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Analytics and Support: Oil & Gas Subsurface Analysis

I have been chatting recently with several Oil & Gas companies about support for their subsurface software catalogs, and have watched the number of applications continue to increase over time.  In each case, the business support challenge revolves around cost effectively supporting the subsurface community without restricting the tools they are using to determine and measure production from a wide variety of traditional and unconventional subsurface geologies. 

Much like a mechanic with their wide assortment of sockets, drivers, and wrenches, the subsurface team looks to reach into their analysis toolbox and extract the right tool to help optimize production for the geology they are analyzing.  Unfortunately for my subsurface support friends, this means that a large number of applications may require support across a variety of operating systems and necessitate a large amount of cpu, memory, or disk configurations.  It also means they have a broad spectrum of user types to support, from those who want to load software themselves to those whom just want it to work.    

 

Utilizing traditional compute support paradigms, supporting this range of software products and usage styles requires either high cost or low user satisfaction.  The changes in a support cycle this creates helps provide a high degree of dis-satisfaction for all participants. 

 

Let’s review the cycle:

 

  • Business users identify a gap and a set of business tools that will address this gap.  The business tools, typically hardware, software, and support are brought in and proven out, resulting in better than anticipated business results and performance bonuses for the participants 
  • In the next fiscal year, a centralized team asks why a business unit has ‘IT’ cost items and personnel that belong in their budget. An agreement to review the line items is made and users continue to utilize the system successfully 
  • The following fiscal year, support for hardware, software, and support are transferred to the centralized team.  Halfway through the year, the centralized budget is reduced and software and headcount numbers are adjusted appropriately.  Users notice a falloff in support, but continue to operate successfully with the established solution 
  • The next year personnel are integrated with additional teams, and hardware and software updates are postponed due to budget constraints.  Meanwhile, the business users experience significant issues due to outdated solutions and identify a solution, tools, or support to obtain some level of success while escalating their issues. 

I have observed this cycle for HPC systems, Process Control Systems, and Trading Floors.  In each instance, the dynamic tension that exists between the need for improved business results while appropriately managing costs does not go away.  Breaking the cycle requires understanding the issues specialty compute functions face when governed by a traditional compute and support model.  Albert Einstein is attributed as addressing this type of issue with a quote that most likely originated with Voltaire - “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.” 

 

How do I get different results?

 

1)    Understand the different compute profiles for these groups.  In general, the applications and systems used by them will tax traditional CPU, memory, and disk I/O.  Assuming they will operate successfully with the same hardware, software, and support tools that are used by the accounting department is a recipe for dis-satisfied users.  When we look at user satisfaction for users with high end professional workstations with solid state disk and all available memory, it is still poor.  They need faster solutions to process and analyze the amount of data utilized in these types of environments. 

2)    Recognize that the people utilizing this type of computing have already checked their power cord and tried to reboot their system(s).  Basic helpdesk scripts don’t cover their problems and the both the users and helpdesk know that.  What the user wants is to be supported by a person or vendor capable of addressing their problem, not spending time waiting for the help desk to follow a procedure so a call center employee is not penalized. 

3)    Improve planning and execution.  These business areas have impacts on the company’s bottom line of millions of dollars.  Treating them otherwise during a corporate refresh or budgetary planning exercise does not produce optimum future results.  It may result in too much spending or too little spending, but I have observed that stinting on the compute environment and its associated support impacts the bottom line through inferior business decisions. 

 

To really make this work, I have helped the business and IT internalize that they have differing technical directives.  To meet business needs you have to drop back, comprehend business requirements, and implement an appropriate support matrix.  It involves having access to more processing capabilities and software products than exist on a standard workstation, yet managing these capabilities securely and efficiently.  It requires planning and documentation be conducted in conjunction with business analysis activities and cycles. 

 

However, breaking down the traditional operating barriers takes time and effort, as does implementing an efficient operating model that supports specialty user needs.  There are many ways to accomplish this, but they all share a common attribute of engaging both business and technical expertise to map out how to appropriately address and support functional needs.

 

As an IT company, HP helps address this by providing reference architectures that are configured to address specialty needs, and is expanding on this with its converged systems portfolio.  Focused on improving performance and capability for targeted computing needs, several converged solutions that are designed to support improved and efficient operations are now commercially available.

 

In the future I’ll explore more around what it takes to engage both business and technical expertise to support targeted computing needs, the security concerns that are raised, how to optimize operations, and how analytics plays a role.  Until then, please find more information about how HP helps companies transform at hp-applications.com.  For more information about HP and the Oil & Gas industry please visit hp.com/go/oilgas.  For information on HP’s latest converged computing, high performance computing, and analytics solutions see our recent announcements at HP Discover hp.com/discover

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