DiBona called for these restrictions to be eased. "The rules need some looking at," he said. "We are being too conservative as a community in not releasing software that is simply geometry. It's simply trigonometry. It's simply calculus. I would consider – not pushing back – but finding out if we're being way too conservative in thinking the software we release will be used outside our shores."

DiBona advocated a freer exchange of information between the US and foreign space programs. "I know this is the wrong thing to say, but when I see the major mistakes made by space agencies the world over ... I think 'Is that something that could be avoided [if we share software]? Isn't it the major goal of software and aerospace to do good things?"

Outside of aerospace, NASA has actively embraced open source software in a big way. Notably, NASA's Nebula "infrastructure cloud" – used to run internal NASA applications – was built with several open source tools, including the Eucalyptus cloud platform, Linux, the XEN and KVM open source hypervisors, MySQL, and the RabbitMQ messaging system. And when NASA dropped Eucalyptus in a favor of a custom-built Nova compute fabric, the agency promptly open sourced Nova as part of the OpenStack project. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.