Oil IT Journal interview—Dean Forrester, SAIC

We quiz SAIC assistant VP of commercial business services about the new SOA architecture for energy. The soon-to-be released public spec leverages work performed for clients including BP.

What’s the idea behind your service-oriented architecture (SOA) based Interoperability Standards (IS) initiative?

Many clients are turning to SOA to reduce the IT bottleneck to a timely response to market and legislative change. But they waste a lot of energy defining the basic SOA ‘wiring.’ We believe that a foundational set of standards is an essential first-step to SOA deployment and that there is little competitive advantage to be had by reinventing the wheel. Also, subtle differences in these developments actually impede SOA deployment.

What will the IS entail?

We will provide an interoperability baseline, a common transport language for organizations to communicate between each other and a stable foundation for vendors’ products.

Who is involved in the services-oriented architecture (SOA) project?

We are working with companies in the upstream, downstream and utilities and have recognized similar problems in their strategic programs—whether they are field, refinery, or utility of the future. Participants include several super majors, regional US utilities and major vendors.

Can you give some more details about what level your Interoperability Standards will work at?

The Interoperability Standards (IS) will allow organizations to quickly ‘get off the blocks’ with SOA by specifying a discrete set of existing W3C and web services standards that operators and vendors can leverage. The idea is to codify a small subset of the SOA standards and quickly get to agreement amongst the participants on the basic set of transport-level protocols that will be used. These will be vendor agnostic. No product recommendations will be made. The approach will increase consistency in the development of services, both inside and outside of operator organizations and reduce some of the friction incurred when organizations attempt to communicate.

Can you name any of your contributing clients?

As a way of ‘seeding the pot’, BP has offered its SOA Interoperability Standards (which we helped develop) to the industry. These are the same standards that were offered to the PRODML community for V1.0 of the production standard and which formed the basis for the original PRODML Reference Architecture. From our own experiences with PRODML (we were involved in the Reference Architecture, pilot implementations and the Deployment Toolkit), we believe that an agreed set of interoperability standards would have significantly reduced the time spent developing the standard.

What’s the relationship with WITSML and PRODML?

We see the Interoperability Standards as a way to ensure that PRODML, WITSML and others can be consistently delivered by anybody. Future domain standards can then focus on the business logic being implemented rather than on a standardized transport layer.

Will the IS embrace device-level integration of SCADA systems—and in this context, what process control standards are leveraged—OLE, UA?

The standards will define transport-level, SOA base protocols for the transfer of any data type. The standards are not intended to replace COM/DCOM, OLE or even OPC. They will supplement these and provide an open way of accessing data that is not restricted by the traditional network or domain boundaries that hinder these solutions.

The press release mentions your work with industry standards groups?

SAIC participates on committees of the major standards bodies such as W3C and OASIS. We have also worked on industry standards groups such as PRODML and have deep experience in implementing all these standards for our clients. SAIC invests significant funds in joint R&D with our clients each year to encourage the development and adoption of standards and help our clients understand how and where they should focus their efforts.

You have also mentioned a ‘well-documented suite of actionable standards’ will these be made public?

Yes. Our intent is to build consensus around a core set of standards and then publish these standards to the industry. It is likely that we will base the distribution around an ‘open source’ style license to allow broad distribution and a vehicle for future updates.

Will the development process be open?

Yes. We have made the BP document available on the SAIC internet site. Interested parties can ask to be involved with the initiative there.

More on SAIC’s initiative from www.oilit.com/links/1003.

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