Up to now, Finder was usually presented at the hub of the GeoQuest data storage, retrieval and delivery architecture with the xxDB data storage products below, and the GeoFrame application environment above. The new deal for GeoQuest clients involves a two phase repackaging.
Firstly, Finder has been split into two, the database part, and the visualisation tools. The database engine, now Finder 8, occupies the bottom line of the food chain, sits alongside the xxDB products and manages an extended data model which now includes production. Secondly, the visualization tools SmartMap and GeoWeb have now moved up to centre stage, just atop the new Enterprise layer. Enterprise, which we covered in the May 1997 PDM allows a consistent entry point into Oracle databases (either those supplied by GeoQuest such as xxDB, Finder 8 etc. or by other vendors or client companies) and supplies the data to the visualisation tools. A word of warning, this repackaging can appear confusing, PDM has heard variously of "Finder Kernel", "Enterprise Kernel", "Finder Enterprise" and the terminology will no doubt mutate further before the marketing people are through!
Production has been the focus of the new version of Finder with the implementation of a projection of the production area of the Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation's (POSC) Epicentre data model. Experienced gained with clients in the CIS has allowed GeoQuest to develop time-series based data types allowing for ongoing monitoring of oilfield production. Automated triggering mechanisms in the new product will allow flagging of wells or producing horizons with abnormal changes in behaviour. This data-mining type technology will allow for just-in-time intervention and remedial work on flagging wells. PDM will performing an in-depth review of Finder 8 in a future edition.
General improvements to Finder include an enhanced user interface with tabbed dialogue boxes and a more conventional implementation of the de-facto standard of selection preceding operation (it used to be the other way around). Output to Microstation design file format is now possible and enhanced handling of gridded data has been introduced. A new link to the PC based Oilfield Manager product (formerly OGCI's Production Analyst) has been incorporated.
The underlying technology behind the Enterprise federation of databases is Oracle through and through, illustrating that despite the hype, open systems have not cut much ice in the real world. PDM understands that the Finder 8/Enterprise repackaging will be treated as a new release to existing customers under current maintenance agreements. Of course such a radical upgrade will involve a significant and possibly painful migration effort on the part of GeoQuest and their customers who had better start planning for this now.
The thorny issues arising from porting Finder 7 (and even earlier versions, still in use at some major sites) customizations to the new environment are likely to be particularly acute in this major repackaging. Efforts such as the recent EuroFinder initiative, which attempts to standardise a subset of customizations, and to manage their migration in a collaborative manner should prove their worth in this context. EuroFinder has board members from GeoQuest user groups in the UK, Germany and Norway as well as GeoQuest personnel from Gatwick and Houston. Currently a preliminary examination of Finder customization levels has been carried out and the intention is to use Finder 8 as a baseline, upon which further EuroFinder defined customizations can be built. Twelve companies have so far committed to the next phase of activity which envisages the development of a product by 1999. Following GeoQuest, the EuroFinder group is adopting the POSC Epicentre data model as a basis for extensions to the data model. In time it is hoped that the EuroFinder extensions will be incorporated into future releases of Finder, and that the whole issue of defining and implementing extensions to Finder will become a more collaborative process between GeoQuest and its customers. Those interested in learning more about EuroFinder should contact Hugh Banister at Lasmo UK - firstname.lastname@example.org.
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