One of 10 U.S. federal CIOs, Adrian Gardner manages the IT footprint of Goddard’s $4 billion budget to study earth and space science and look for life in the universe.

More locally, he acts as the technology and data service provider to entities including the U.S. Weather Service, U.S. Geological Service and NOAA.

“Our center generates terabytes and terabytes of data every day,” Gardner says. “We are really the civilian satellite program for the U.S., so when you think about the USGS or NOAA, those are NASA assets that have been built and turned over to those entities or we run it for them.” The center often runs 30 missions at one time, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

A true scientist CIO, Gardner’s career included the military and Department of Energy, where he helped design and test government environmental oversight of federal nuclear laboratories.

At Goddard, he oversees services for 10,000 federal and contract workers who are mostly scientists and engineers. Infrastructure includes a supercomputer and a private cloud environment called Nebula, platform technology that was open sourced and is available to users anywhere in an agreement with Rackspace.

Matching environments to workloads is part of Gardner's job. “Some jobs take a week to run in the supercomputing environment but it may take three weeks to gain access to the time. That same job might take two weeks to run that in cloud infrastructure so we’re balancing all kinds of optimization opportunities.”

At the front of space science, he’s also working to bake in mobility, BYOD and big data all at once. “It’s not where I expected to be but it’s great to be here,” he says.

Quotable: “First, you need an ability to actively listen. Second, you need to really believe in the art of the possible because part of NASA’s life blood is innovation. You look at your fiscal responsibility and balance that with innovation and the ability to accomplish your goal.”

Read about the next 2012 honoree.

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