Microsoft Reveals All; E&P directions and database access technologies explained.(November 1998)

We have decided to ignore (for the moment) thebrouhaha surrounding Microsoft’s legal battles and to try to find out exactly whatMicrosoft has to offer the oil business. We interviewed Scott Fawcett, Microsoft’sGlobal Energy Industry Manager, and did a little bit of investigating of our own with avisit to Microsoft’s Energy Industry Website.

PDM interviewed Scott Fawcett Microsoft’s Global Energy Industry Manager and Technology Evangelist Dan Rogers to learn about Microsoft’s strategic direction with regards to the oil and gas sector, with particular reference to database access technologies.

PDM. In an E&P application, there are typically of the order of a million lines of code – nearly all written on UNIX. To make matters more difficult (for Microsoft), the main database deployed in the upstream is Oracle, and most E&P companies will have a multiplicity of Oracle databases. While Microsoft has made significant inroads with Windows front-end clients, what will be the key Microsoft technologies that will make peoples lives easier? In particular, in what is de-facto a heterogeneous environment, what is Microsoft’s recommended route for building a federating query engine?

Microsoft [Dan Rogers] In this context, our core technology is SQL Server 7.0 and Heterogeneous Query. These tools will allow you to federate databases from Oracle, Sybase, and also link to Access, DB/2 or practically anything. If you can get to it with ODBC, SQL Server 7.0 can serve as the single federated data source, without a requirement for replication.

PDM. In a world of multiple databases - many of which share the same information – how does Microsoft handle issues such as synchronicity, data replication, clean up - in fact 'data management'?

Microsoft [Dan Rogers] This problem is endemic, regardless of database technology. The problem related to islands of data is bigger than any simple "technology remedy". Addressing this issue requires case by case thinking to bring an enterprise data movement architecture into place. As the number of database servers grow, regardless of vendor, crafting a credible replication plan that meets the needs of the business in the success case, but that also can accommodate the need to take back-ups, is critical. This won't happen because of anyone's database technology on the market today. The problem is huge and gets harder as you expand the scope of your replication requirements. Consider that replication is a "loose synchronization" technology in the first place. What does it mean to "have a backup" of the system that exists in ten locations, each with dependencies and pointers into the others? To restore means to move everything back to a point in time. So the problem of dealing with Oracle, which is just another database in the sea of databases has very little bearing on synchronicity - except to note that the Oracle replication engine and tools is ONLY capable of dealing with Oracle databases -- SQL 7 Heterogeneous query eliminates some of the need for replicated and synchronized copies of data in the first place.

PDM. Bill Gates made an impressive Video taped talk at the Landmark conference announcing cooperation on the COM on UNIX front. How exactly is this being deployed? Is this really mainstream MS technology? Do other industries use it?

Microsoft [Dan Rogers] Go to the COM Web site for links on getting copies of COM on Unix. There are several vendors involved in porting COM not only to Unix, but to MVS as well. .

PDM. What are the other technicalities of the COM on UNIX deployment. Is UML used? Is COM used to wrap legacy code, or is there going to be COM based business objects?

Microsoft [Dan Rogers] UML is a modeling tool, and as such not related at all to the underlying interoperability technology. Rational Rose 98 now supports UML extensions for COM components and code generation support for the same. COM on Unix, at a technical level, relies on IDL, in the same manner that COM on NT does.

PDM. Does Microsoft intend to become involved in the POSC INTEROP work-group on Business Objects? Is there linkage with the Open Spirit Alliance?

Microsoft [Scott Fawcett]. Microsoft is talking to POSC, and has made presentations in the POSC office. We understand that POSC is supportive of open standards. POSC has been evolved with the OpenSpirit people since they have been active in the geophysical space and their activity on the surface appears like the only game in town. We do believe that POSC is supportive of COM since many of their members are asking for the object support with NT. With 150+ million COM based systems in the market, many of them in the Oil and Gas Industry, it is sensible to have COM as part of a global industry standards group.

Of relevance to the upstream oil industry are the following COM-based initiatives:

OLE for Process Control (all field transmission and distribution equipment from the wellhead to refinery to retail station, including mobile devices, embedded devices and full SCADA /Monitoring systems). Check out the web sites of Wonderware and ICONICS to see some interesting developments.

Corporate ERP COM interoperability : with companies such as SAP offering DCOM connectors, all areas of the energy industry (retail, refining, process control and E&P) can link technical and financial information for better management. The energy trading folk that are part of the ERP can have a better real-time understanding of their corporations internal position vs. external market conditions. Interoperability across the corporation is key for this to happen.

Even bigger than the interoperability between these initiatives are the areas of Knowledge management and E-commerce. The E-commerce area includes supply chain integration. Combined, we call all 3 of these areas the principal components of the Digital Nervous System in the Energy Industry (see article in this issue)

PDM We have a collection of course notes on various Microsoft distributed computing technologies - from DDE though OLE, ODBC, RDO and we are totally lost as to what is current and what is likely to last.

Microsoft [Dan Rogers] Forget ODBC (except on Unix) and RDO is dead – Microsoft is now promoting the Universal Data Access strategy . Everything you ever wanted to know on the subject in particular how to provide access to information across the enterprise including high-performance access to a variety of information sources, both relational and non-relational, and an easy to use programming interface that is tool and language independent. These technologies enable corporations to integrate diverse data sources, create easy-to-maintain solutions, and use their choice of best of breed tools, applications, and platform services. Universal Data Access components include ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), Remote Data Service, (RDS, formerly known as Advanced Database Connector or ADC), OLE DB, and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC).

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