Oil ITJ Interview - Ali Ferling, HP

Oil IT Journal spoke to Ali Ferling, General Manager of Hewlett-Packard’s new Global Energy Industry Business Unit. Ferling described HP’s work on the ‘agile enterprise’ where IT resource management is decoupled from business process changes. He also lifted the veil on a new collaboration with Microsoft—the Common Business Infrastructure—CBI.NET. HP’s oil and gas client list reads like an industry who’s who and the company’s expertise ranges from chip design through compilers, infrastructure to business process reengineering.

Oil ITJ—what is HP’s new energy business unit up to in oil and gas?

Ferling—HP’s worldwide energy industry unit was created after the HP/Compaq merger as a division of our manufacturing business. We have major corporate accounts with Shell, ExxonMobil, Schlumberger and others—also through channel partners.

Oil ITJ—What does HP do for its oil and gas clients?

Ferling—In the oil business, technology change is the name of the game particularly with the advent of Linux and Windows in high performance computing. We partnered with Schlumberger on the port of Eclipse to Itanium 2 and 64-bit Linux – with a massive hike in compute power. We also helped build BP’s Houston-located supercomputer – which is 3 times faster than the old machine with 7.5 teraflops of compute power and 8 terabytes of memory. We also work with Paradigm, Roxar and Petrel on certification.

Oil ITJ—Is that a big part of your activity, certifying software for your hardware?

Ferling—HP understands compilers! There was a considerable technology transfer from HP to Intel during the development of the Itanium 2. But our involvement is also at a high-level—particularly with the new ‘adaptive computing’ strategy.

Oil ITJ—What’s adaptive computing?

Ferling—We looked at the way changes in our clients business interacted with their IT. We found that it takes seven times longer to effect IT changes as it does to change the business. So an agile IT infrastructure can make a difference. Today a business change may mean buying a new server and then integrating it into the existing infrastructure. We want to get away from this equation. HP’s agile infrastructure separates a business process layer from an application layer and an infrastructure layer. A process change should trigger a change in IT.

Oil ITJ—Have you deployed this technology yet?

Ferling—We already have two real world implementations. The universal data center (UDC) virtualizes all IT network and storage infrastructure and services. Our Intelligent software allows for drag and drop configuration of such virtualized services for resource allocation. You can add new users, email accounts or define resources.

Oil ITJ—What about ‘agility’ in oil and gas?

Ferling—We are in discussion with oil and gas clients on agile infrastructure. They are also very interested by our joint venture with Microsoft – the collaborative business infrastructure (CBI.NET). We see CBI.NET getting traction in environments such as the digital oilfield of the future (DOFF)—supporting real time drilling operations and closed loop production. CBI.NET leverages Microsoft’s .Net architecture and BizTalk to integrate various data sources into a joint view. SCADA sources are mapped to XML. One gas producer client used this environment to reconcile volume differences across multiple production accounting systems.

Oil ITJ—Sounds like Tibco?

Ferling—Yes it is. The project began five years ago in HP’s own manufacturing as the value collaboration network. HP’s consultants and systems integrators have been working on using the CBI.NET infrastructure for supply chain integration.

Oil ITJ—Which brings us to the subject of e-commerce – where is it working?

Ferling—E-commerce is very important for oil and gas traders and for retail gas station operations – where there is a real supply chain. Service stations represent a low margin business at best – in some countries were there is a fixed price – this can be a negative margin business. Many companies are now looking to make their money on the convenience store end of the business. HP has been talking to marketing managers about appropriate technology for gas stations. This has led to our E-tropolis product for retail.

Oil ITJ—So you are moving in on SAP & Accenture!

Ferling [laughs]—Not exactly. SAP is a very big partner of ours—we work closely with them. There is no major overlap—on the contrary, I’d say that it’s hard to find a closer partnership. In systems integration there are always lots of partnerships—even though HP has no problem taking on big deals itself. Usually the different parties contribute different skill sets—this varies from deal to deal and from country to country. HP tries to understand who is providing the business value. For instance we developed an Enterprise Portal was developed for a gas station chain’s convenience stores. Here we had to evaluate partners for B2B, B2C etc..

Oil ITJ—We know what Schlumberger does, what Landmark does but what exactly is HP’s oil & gas value proposition—isn’t this all a bit diffuse?

Ferling—Not at all! Our core is the adaptive enterprise—agility, cost savings, help desks. We support big companies with tens of thousands of PC’s. At this size of deployment, worldwide support can only be provided by a world-wide company. We manage the whole client environment. In fact, along with every contract proposal we do due diligence and tell the client how much can be saved. HP is 130,000 people – with around 65,000 in services – the third largest IT service company in the world; the largest in Microsoft based enterprise computing and in mission critical.

Oil ITJ—What synergies have accrued from the merger?

Ferling—We have made serious savings and now we all use each others’ technologies. Combined, HP is now the second largest IT company in world. This gets a lot of pull from corporate accounts. Incidentally, during the merger some serious pre-merger planning meant that we had integration from day one. For instance there were immediately 200,000 mail addresses up and running. People integration takes longer because of culture and local environments. But in the present oil and gas division I don’t even know which company many of the folks came from.

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