Reimagining Data Access

Staying at the forefront of information technology by moving tools to the cloud.

Prem Mishra
Prem Mishra

Prem Mishra broke expectations when he moved a Wall Street company’s data center from one building to another within weeks by converting a hardware-bound environment to a virtual environment. The company’s CIO anticipated the move for each server would take hours of downtime, leading to major trading losses. The downtime for each server was under 10 minutes. Although cloud computing is a well-known concept today, his innovative virtualization of that data center paved the way for a rapid, secure transfer in 2009. He has brought the same forward thinking to the institute. He joined in 2010 as a principal storage technologist and now serves as a cloud architect.

Mishra contributed to the conception, construction, and implementation of the institute’s flexible data center, which launched in 2017 and redesigned the institute’s virtual network architecture, while also consistently providing increased security and computing power. Read on to learn why he joined STScI and why he continues to find his work so rewarding.

How did you land at STScI?

I earned my bachelor’s in physics. Since my degree was research based, I had to use and later create software to complete my projects. Initially, I used information technology as a tool, but the rapid movement of IT industry attracted my attention. IT was causing massive changes in major economic sectors. Slowly, I got into programming and IT infrastructure management. I began my career in infrastructure and ended up specializing in data centers. I also stay current with the latest improvements by maintaining and earning new industry-standard certifications. Earlier in my career, I worked for multinational corporations around the world, which meant frequent travel. One evening, I watched a documentary about the Hubble Space Telescope. That was my aha moment. I hit STScI’s website and found an opening that matched my interests and profile. Now, all of my work supports not only Hubble, but also the James Webb Space Telescope.

What does your role as cloud architect entail?

IT infrastructure is changing in a very dramatic way. In the next few years, almost everything will be cloud based. STScI holds petabytes of data, which means this trend will change how our applications and IT infrastructure work. I recently worked with the James Webb Space Telescope’s Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) team to move the infrastructure for ETC so it runs on the cloud. In the future, we plan to move as many of our applications as possible to the cloud to ensure that we are at the forefront and our service to the scientific community never wavers.

Why do you enjoy working at STScI?

Before I joined the institute, my schedule was hectic. I would travel 70 to 80 percent of the time, in and out of the country. I was constantly away from my family. I needed to be home. Now, when I need to, I can take off to go to my daughter’s school for an event or take her to a doctor’s appointment. My colleagues and managers are also fantastic. Their support is overwhelmingly positive.

The second reason why I’m at the institute, and why I am excited to come here every day, is that my work gives me energy. What STScI does is unique. Think of what Hubble has done, what Webb will do. Someday, when humans find life on another planet, STScI will have laid a founding stone that enabled that step. This story is worth telling my parents, my friends, and eventually my grandchildren. It’s why I am so proud to work here.

Article updated May 2019.