Digital Oilfield in the Cloud

Petrotrek Online eschews Amazon to deploy on Microsoft Azure. Under the hood are Bing Maps, IHS data services and ‘Geneva’ claims-based access control. 90% on-site cost savings claimed.

Speaking at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference last month, Thinh Pham, senior architect at The Information Store (iStore) fleshed-out the new ‘Digital Oilfield (DO) in the Cloud’ offering, a.k.a. ‘Petrotrek Online’ that we touched on last month. The PetroTrek DO offering is already deployed at larger client sites including BP, Chevron, Pemex, Shell Nigeria and RasGas, but the move to cloud computing is intended to offer digital oilfield functionality to midsize and smaller independents without major IT infrastructure.

Previously, iStore had a version of Petrotrek running on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS—see our interview with iStore CEO Barry Irani and CTO Oscar Teoh, February 2009) which simplified the migration to Microsoft’s hosted Azure ‘cloud.’ Along with the data/software hosting service, Petrotrek’s developers have extended the solution with Microsoft’s ‘Silverlight’ ‘rich’ browser GUI and Microsoft’s Bing Maps enterprise search and hosted GIS. Bing Maps is used to ‘mash up’ data sources including IHS’ production and well databases. Access to sensitive data of diverse ownership and provenance is controlled via Microsoft’s ‘Geneva Server.’ Geneva extends Microsoft’s Active Directory Domain Services to provide ‘claims-based’ access control, supporting the WS-Trust, and SAML protocols. Geneva reduces the need for duplicate accounts and other credential management overhead by enabling federated single sign-on across organizations, platforms and applications. Geneva can also generate and manage Windows Cardspace virtual card identities.

Alongside Azure, iStore evaluated Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) hosting offering. Pham said, ‘We felt that the Windows Azure platform had more to offer than Amazon EC2 because it is a total platform. In addition to the operating system, Microsoft SQL Azure extends storage to the cloud. With Azure we also have peace of mind knowing that Microsoft is maintaining the image. All we have to do is deploy the software and run it. It’s basically foolproof.’

CSC assisted iStore in the port of Petrotrek to the cloud, leveraging its participation in the Windows Azure Technology Adoption Program. CSC has optimized Petrotrek for Azure.

Azure provisions compute and storage resources on-demand. Previously, where iStore would spend a couple of months working on infrastructure on-site, now this is cut-down to ‘a matter of days.’ Pham concluded, ‘If we compare the upfront cost of the two deployment models, I would estimate that using Windows Azure could save customers as much as 90% of on-site costs.’ iStore CTO Oscar Teoh added, ‘With Azure, we know the data is in good hands because it’s hosted by Microsoft. Microsoft is our IT department—it doesn’t get much better than that.’ More from

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