NASA Tech Gets Open Source Apache Blessing

Some open source tech is literally, out of this world. The OODT (Object-Oriented Data Technology) project hits top-level status -- could it usher in a new era of open source semantic middleware?

Back in 1998, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) began an effort to create a framework for data sharing called Object-Oriented Data Technology (OODT). In January 2010, OODT became an Apache Incubator project and now in 2011, it has officially graduated to become a top level open source Apache Software Foundation project.

Apache describes the OODT project as middleware for metadata. The effort has the potential to benefit many industries beyond the confines of NASA JPL.

"OODT unifies web repositories and registries, in an information integration network," Chris Mattmann, senior computer scientist at NASA JPL told InternetNews.com. "It also provides mechanisms to populate those repositories and registries, and to run processing algorithms on data coming in and going out of them."

Mattmann noted that OODT leverages RDF , RSS, and other standard semantic web formats.

The Apache Incubator, which OODT was in for a year, is the first step for projects toward becoming full projects within Apache. Mattmann noted an incubated project must demonstrate a number of criteria before it can become a full project. Incubated projects must show that they can release software under Apache Software License and under the Apache governance. They must also be able to can grow a diverse community, consisting of contributions from multiple organizations.

"OODT met these criteria, so it was time to graduate!" Mattmann said.

Mattmann noted that aside from the JPL, the OODT project has had contributions from from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, AOL, USC (University of Southern California) among others.

As a top-level Apache project, OODT will have additional benefits it didn't have as an incubated project.

"OODT formed an Apache Project Management Committee or PMC, which reports to the board on the health of the project," Mattmann said. "With the PMC, OODT now has the ability to set its direction, grow in the Apache way and continue to release software at Apache, taking advantage of its huge user community and growing geographic diversity."

To date, OODT has made only one open source release, the 0.1-incubating release, but more is set to come. Mattmann noted that version 0.2 is now being worked on

"In terms of what's next, we are working on updates to metadata extractors for science data formats, we are working on refactoring the code, and making it more modular and on graphical user interfaces," Mattmann said.

Overall NASA is no stranger to open source technology. In 2009, NASA joined with Rackspace to launch the OpenStack cloud platform, which now benefits from the contributions of more than 35 technology vendors.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on Jan 8, 2011
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