Petroconsultants have the Edge (September 1997)

Petroconsultants have declared in the past that their core business is data, and that software is a peripheral concern to them, but this is hard to believe when you experience their new Energy Data Graphical Explorer (EDGE).

Just as Landmark have done with their Open Explorer (see the June 97 PDM), Petroconsultants have broken with the industry tradition of going it alone with software development and have implemented their new flagship data access front end using ESRI's ArcView together with the Spatial Data Engine (SDE). This gives a very polished interface la Netscape with a tree-list browser of graphical objects on the left half of the screen, and the map on the right. The SDE runs on top of any Oracle database and EDGE in fact lives on to of legacy systems such as IRIS21, indeed in the demo we saw, some ugly Oracle forms popped up as IRIS21 was launched. While Petroconsultants updates IRIS21 every 90 days or so, oil companies can update their internal EDGE database on a more frequent basis. EDGE runs on UNIX or on NT as a client.

No seismics

Seismics is practically absent from the EGDE and Petroconsultants do not intend EDGE to become a corporate tool for data management. Issues such as this his mean of course that oil companies may balk at the need for a suite of data access GIS browsers to access different data bases. They may prefer to opt for one, Open Explorer, Enterprise, or EDGE, after all, they all claim to read everyone else's data. In this context, the detailed functionality, ergonomics and performance of these front ends will be the crucial issues. Alternatively, since ESRI with ArcView, and now ArcExplorer, it is possible that these tools may become the de-facto standard browser for data managers.


We have covered the performance issues of binary data, SDE and SDO before in PDM and Petroconsultants, again in their role of data rather than software supplier are philosophical about the merits of these technologies. Petroconsultants is awaiting the release of Oracle's SDO competitor to SDE and will be tracking the relative merits of the two as the technologies evolve. For the moment, this reviewer found the access to the Petroconsultants dataset remarkably speedy, with performance comparable - again very subjectively - to that of Open Explorer (demoed with the same dataset of 220,000 wells) which used Oracle's binary Shape files. Serious potential purchasers may want some hard benchmark numbers before taking the leap.


Petroconsultants are justifiably proud of the ease of use of their new tool, although a Post-it on the monitor of the Sun Enterprise server used for the test reminded users to "shutdown -g - kdfrst" or something - just in case you thought things were getting too easy - but that of course is UNIX's fault. Another detail likely to drive users mad is the crazy progress bar which zips backwards and forwards, giving no indication at all on when processing is going to stop, but that of course is ESRI's fault!

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