Data management trends in oil and gas

The oil and gas sector faces a number of challenges in regard to data storage

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Data management trends in oil and gas The oil industry faces data challenges
By  Soubhi Chebib Published  April 7, 2011

The Oil & Gas sector is a vast diverse industry with many different business needs. Both upstream & downstream have specific operational challenges & all need to focus on continued supply. 

With today's economic climate price volatility in major producing countries needs to be handled in a cost effective manner, whether it's extending the life of the plants, maximizing production or through continued improvement & investment in equipment. Oil & Gas companies also face additional levels of complexity around governmental support, operational & safety management as well as regulatory compliance.

The Oil & Gas sector face a number of challenges regarding data storage. Some are common to other industries like data management, data archiving and organic growth but some are very specific, the main one being to meet the continued strong worldwide demand for product whilst trying to control cost. Oil & Gas companies are looking to reduce the investment of finding new oil & gas locations; there is a strong drive for effective energy exploration & production (E&P). By optimizing this part of the business, resources, exploration & production can improve decision-making & companies can begin drilling & pumping faster & more effectively. The challenges faced today are:

- Large seismic data unable to be managed in an easy simple single way + archived legacy data

  • - Difficulty to merge & manage data from live & legacy systems in a timely manor

  • - Long term data protection to securely store & manage company data assets

  • - High reliance on monolithic cache centric disk systems, creating considerable additional investment

  • - Disparate process & content data adding additional time to decision making

 Through IT these can be addressed in a number of ways:

Provide Highly Available Scale Out Systems

Energy exploration & geo-sciences data requires huge addressable namespaces & very high performance. New E&P data is generated on a daily basis & this requires processing for visualisation modeling & rapid analysis. There is also an increasing requirement to reanalyse previous data as technology moves on & systems become more intelligent. This results in huge data files & that data being stored for much longer periods of time. To meet these demands IT need to provide secure, cost effective scale out solutions. This focus has moved companies to look at more scalable-shared file serving solutions like SONAS (Scale Out Network Attached Storage).

These scalable file solutions provide access from networked storage devices, combined data & storage sharing with an integrated file & data management system. They help reduce cost by being easy to use for administrators & users whilst still being flexible & adaptive to diverse needs. These types of solutions are perfect for large unstructured data intensive environments.

The cost of architecting & managing traditional enterprise storage can be substantial & when the dynamics of the infrastructure needs to change they are seldom able to rapidly adapt, especially if re-provisioning is required. Therefore organizations tend to over provision disk based storage, this is both costly & time consuming. By investing in a more scale out storage system, technologies such as thin provisioning can be utilized to overcome this & create competitive advantage.

Improved Data Protection & Recovery

As well as giving rapid access to recently collected data when required; the type of data collected within the Oil & Gas sector can throw up a new range of issues. Multiple data classes ranging from seismic, geological, petro physical, drilling, production operations, production and injection volumes, surface and downhole facilities. This in turn brings new challenges.

The majority of Oil & Gas companies have taken advantage of the advances in computer technology & promote the concept of "data as company asset". Historically, this data was stored in various media-paper, magnetic tapes, diskettes, spreadsheets & scattered over several departments & private files. Now with the advent of large data storage facilities, the Oil & Gas industry has benefited in having a high level of data quality & data access/sharing by geoscientists and planners.

Along with the traditional ways of storing data, there are many new methods of reaping benefits from data storage technology, especially when trying to avoid data duplication, data corruption, data loss, and media deterioration. This has been solved through DeDup technology (ProtecTier) & faster backup technologies (Jaguar, LTO5) using Virtual Tape Systems.

Some organizations have created automated near-line and on-line data management systems but many companies still need to move to contemporary data storage. They need to consider retrieval best practices focused around smaller data centers, using modern media, on-line storage and with the focus on data quality & its availability.

Accelerated Decision Making

The final piece of the jigsaw is to bring together process & content to deliver true business intelligence. This gives the business the ability to rapidly make informed decisions. They are solutions built around content management systems, Filenet for example provides a flexible platform to monitor KPI's, reduce cycle times & improve productivity by automating & optimizing complex processes, whilst at the same time managing the flow of work throughout the organization. With true content management businesses can manipulate all types of digitized content across multiple platforms, databases & applications & provided image & digital asset management as well as meet regulatory compliance. 

Soubhi Chebib is director, IBM systems brand, GBM

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