September 1998

IBM throws in the towel! (September 1998)

IBM is about to sell-off its E&P softwarebusiness to Petroleum GeoServices (PGS). Included in the deal, currently in due-diligence,are the PetroBank Master Data Store, Mapper and the new GIS database front-end, Surfer.

IBM is to end the ‘hands-on’ side of its involvement in E&P IT. Following the recent sale of the PetroBank Project Data Store, and as forecast by PDM (Vol. 3 No. 6), IBM is now to dispose of its remaining E&P software assets to Norwegian Petroleum Geo Services (PGS). The whole of the PetroBank product line (Master Data Store, Mapper and Surfer) will now be supported by PGS. An indication of a more general disaffection for E&P IT was IBM’s conspicuous corporate absence from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ (SEG) annual conference and exposition, held in a steamy and storm-menaced New Orleans.


Mark Meyer, Manager of E&P Marketing and Solutions for IBM’s Process and Petroleum Solutions Unit told PDM that IBM and PGS were close to a definitive agreement and that staff, who have been invited to move to PGS along with the product line, were ‘excited about the future of the product’. Both IBM and of course PGS remain positive as to the future of the software product line. Meyer re-iterated IBM’s belief that data is a critical asset and therefore needs good management. Cycle times can be dramatically reduced as witnessed by Chevron’s use of PetroBank as tool for a quick-look at the massive Norwegian dataset before a recent bidding round. The newer product, Surfer is shaping up nicely as a means of offering a single cohesive spatial data interface for disparate data sources.

good home

Explaining the disposal, Meyer told PDM that IBM was ‘an ideal workshop for technologies, and for bringing them to market’. But to have gone further would have required the development of close links with the other industry leading vendor applications, which represent 80-90% of the marketplace. The disposal to PGS will allow a company with ‘deeper E&P skills’ to leverage them to grow the market share of their own interpretation suite. IBM believes that PGS will be a good home for the PetroBank product line.

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IBM – from Mercury to Magstar (September 1998)

PDM traces IBM’s history in E&P ITand speculates on the reasons behind the departure.

With nearly two decades of involvement in E&P data modeling and management, the departure of IBM from E&P is fairly earth-shaking and worthy of some speculative comment. One can hardly criticize IBM for trying. First in the field of data modeling with the Mercury project – a forerunner of the current data models such as POSC’s Epicentre. Later, when the Norwegian oil industry required a ‘POSC compliant’ distributed data bank for their seismics, IBM was there and PetroBank was born. The Tigress data store, the focus of a major European integrated application platform was looking for a home (and had some impressive clients), IBM was there too. Along came the Internet, and IBM developed and deployed one of the first E&P specific e-forums, PetroConnect. This was intended to provide both a platform for an exchange of views, and for data sales and trades. It also just happened to fit nicely with IBM’s new-found role as an e-commerce based company.


First in the field with PetroBank, designed for the Norwegian Diskos National Data Repository, the future for the Master Data Store looked good a couple of years back. But take-up for data stores has been way below forecast because of uncertainties as to how data should be stored and managed in this complex and rapidly evolving area. In particular in-house deployment of data banks is extremely low, while national data repositories have seen stiff competition from other offerings such as CGG/PECC’s PetroVision and the Finder/xxDB archival systems from GeoQuest. For the project datastore, the central database was an attractive idea – but competed against de-facto standards such as OpenWorks and GeoFrame. Another fly in the ointment was that the marketing of the MDS as ‘POSC compliant’ served to underline the fact that the ex-Tigress PDS model was not so politically correct to POSC aficionados.


Oil industry conservatism may have been the reason for the low take-up of the PetroConnect e-commerce platform, leading to its demise in 1997. This must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for IBM whose current focus, and even the newly re-structured business units, make great play of the Internet and e-commerce. The oil industry’s failure to take-up and run-with this offering must have convinced some that it was a lost cause. Low oil prices, stagnant growth and an old-fashioned look and feel have combined to make our industry a pretty poor shot for the revamped IBM. On the other hand, a consolation is that E&P will at least remain a substantial market for IBM’s tape products.

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Editorial - They show up, they don’t show up… (September 1998)

PDM’s editor Neil McNaughton takes you ona virtual tour of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ (SEG) InternationalConference and Exposition.

The SEG’s annual conference and exposition took place the week that Microsoft sailed past General Electric to pole position in the market capitalization stakes. This was aptly described in the Financial Times as the "ascendancy of intellectual property and brainpower over manufacturing brawn". I wonder where E&P is in the brainpower/brawn spectrum. In some ways we are near the forefront of the brainpower stakes, in terms of IT effort and compute power. But our commodity, oil and gas, is a rather brawny, and currently out-of-favor in the marketplace. Bob Peebler (CEO, Landmark Graphics Corp.) bemoaned the fact that globally E&P spends far to little on IT for its own good (see our report in this issue). And indeed the absence of IBM and Oracle from the show underlines the industry’s out-of-favor status. But nature abhors a vacuum, and when one lot goes, others rush in. E&P IT is a dynamic business, with companies such as Microsoft/Compaq/Digital, Informix and the embryonic offerings of the Open Spirit Alliance ready to step into the breach.


In the past, industry downturns have been seized-on as an opportunity to downsize. Typical targets for downsizing and outsourcing are the ‘back-room’ tasks such as data management. Because these activities are hard to ‘sell’ internally, they are hard to finance. IBM would undoubtedly concur with this view, having invested heavily in a data management solution, only to see the industry plead poverty. Although it seems like whistling while Rome burns, the main innovation at the SEG’s annual conference and exhibition was the growing manifestation of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. Today most of VR in E&P is rather limited in its scope. The displays are 3D but essentially still just visual (no force-feedback joysticks yet!), and the applications are either coming from research, or outside of the oil industry completely. Many doubt the usefulness of this technology, and it is hard to extract from proponents a clear statement of its use.


Most VR mission statements revolve around hackneyed concepts of the asset team needing to work together. This supposes that such teams have to be in the same room wearing 3D specs to do this. Of course the real revolution in IT is that you do not actually need to be anywhere near your colleagues to cooperate effectively. One demonstration I personally did enjoy was a virtual visit the new Geco-Prakla seismic boat which will be launched next year. After flying out to the boat in a helicopter, and touring around the cable deck, we jumped in the freezing waters of the north sea (actually the reality isn’t that real, thank goodness) and swam around the gun arrays and the 20 streamers with their 6000 trace capacity. Subsequently wandering around the exhibition floor, I came across some of the real, non-virtual hardware that I’d seen, and was able to engage the vendors in a relatively intelligent conversation on the intricacies of seismic cable winch technology. So VR has some sort of a role in training and advertising. We will be looking into how much of an impact this technology will have on our industry in next month’s PDM. But just to get back to the industry down-turn and how to survive it. I must say that the idea that our industry really needs a Visionarium in order to continue existing is a little hard to swallow in the current context. In fact I would suggest that if one was looking to specify a system that would offer a significant advantage to an asset team, then I’d go for a PetroBank over a Visionarium right now!

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Peebler – the 'boomlet' that was (September 1998)

Bob Peebler, CEO of Landmark Graphics Corp,gave Landmark’s vision of what is important in E&P IT at a press luncheon duringthe New Orleans SEG. Peebler is trying to persuade the E&P industry at large thatspending just 0.02% of its budget on it is not good enough.

Bob Peebler has been trying to convince the E&P sector to get serious about the race for survival. In the light of recent developments (BP/Amoco and Shell) Peebler, without exactly saying ‘I told you so’, is at least comforted that his remarks have been particularly a propos. Describing the events of the last couple of years as a ‘boomlet’, Peebler painted a bleak picture for those who imagine that salvation will be at hand in the form of an oil-price rise. In the context of a continuing search for increased productivity and better tools for decision support, Peebler noted that only 0.02% of the overall E&P budget is spent on ‘front office IT’ i.e. E&P applications. This contrasts with the larger amounts spent on the ‘back office’, i.e. the accounts department where a fairly healthy estimated 1$ billion has been spent on SAP software alone. Stock market pressure for a better return on investment than that currently offered by the E&P sector, is forcing companies to re-invent themselves and their IT. Peebler offered several areas where Landmark sees significant room for improvement. Data management is one, where the driver of technologies imported from horizontal markets will allow for the deployment of distributed, scalable, operationally-focussed solutions.


In particular, increased bandwidth will allow companies to manage data in-situ (see the article on Open Explorer in this issue). Another way forward relates to the relative lack of importance that the industry has given to depth in the seismic method. Peebler speculates that 80% of future reserves are hidden by depth conversion problems such as those posed by subsurface salt in the Gulf of Mexico. Peebler described the depthing issue as necessitating a major paradigm shift ‘the whole factory needs to be re-tooled’. Integration was also a focus, particularly that of well planning and drilling. Portfolio management and resource allocation was seen as a field where the industry was moving from a ‘gut feel’ approach to integrated decision support based on a collaborative model. Emphasizing the ‘Graphics’ in the company name, Peebler described some of the ground breaking work being done in virtual reality as a decision support tool. Texaco have installed a $400,000 Visionarium for decision support and Peebler forecasts that soon, every company will have one. By 2005 we will be working as a team, distributed across the world and all looking at the same virtual data wearing the funny glasses. Incidentally, we here at PDM would also like to point out that a global spend of an estimated 0.00000002% of the worldwide E&P budget on subscriptions to PDM is also an area where attention is urgently required!

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Impressive debut for Open Spirit Alliance (September 1998)

The Open Spirit Alliance, the Shell-inspired,POSC-supported framework promising the holy grail of software interoperability, made ashowy debut at the SEG.

Open Spirit has already been presented in various PDMs – (Vol. 2 N 12 and recent interoperability series). The New Orleans SEG was an important milestone for the initiative, and Open Spirit certainly made the grade in terms of marketing presence. A substantial stand, a multiplicity of announcements, a big party and some impressive demos combined to make for a successful launch of the interoperability framework. What’s new is the availability of vendor development kits, allowing application developers to plug and play with E&P datastores such as Schlumberger’s GeoFrame/IESX and landmark’s OpenWorks/SeisWorks. Industry support and interest is demonstrated by the addition of several new members of the Open Spirit Special Interest Group (OSIG), currently clocking up new members at a rate of one per week. Interoperability demonstrations at the SEG included ;

Tsurf’s GoCAD modeling product integration with OpenWorks and GeoFrame.

CGG’s StratiMagic using Open Spirit Event services to interoperate with other applications.

Petrotechnical Data Systems (PDS) use Open Spirit data and viewing capabilities to display and select GIS data from the public domain Digital Chart of the World.

Elf Aquitaine Sismage – the componentized motor from the StratiMagic application.

Shell Services International demonstrated a new toolkit for E&P data analysis.

Open Spirit V1.0 product will be released in beta test in November 1998, with a commercial product in January 1999. Open Spirit builds on existing technology from Shell and the POSC Interop workgroup and promises a framework for software developers to plug and play with each other’s wares. At the most straightforward level, this involves agreeing upon a framework, a set of definitions of Common Business Objects (CBO) such as wells, seismic lines and so on. Then everyone can use these same objects in their applications. This simplistic definition omits the fact that the main environments that must be integrated are already there, and pre-date the framework. Open Spirit gets around this by building ‘sources and sinks’, which are translators for getting data from say Open Works, to an Open Spirit CBO. Of course it is not quite as easy as that to make new pots from old.

pervasive objects

The Open Spirit initiative has defined some pervasive objects and methods that will be used in Open Spirit compliant software, but which will not exist as such in legacy applications. There will be two classes of Open Spirit ‘compliant’ software. Those that have been written from the ground up (in Java) to take advantage of the new Framework and CBO’s, and those which are legacy applications ‘wrapped’ with source/sink data servers. This poses potential future maintenance problems of the interface with the legacy applications. One IT manager for an international major suggested to PDM that a way around this problem would be to mandate compliance with, and support for the framework from approved vendors. An alternative would be for the major vendors to re-write all their applications to take advantage of the new way of doing things. But just before you start pestering your local sales rep, reflect on this. Landmark for one has around 90 million lines of code in their product suite. Re-tooling to Open Spirit, Java or whatever will not exactly be a trivial task.

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Burlington awards $8 million data management contract (September 1998)

Burlington Resources, with world-wide provenreserves of nearly 8TCF has outsourced the management of its E&P data to a group ofcompanies headed by GeoQuest.

In a five year contract worth $8 million, GeoQuest will provide services centered around Finder and the PowerHouse data management center in Houston. Data Logic, a unit of PI/Dwights and Geco-Prakla are also partners in the solution. The PowerHouse DMC will house all of Burlington’s digital, physical seismic and well log data.

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Calgary PowerHouse to hold NRI’s data (September 1998)

Geoquest has teamed with NRI On-Line, Inc.(NRI) to provide customers in Canada direct single-view access to NRI's archived seismicdata by way of GeoQuest's PowerHouse.

The 5000 sq. ft., state-of the-art, Calgary PowerHouse facility was opened in June 1998. "An oil and gas company's E&P data are some of its most valuable assets. The working arrangement with NRI is an efficient solution for these companies to directly access their data, at their convenience without delay." said Larry Gutman, Vice President of Business Development of Data Management and IT for GeoQuest North America. A newly developed interface and delivery capability will allow PowerHouse users to seamlessly browse and retrieve seismic data archived at NRI. A two-way, high-speed communications link installed between the Calgary PowerHouse facility and NRI's headquarters transmits data directly to the client's desktop. This ‘unique, value-added service provides rapid on-line delivery of seismic data at the customer's convenience’. Data can be retrieved and delivered to the customers in an integrated project. Collaboratively, GeoQuest and NRI will continue to improve and enhance their customers' ability to access, integrate and use seismic, well and production data by linking their respective data management capabilities. NRI provides products and services that include on-line data management systems for customers with data archival services, data storage silos, and a wide variety of choices for distribution of many types of data over high-speed fiber networks.

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Informix UIS Petroleum – while the cat’s away… (September 1998)

Oracle may have been a party-pooper at thisyear’s SEG conference, but this allowed wannabe Informix to show-off their newobject-relational hybrid data base technology unchallenged.

Informix is making a play for the middle ground of E&P distributed computing and data management with a new solution deploying their object-relational hybrid technologies. The Informix object-relational technology allows data to be stored in conventional tables where appropriate, in fact even in Oracle tables if that is how the clients want to do things, but also allows for direct access to unstructured data. In conventional databases, real data – big vectors such as well logs and seismics - is usually stored in flatfiles, or in dumb binary large objects (blobs). This precludes performing queries on the data itself. Informix’ new object-relational hybrid database is designed to allow for such direct query of the data using the latest object query language SQL3. A demonstration showed a video of a car ride through New Orleans which has been recorded as two related datasets, one containing the recorded GPS data, the other the streaming video. A GIS interface allowed point-and-click generation of SQL3 queries which fetched the selected parts of the video ride.

Geo-data blade

An oil-industry specific offering, the Universal Integration Solution – Petroleum is in the making. This combines Data Blade technology with Informix’s Virtual Table Interface (VTI) – which allows catalogue of objets, and existing databases to be built up and maintained. The VTI allows access to with foreign databases – notably Oracle - and allows for access and use of data in situ, there is no longer a requirement for data replication. Working with Marathon Oil, Informix is in the process of developing an E&P specific GeoBlade. Using the Informix framework in conjunction with other DataBlades such as the ESRI’s SDE spatial DataBlade and other vendor’s ’blades a component architecture can be constructed. VTI’s already exist for industry standard environments such as Recall and OpenWorks making the Informix framework a competitor with the Open Spirit initiative. PDM will be looking more closely at the UIS – Petroleum and GeoBlade in a future issue.

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Workflow and real-time functionality added to EarthVision 3D. (September 1998)

EarthVision, the 3D geological modelingsoftware, now includes the goal-oriented WorkFlow Manager which improves on model buildingspeed and precision.

Art Paradis, President of Dynamic Graphics summarized the objectives of the new release as ‘bulding models more precisely, more quickly and to reduce learning times – all by a factor of 10!’ New too are geosteering tools, including data access capability for real time measurement and while drilling (MWD) displays, rapid model updating, and synchronized visualization capability between the drill site and office for team decision making. Dynamic Graphics has been providing earth science software since 1969, more info from

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Update on Landmark’s Open Explorer (September 1998)

Open Explorer’s role in E&P datamanagement is that of a top-down project management system. Different product flavorsrange from desktop query through knowledge management to full data clean-up and QC.

Most operating oil companies end up, not with a nicely hierarchical pyramid of data types, from raw field to focussed knowledge, but rather with a messy assemblage of projects, old, new, validated and provisional, isolated and overlapping. Modern work-processes are accelerated to the extent that this situation is getting worse and the paradigm, whereby data is managed from the bottom up, has more or less been abandoned. Landmark’s pragmatic solution is to accept that data management is de-facto a high level business and Open Explorer – nicknamed the Finder Killer – is now aiming to provide tools for a data management and a Management Information System. OpenExplorer now comes in three flavors.


The entry-level OpenExplorer provides tools for organizing and managing OpenWorks projects. This is done by the Project Data Transfer tool (PDT). Extensive ‘deep’ query of the database can be performed using the Query Tools Manager. This allows for queries to be performed spatially, by forms or using either the SQL builder or native SQL.


The pro version of OE includes Landmark’s Knowledge Reference System (KRS) which adds a geo-referenced document management system to the vanilla desktop. This allows any ‘document’ i.e. a seismic line, scanned image or Office document to be attached to a geographical location (a point, line, or polygon). Such objects then appear as a document icon on the Open Explorer map view and can be clicked on, to open up the document for viewing. The technology behind this is as simple as it is efficient. A database of file types and viewers is kept on the system, so a SEG-Y viewer will fire up, or Word for windows depending on the file type. Additional viewers can be added locally. The KRS was jointly developed with Union Texas Petroleum.


The full version of Open Explorer adds real data management to the Desktop project manager and browser. QC tools for well logs and seismic data allow for the clean-up and management of very large datasets. Echoing Bob Peebler’s tale of diminishing cost of bandwidth, Sherman envisages the deployment of OpenExplorer across a company’s world-wide network. Thus data could be kept and managed in local subsidiaries, but viewed by head office staff centrally. This does of course presuppose that there will be anybody left in head office to take such an interest in the newly decentralized assets! In these days of objets and frameworks, Landmark have adopted a pragmatic "all Oracle" approach. SQL-Net is the middleware, and Oracle replication is used to synchronize metadata across the network.

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AVS new version of AVS/Express V4.0 (September 1998)

Advanced Visual Systems (AVS) has released anew version of Express, now web-enabled, and compatible with the Oracle 8 Spatial DataCartridge and ESRI’s SDE.

AVS sells software for the development and use of customizable data to a variety of industries including our own. The flagship Express product comes in two flavors, Developer Edition and Visualization Edition. The first is used by companies such as GeoQuest, PGS and Western. The Visualization edition is more end-user oriented, and provides scientists, researchers and other technical professionals with a ‘comprehensive suite of data visualization and analysis capabilities’. Version 4.0 of the AVS/Express enhances these products to include web-enabling features, expanded animation and access to data in Oracle 8 Spatial Data Cartridge and ESRI’s Spatial Data Engine. These features will allow developers and users to perform simultaneous analysis of data in relational databases and spatial data stores. AVS/Express runs on UNIX, Windows 95, NT and Inter/Intranets. Founded in 1988, AVS took over the Danish UNIRAS company and product line in 1993. Revenues for 1997 were $20 million. More from

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Rock Solid Images forms (September 1998)

PetroSoft Inc., Seismic Research Corp. and TheDiscovery Bay Company are to merge into a single company, Rock Solid Images. Focus will beprovision of software and services in the field of seismic attribute analysis andlithology prediction.

PetroSoft is an outgrowth of the Stanford Rock and Borehole Geophysics (SRB) Project headed by Amos Nur (see PDM Vol 3 N 2). Seismic Research Corp. was founded in 1980 by Dr. Turham Taner recently formed the Seismic Attributes Consortium. Discovery Bay Company has developed the Seismic Analysis System which allows simultaneous computation, analysis and display of pre- and post-stack seismic attributes. The newly formed group will focus on seismic attributes and their relationship with lithology through high-quality integrated processing of seismic and well data, attribute classification and lithology prediction using rock-physics models. More from Joel Walls on 408 553 6940 and

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INT – New Java 3D Software (September 1998)

INT previewed its new Java 3D visualizationtoolkit J/View3D at the SEG in New Orleans. Toolkit availability is scheduled for early1999.

INT – the widget company that provides many E&P vendors with the building blocks for their graphical user interfaces is moving towards an all-Java offering. The new Java 3D visualization toolkit, J/View3D is based on Sun Microsystems’s Java 3D. J/View3D provides set of high-level classes (that’s subroutines to us old hackers!) that allow programmers to build complex 3D visualization applications. The SEG demo shows how the new product integrates INT’s existing product line by deploying a Java 3D view of a seismic movie created with the J/Seismic library. INT says it is stepping up its development of ‘100% pure’ Java components which will ultimately replace the older libraries based on C++ code. The use of Java allows more efficient deployment and distribution of applications on different computing platforms across the network, and forms part of a trend towards the use of component-based software developed using object technologies. Java is claimed by its protagonists to offer a ‘write once – run anywhere’ facility whereby a development on say a Sun UNIX platform will also run on a PC – or any other computer supporting the Java virtual machine. Java is also a weapon in Sun’s battle with the arch enemy, Microsoft, which has a competing object model, competing distributed development tools and even a competing version of Java – which is of course not 100% pure! INT is also the technology provider for the 2D graphic elements used in the Open Spirit E&P component framework. More from

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People (September 1998)

People on the move with Arc, Microsoft and Paradigm.

Arc Geophysical, the UK based potential field specialist has named Marc de Buyl for the new Houston Office. Microsoft has appointed Scott Fawcett as Global Energy Industry Manager. Scott is a 15-year veteran of the oil and gas industry having previously worked with Silicon Graphics, Cray Research and Intera. Scott can be reached on Paradigm hires Steven Goldsberry as head of US operations. Goldberry was previously with Landmark and latterly Director of Energy Business at Silicon Graphics. Amos Nur, Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University has joined the board of Paradigm.

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Geoshare – there’s life in the old dog yet. (September 1998)

The PDM interoperability debate continues witha contribution from William Quinlivan, a an integration specialist for SchlumbergerOilfield Services and a distinguished member of the Geoshare community. PDM asked whetherGeoshare was at the end of its days, or whether it would migrate to the newer RP66 V2format, and perhaps have a new lease of life as a mechanism for data exchange and storagein the world of object technology.

Geoshare Today

The Geoshare application integration standard is playing a significant and increasing role in the day to day work of the explorationist. Although it is providing solid and practical performance every day, Geoshare will probably never win any beauty contests against more comprehensive database footprint approaches or against component architecture approaches to integration.


One thing advocates of those schools of thought are finding out, is that the same hard-fought agreements are needed to make them work that required so much effort in the Geoshare community. For example, it's probably a pretty safe prediction that five years from now the industry will be trying to figure out how to reconcile differences in the component sets we use. It may have decided whether these should be based on one or all of DCOM/CORBA/JAVABEAN technologies, and the PC versus Unix discussion may be ancient history, but the business object discussion will be as lively and important as ever.


It is true that Geoshare is based on mature technology, but that does not mean that its use is declining or its relevance has diminished. We know it works, and have invested heavily in its use, and in resolving problem areas like support for large data sets, so users don't run into scalability problems. As for its position on the usefulness curve, this is only limited only by industry willingness to develop and use half-links. There are breadth and depth extensions that would be helpful in the areas of reservoir engineering and earth models, but we could be making much heavier use of the existing standard – by factors of 10 or more.

the future

As far as the future of Geoshare, possibilities include take-up of RP66V2, but also things like XML, and even component implementations of Geoshare objects as a way to leverage the understandings that have been won. Component architectures after all are the long term future of interoperability. The good news is that since the future of Geoshare is being decided by the good folks who have to depend on it, there is no question but that it will remain relevant in their business processes.

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SST to customize Philips LMS tape store. (September 1998)

A new oil industry data storage solution is tobe offered by Philips LMS and Specialized Systems Technology.

Specialized is to be a value added retailer and customizer of Philips’ Next Compatible Tape Product (NCTP). John Beasley, VP of Specialized states ‘NCP offers an unparalleled solution to the challenge of oil industry data storage through capacity, speed of transfer and backward compatibility with 3480/90E drives.’ Specifications for the NCPT drives include transfer rates of 10MB/sec, capacity of 18GB per cartridge and a stand-alone list price of $19,750 (less than half of the IBM Magstar’s 3590 list price). A storage cost per megabyte of 0.5 cents is claimed. Drives can be combined in various robotic configurations such as the 7 and 14 drive autoloaders, the BlackJack 21 entry library and other third part offerings including EMASS. This latter integrates the NCPT into EMASS’ Automated Mixed Media library which supports configurations from 188 to over 60,000 cartridges and 255 drives. More from

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Now showing on an NT workstation near you.. (September 1998)

IBM may have been a no-show but Microsoft madea strong debut at the SEG.

Teaming with Compaq and its Digital subsidiary, Microsoft tested the E&P IT water on several fronts. The message was ‘we have industrial strength solutions and are ready to take everyone on’! As an illustration of the scalability of the Microsoft/Compaq offering, the Microsoft TerraServer was on display, described as ‘the largest database on the web and most detailed atlas in the world’. TerraServer is a joint venture with the USGS, Legato Systems, Aerial Images Inc and StorageTek. TerraServer offers access to a 4 terabyte dataset of aerial and satellite data hosted on an Alpha running SQL Server, Microsoft’s competitor to Oracle. Such systems are said to scale to up to 14 processors and a huge possible 128 GB of RAM! Check out the TerraServer, and order an aerial photo of your birthplace from An intriguing facet of the Microsoft/Compaq/Digital arrival in E&P is the arrival of NT based systems for high performance computing.


This represents a novelty, in that the young execs from Microsoft are pushing the technology with ‘Back Office’ newspeak. At the same time some old-time number crunching specialists from ex-DEC are back with new found enthusiasm for the 64-bit Alpha platform. Dgital was the manufacturer of the famous PDP and VAX computers, ubiquitous in seismic processing until the arrival of UNIX. Incidentally, Dave Cutler, a DEC operating system guru was the brains behind Microsoft’s NT OS. Several companies, in concert with Microsoft, announced products that now run on Windows NT. (RC) have an NT version of Resframe, the 3d reservoir modelling software running on NT. Tsurf’s GOCAD geological modeling product is now also an NT port. Volumetrix offers real-time 3D visualization of 2GB datasets on NT. Others reporting NT ports were Paradigm, CGG/Flagship and Geocenter.

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PC and UNIX – is the price right? (September 1998)

Price comparisons of the cost of ownership ofPC and UNIX-based systems show savings in favor of the PC. PDM looks behind the headlines.

The debate continues as to the relative merits of UNIX and PC’s – in fact PDM devoted a whole issue to this way back in 1996 (PDM Vol. 1 No 3). In our previous examination of these issues, we concluded that the PC was fast approaching UNIX systems in terms of hardware performance, and had great potential for cost advantage because of the larger user base. Since then, the UNIX camp has reacted to this by aligning much of its hardware with the PC world so that memory, and many peripherals are now interchangeable. Generic UNIX software (Operating systems, development tools and office automation) is still more expensive but not dramatically so. The only real argument for cost savings is that of application pricing. Typical of such price arguments is that offered is that from Seismic Micro Technology (SMT) ( Briefly, the cost of a license from this vendor of PC-Based seismic interpretation software is around $10,000 per seat, compared with around $70,000 per seat for an ‘equivalent’ UNIX based system. A comparison of the maintenance costs for a 50 user site give a further price advantage of around $1.5 million for a 50-seat shop over a 3 year period. These sort of figures make seductive reading in this cost-conscious world, but of course they are not entirely un-biased.


Several protagonists would back these arguments. Microsoft first and foremost. PC-based vendors such as SMT above, and the generic software vendors such as Intergraph who made a move from their own bespoke hardware and software combination some time ago. On the Microsoft/Compaq stand at the SEG, a Digital 40100, with 4 x 400MHz Alpha processors and 16GB of main memory on display at the SEG was quoted as being "1/10th the cost of equivalent UNIX system" - but again this is mainly because of application costs. Whether such differentials are sustainable is questionable. After all the inroads made by NT are vulnerable to price-cutting from the UNIX camp. Should this happen this would drive down profitability of sector, and could end up rather messily. Collective suicide is actually rather improbable so the price argument may be overstated. The overstatement is also evident when one reflects on what really drives down software costs. Microsoft’s success has come from piling them high and selling them cheap. Whether these be operating systems, development tools or office automation. In short in the mass market. This effect does not really exist in a narrow vertical market such as E&P IT.

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SEG Jug Hustler (September 1998)

Ever on the lookout for new sources offunding, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) has come up with an innovativescheme.

A ‘world-renowned’ sculpter, one Jay O’Meilia has been commissioned to produce a seven foot high statue of a jug hustler (a lowly planter of geophones). The statue is to be financed by the sale of 100 maquettes (18 inch high replicas) which are to be sold at the modest price of $2,500 a pop, from which $1,000 is donated to the SEG fund – leaving a cool $150,000 for the mighty hustler! Any prospective hustlees talk to the SEG on!

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CDA Settles with PI (Erico) (September 1998)

A lingering dispute over ownership of UKdigital data has been settled.

In March 1997 Erico (now part of the IHS Energy Group) lodged a complaint relative to unauthorized access to Erico’s value added data (digitized well logs) through Common Data Access (the UK’s industry sponsored national data repository). This was caused by the ‘incorrect setting of entitlements to the data by QC Data on behalf of CDA’. Following investigation the complaint was upheld, resulting in the stoppage of such unauthorized access, an apology and a compensatory payment from CDA to Erico. Erico are asking parties who might have data provided by Erico through CDA to ‘immediately provide Erico with full details .. so that the Erico can clarify the contractual entitlements .. and corrected forthwith.’

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