The Apache Software Foundation is extending its breadth of open-source software projects to include a package of data-management middleware developed by the NASA US government space agency.

The Apache Object-Oriented Data Technology (OODT), first developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, is now an Apache Top Level Project, the organization announced Wednesday.

OODT is an open-source framework that can be used for a variety of data-management tasks, said Chris Mattmann, who is the vice president of OODT project. It can be used to set up work flows that move data into databases. The software "provides a one-stop toolkit for building up a database, populating a database, setting up a work flow to get data into that database, and then serving out lots of different content from that database," Mattmann said.

The software can also work as a federated query system, aggregating data from multiple databases and other data sources, allowing for easier access and sharing of data.

"Any time you are allowing someone to query across a bunch of disparate information, you have to figure out how to unify the information models so terms and search criteria mean the same thing," Mattmann said. Part of the work on OODT has consisted of harmonizing and annotating different metadata models.

OODT was first developed by JPL's Daniel Crichton to build a framework for sharing data across different archives, each with its own data format and schema. Over time the software also grew to include the ability to capture and process data as well, Mattmann said.

NASA now uses the software to manage data from multiple domains, including astrophysics, earth carbon monitoring and land-water use. The National Cancer Institute also uses the software for its Daily Detection Research Network, which ties together multiple cancer research databases. The Virtual Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles also deploys the software to manage data analysis around the subject of pediatric intensive care.

Graduation to a Top level Apache Project will give the OODT developers more resources and a better infrastructure to manage and development the software, Mattmann said. As per the Apache bylaws, the group has formed a project management committee to guide its day-to-day operations. About a dozen outside contributors now participate in the project, including developers from AOL and the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

A first version of OODT has been released under the Apache Software Licence version 2.0, version 0.1.

The OODT core framework is written in Java, and can interconnect with other software through programming language-specific connectors, or by way of Web service calls. The OODT download now consists of two packages, a set of source Java files, which can be compiled under Apache Maven, and a set of Python bindings.

Having completed the first Apache release, the development team will focus its efforts on improving OODT on a number of fronts: developing better tools for metadata extraction, improving the GUIs and better organizing the OODT package as a whole, Mattmann said.

A not-for-profit corporation, the Apache Software Foundation offers organizational and financial support for nearly 100 open-source programs, including the Apache Web server, the Hadoop distributed computing framework, the Subversion revision control system and the Tomcat application server.