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User Story: NASA

May 20, 2001
W.J. Gilmore

The NASA Acquisition Internet Service (NAIS) ( is responsible for providing the general public with information regarding contract opportunities with the revered space organization. A network of servers interconnecting 12 of NASA's field installations, NAIS is the only means for obtaining acquisition information for contracts ranging between $25,000 and $500,000. Saving NASA and its partners roughly $4 million annually, the NAIS model has been so successful that it has been adopted by the U.S. FedBizOpps program ( as a means for providing access to contracting opportunities for the entire U.S. Government. Furthermore, NAIS supports several thousand users, and receives on average 300,000 hits each month.

Given NAIS' mission-critical purpose at NASA, quite a few heads turned when they announced the successful conversion of the NASA Acquisition Internet Service database backend from Oracle to MySQL. Restructuring of Oracle licensing agreements would have left NAIS facing a serious budgeting dilemma. As a result, the NAIS team began searching out a more cost-effective database solution. The obvious choice? Open Source. And within the Open Source arena, the NAIS team settled upon what they considered to be the most robust database product available: MySQL.

Asked what aspects of MySQL were most appealing, NAIS director Jim Bradford responded with three, paraphrased here:

  • Cost: Because the total cost of MySQL is limited to the cost of technical support, given that MySQL is available for free download and use in most cases.
  • Support: Due to the large developer community which can be found on the Internet. Although NASA has used direct support from the MySQL developers infrequently, he stated that "they were very helpful and responsive when needed". Furthermore, NAIS developer John Sudderth stated in an article discussing the switch that the cost for official support was about 1 percent of the technical support expenditure for Oracle (
  • Compatibility: MySQL can easily interface with most SQL-compliant applications through ODBC.

Perhaps a fourth advantage to making the switch to MySQL could be attributed to performance. "We noticed an increase in [speed of] performance since the change and have not experienced any problems with the product.", says NAIS Computer Systems Analyst and project leader Dwight Clark stated in an article for Federal Computer Week (

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