Passive discovery

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has achieved higher levels of security, by addressing not just active components but also the actual physical layer of cabling.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  October 11, 2008

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has achieved higher levels of security, by addressing not just active components but also the actual physical layer of cabling.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is one of the biggest exploration and production companies in the country of Oman. The company accounts for 90% of the nation's crude oil production, apart from nearly all of its natural gas.

Owned in partnership by the government of Oman, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Partex, the company has worked from its inception, with the highest quality standards in mind, to achieve its goals.

We are an oil and gas company; our core business is not IT. What we need to do is make sure that we provide what the business needs and work in line with the business requirements.

"PDO finds oil fields and develops them into productive assets by drilling wells and constructing and operating hydrocarbon treatment and transport facilities. PDO develops and operates natural-gas fields and associated production systems. The company delivers gas to the government gas system, which supplies fuel for most of Oman's power stations and some industries, and to the Oman Liquefied Natural Gas (OLNG) plant," says Ali Al Lawati, head of IT infrastructure management at PDO.

According to Al Lawati, the information technology arm of the organisation undertakes its tasks with the business of the firm in mind.

"We are an oil and gas company; our core business is not IT. What we need to do is make sure that we provide what the business needs and work in line with the business requirements. Our aim is to serve these larger business goals. Whether it is major oil and gas development project or just maintenance work, we make sure that in the end the business terms are met. We work on value creation," states Al Lawati.

With a huge IT team to support the business, the firm has used technology in an intelligent manner to address requirements across remote sites, disparate offices and the main headquarters.

"We have a stringent evaluation process for every technology investment. We have a set of functional requirements. These include things like high reliability, scalability and security. Once we have this done, they are matched to the technical requirements. Both of these are used to evaluate the solutions that are offered by vendors to choose the one that fits the bill the best," states Al Lawati.

Keeping its unique nature in mind, the organisation has implemented and has been using a reliable LAN and WAN, supported by a leased line from Omantel, in order to enable PDO to stretch connectivity to remote oil wells and sites.

"Apart from this, we extensively use wireless infrastructure for our new requirements in remote sites. It is very quick to put in place, because we use wireless infrastructure in the field, and we can extend it as and when necessary for operations. This is especially helpful for rather quick deployments, which do not have very complicated needs. However, if there are requirements for high capacity and better reliability, then we connect these sites using fibre. For very big projects, we lay this fibre along with the oil pipeline, and for smaller oil wells we use wireless," states Al Lawati.

While the firm has many remote sites, it classifies eight major areas or connection points in Oman. These areas have small datacentres implemented, all of which are connected to the main one in Muscat.

"These micro datacentres serve mainly as intermediate points. All of these sites are connected via dedicated fibre through a leased line. Having our own facilities ensures that we are connected seamlessly with higher levels of security, and all the information flows into the control room and ends up in the headquarters. Engineers sitting here can then access and analyse the data, and provide optimisation solutions where necessary," states Al Lawati.

Apart from this, systems positioned in remote sites for monitoring oil flow and pressure, and controlling the same, are remotely managed, for better and faster resolution of any problems or issues.

The security game

For PDO, which processes data concerning existing wells, as well as information for finding new wells, complete security is of the highest concern.

"We have everything necessary for security including firewalls, IPS, IDS and security levels across routers turned on. We have had an effective security policy in place for over seven years now and all investments and usage is directed by this comprehensive policy," says Al Lawati.

Overview of LAN infrastructure

• PDO's headquarters are located in Muscat, which is connected to eight remote sites. All the locations have LAN. Services provided include voice, ATA (office, telemetry/SCADA, Control and automation), and video.

• The physical layer is operated and maintained by PDO staff located in the areas.

• The total WAN bandwidth is STM-1 (14Mbps). LAN in the headquarters is up to 1Gbit/s. LAN in interior locations is up to 100Mbit/s.

• More than 3000 users across the whole network.

• The backbone is based on fibre optic leased from local service provider (OmanTel).


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