POSC's business objects vs. Open Spirit Alliance - the race for Plug and Play (December 1997)

The quest for the IT holy grail of application interoperability is hotting up with the near-simultaneous publication of POSC's Request for Technology (RFT) entitled 'Interoperability and Business Objects' and the upbeat announcement of the Open Spirit Alliance at last month's SEG conference in Dallas.

POSC's RFT seeks to "extend the POSC specifications to include higher level business-oriented objects with agreed data attributes and operations for use as application components." The Open Spirit Alliance is to build on Shell’s in-house Spirit II development to provide the Open Spirit E&P Component Framework, an application independent software platform enabling the "plug and play of software applications across the E&P lifecycle".


Clay Harter from Chevron speaking on behalf of the Open Spirit Alliance (OSA) described this as a move from today's "bloated applications" to a more modular computing environment with slimmed down applications talking to data stores through an OSA middleware layer using business objects. OSA has assured funding from existing partners of $200,000 over an initial two year period. Harter described Chevron's IT strategy as buy AND build - with Chevron's in-house developments currently integrated with commercial applications through Chevron's Object Integration Server. This latter is to be replaced with the OSA E&P framework when it is available. Steve Jennis from Prism - the prime development and marketing contractor for the project - described the role of the E&P framework as "neutral, industry standard middleware for E&P".


The POSC Request for Technology (RFT) defines 6 levels of software interoperability, and in true C programming style numbers them from 0 to 5. The RFT aims at implementing level "3" (the fourth level) in a two to three year timeframe. This level allows applications to share process and presentation objects though a common interface and implements plug and play for process objects and data objects. The RFT asks for submitters to provide high level business objects such as a well, seismic trace, coordinate system etc. These are to be assembled into a working prototype system demonstrating the technology's feasibility in the domain of seismic interpretation.


The POSC specification defines the lowest level technology to be used as the Object Management Group's (OMG) CORBA specification. The OMG itself is working on various higher level Business Object Frameworks, but these have progressed slowly such that POSC distances the RFT from this work. The advantage of this approach is that the E&P BOF will not have to wait on the OMG to finalize their specifications, the downside is that if and when the OMG gets around to defining other BOF's then they may look very different from the E&P specification. Already the POSC legacy of Epicentre and Express forms the core of the RFT.

A race?

The relationship between the OSA and POSC's RFT may or may not really be a race. In fact Jennings stated that the OSA will be responding to POSC's RFT - this must make them an attractive candidate for POSC - having already obtained their funding and started off the marketing effort is quite a big way. The POSC RFT on the other hand makes no mention of Open Spirit. Some members of the OSA (Chevron, Elf, Prism) are cited in the PSOC RFT as having contributed resources to a team that developed a preliminary BOF architecture earlier this year.

And the DAE?

PDM readers may be surprised to see Prism crop up again in the role of E&P middleware provider, after all it was only in October that Prism unveiled their Data Access and Exchange POSC compliant product. The answer according to those in the know is that the DAE will be a POSC specific layer used by compliant applications, whereas the Open Spirit middleware will be more generic. In France they have a saying "qui peut le plus, peut le moins" which being translated means what can do more can do less. If Open Spirit can talk to anything, then it is a little hard to see what role the DAE will play in the Open Spirited enterprise. Prism explained to PDM that the DAE will play the same role in the OSA as that played by the proprietary API's to GeoFrame and OpenWorks. The DAE will talk Epicentre databases.

Focussed initially on the subsurface interpretation domain (but planned to embrace the full E&P lifecycle), the OSA platform will support E&P data stores from Landmark, Schlumberger and POSC. Distribution and communication will be via OMG/CORBA ORBs and utile CORBA services. The OSA consists of a service-based architecture made up of two architectural layers - a Business Object Facility (BOF) and an E&P Framework.

Business Objects

The BOF is designed to comply with the emerging OMG Standard and consists of implementations and extensions of CORBA services, both existing standardized services and additional services which are currently in the submission and evaluation process.

The E&P Framework provides both generic E&P components (such as co-ordinate transformations) and components specific to subsurface interpretation, The components can be logically grouped into several subsystems: GUI/application, 2D graphics, 3D graphics and data. The GUI/application components are developed in Java to provide cross platform portability and to support web based applications. The generic 2D graphics components will be provided via the Carnac product from INT Inc. PrismTech is extending and adding to these components to provide integration with the data framework. These components are being implemented using a combination of Java and C++. Generic 3D graphics technology will be provided by the OpenGL graphics library and OpenInventor product. Again PrismTech will provide integration with the data framework.

Roll out

The data framework itself is (initially) providing data servers for the following data types: Wells, Seismic, Interpretations, Velocity Models, and Culture. Interfaces to these data types are defined in OMG/IDL. These IDL interfaces provide application developers with access to data independently of the data store, location, or the implementation language of the data access technology. This will be accomplished using CORBA ORB technology and by implementing a design pattern that isolates the specific data access code. Work is currently underway on Version 1 of the platform, which will be available from Prism in beta form 1Q98. V1 will include support for well and seismic data, initial 2D graphics components, data access to/from Landmark data stores, and BOF capabilities. The first public roll-out of the technology is scheduled for the New Orleans SEG in 1998.

Click here to comment on this article

If your browser does not work with the MailTo button, send mail to pdm@the-data-room.com with PDM_V_2.0_199712_1 as the subject.

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.