Space agency turns to private cloud for rocket science

ESA needed to corral data, apps and services -- and get its own scientists and enginners on board

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The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking to focus less on IT and more on rocket science so it's launching a private cloud to store sensitive information, create a common infrastructure and enable scientists to work together more easily.

"We wanted to encourage the use of a common platform across the agency," said Filippo Angelucci, head of the IT department and ESA's CIO. "Today, through the cloud, you could have engineers and scientists set up their computing environment in a few minutes, instead of weeks and months, as they did in the past when they had to go through a big process of buying servers and getting them set up."

The ESA, an international organization with 20 member states focused on space research, has been using public cloud services from different vendors like AWS to store public data from different satellites and from the Gaia mission to map the galaxy.

What the agency needed, though, was a private cloud for more sensitive data like engineering projects, information about mission operations and activities to control satellites. To make that happen, the scientists piloted a private cloud late in 2013. The ESA wrapped up that pilot last September and is now working to encourage volunteered adoption of it throughout the main organization.

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