Discovery - what did they find? (July 1996)

Project Discovery is an attempt to find common ground between the two industry standard data models from POSC and PPDM. PDM reports on progress.

POSC started out by spurning the relational mainstream of database technology and was a leading force in the field of Object Oriented databases. Two data modeling technologies were adopted by POSC in 1993, OpenSql from HP and UniSql from the company of that name.

Neither of these products have exactly set the world alight and POSC were faced with a dilemma, whether to backtrack from the 00 avant-guard or to forge ahead regardless of the cost. Weil no-one can afford to disregard the cost of anything these days and POSC were forced to look for some concrete examples of the value that it had been talking about for so long.


Temporary savior came in the shape of two major data banking projects whose clients were sold on the idea of POSC compliance, and who wanted it now. This led to the emergence of two "relational projections" of the Epicentre data model (one from IBM, the other from PECC/ PetroSystems). These offerings, although technically rather limited in both their overall scope and in the extent of their actual compliance with Epicentre, are both available and can be implemented on today’s technology. They can be said to have saved POSC’s bacon, for now ...

A spin-off of the emergence of the relational projection" of Epicentre as a de-facto standard means that most commercial applications of the POSC data model are implemented on the Oracle database. Since this is also the main platform for PPDM implementations it seems natural that there should be some attempt to merge the two products. This should provide benefits to PPDM users, in that their user community should widen and the model be enhanced, and to the POSC sponsors who to date have not seen a great return on their investment.

Now this is not the first time that such a merger has been attempted. Late in 1993 a similar project was launched with much trumpeting and it was announced that a merger of the two models should be achieved by mid 1994. Ail this turned sour rather quickly as the PPDM user community refused the changes that were required for even minimal POSC compliance. What has changed today is the acceptance by POSC management of what are essentially non-compliant products as compliant. This can best be qualified as a "wide goalpost" option. So long as a desire to be in the POSC camp is expressed by a vendor, then the product is welcomed into the fold with terms such as "partial compliance" or compliance with "the relational projection" of Epicentre.

Core data model

But this is not the real driving force between the subset project. Landmark, which has adopted PPDM as the core data model for its product line, and is therefore in bad odor with its POSCian clients, is pushing POSC towards PPDM and vice versa. Meanwhile, the POSCians within the POSC sponsor community have given up telling their management that true POSCness is just one more committee away, and are having to explain how POSC "compliant" products exist in the marketplace, but not in their own shops!

PPDM has made its position on 00 technology clear, it sees the oil industry as a follower and not a leader. It makes a rather powerful case for this by pointing out that with less than 5% of the worldwide market, the petroleum industry is hardly in a position to set standards that will stick outside its own patch.

Why abandon?

The problem with the PPDM Epicentre subset project remains, why should the PPDM user community, who have a successful, pragmatic product, abandon the "if it ain't bust, don't fix it principle" in order to help out the vendor community who are in a bind with their POSCian clients. The sort of squaring of the circle which is being attempted within the subset project is a reflection o t e main issue confronting the IT business today. This is the interplay between the established relational data model, the new technology of client server computing and the object paradigm. These influences are sometimes complementary, and sometimes divergent. They are also the sort of IT political footballs that are kicked around with boasts of "standard" adherence, "openness" and so on.

In reality, competing businesses are the driving force behind these different technologies. We may be moving towards a brave new world of interoperability and openness, but if the future were to be ail Sun and all Oracle, well that would be just fine for Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy too. In the next few issues of PDM we will be providing a step by step explanation of these issues, both in terms of the IT world at large and of course in terms of our own backyard of E&P

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