Editorial - Is the Web still news? You bet! and for a while to come. (May 1998)

PDM's editor Neil McNaughton investigates the future of web-delivered data and the impact of such technologies on end users and vendors to conclude that this is just a beginning.

Three suppliers have announced new or enhanced web-based data delivery mechanisms this month. But this is really only the beginning. Think what could be done. Many businesses both inside and outside of E&P will be radically changed by this developing means of communicating. Here at The Data Room we studied the development of many of these technologies - particularly the imminent growth of voice telephony over the net - a phenomenon that has been described eloquently as "the death of distance". Voice telephony over the internet could be one of the first examples of a major paradigm shift as a large chunk of the market moves from telephone companies to Internet Service Providers and other new ventures. So how does this relate to E&P and what developments should we expect as distance dies and bandwidth cost tends to zero? The answer is of course that we don't know but that we should be prepared for anything. Before we look at the direct impact on E&P data management, I'd like to digress a bit further, and imagine how some domestic data management might be affected by these changes.

100 GB chez-vous

You may not realize this but you probably have about a hundred gigabytes of digital data in your CD collection. If you are like me, you have a hard time managing this data set. Your daughter may appropriate a few for her personal use at a far-off university, and another family member may just leave your favorite Brahms concerto face down in the dust as Sepultura's latest is thrust into the slot. Well it's all digital, all in the same format so why not buy a terabyte of storage and manage the data properly. Decide on some metadata schema, with information as to personal preferences and commentaries on the performance, you may even like to start a CD management standards organization. In reality, you probably feel as I do that this is an unlikely development although not inconceivable. And after all, this will leave you with the sort of hassles that you are probably trying get away from when you come home from work - classification, retrieval software, metadata management and the like.


No, what is a much more attractive paradigm is data-on-demand. Imagine no CD's at all. Just chose what you want to hear on a screen, with some nifty purpose built software that is checking you preferences and pushing magazine articles and offering suitable snippets of Bach, Boulez or Barry Manilo as your fancy takes you. Developments such as PI's PetroDirect, Petroconsultants PetroNET21 and IBM's Surf and Connect are all clearly set to improve on existing services offered by these providers. But the are they may also be the first signs of a more general move away from in-house data management. Just as we may in the near future be throwing away our CD collection, and going for a music-on-demand business model; we may quite soon be able to throw away huge chunks of our in-house data management. There is a fairly substantial step to be taken before companies store their most confidential and proprietary data off-site with a commercial data vendor. But some Norwegian companies already do this with PetroBank. The whole thing becomes a matter of contract, security and data quality.

No more projects!

Such developments have a huge potential spin-off for oil company IT. The problem today is in general that we have good applications and poor data management. Well this moves all the data management to a third party. In fact I wouldn't mind betting that some companies will take the all-off-site route before they are through with fully populating their own in-house systems. In fact it may be the general realization that implementing and maintaining an in-house world-wide data warehouse is simply beyond the capacity of even a major E&P company that pushes us to outsource. The corollary of all this is that the above developments from the data vendors are not toys or simple enhancements of existing products, they may herald a paradigm shift in the way we will do business and merit very close observation and input from E&P IT. We can browse the data today, but soon this data will be being pushed into our projects through subscription services. Heck we may not even have projects, just sit down at the workstation, fire up the interpretation software and generate 'em prospects. The downside of this of course is that PDM will only have about two subscribers…. Maybe I should re-write this editorial!

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