Interview—iStore CEO Barry Irani and CTO Oscar Teoh

Petrotrek developers tell of SharePoint migration and data integration for the ‘aha’ moment.

Oil IT Journal visited with The Information Store (iSTore) CEO Barry Irani (previously with Ensearch Exploration) and CTO Oscar Teoh (formerly with POSC). We asked Irani how the oil price collapse was affecting the software house.

Irani—Actually, the current low oil price is forcing efficiency, so this is a good time for iStore. Our clients are not necessarily targeting cost cutting. iStore is a bit like an oil company with domain knowledge as opposed to oil and gas reserves. We have spent years developing solutions for upstream business problems, originally developing our tools along with services. We noted that about 80% of our activity involved fixing the same problems, with the remaining 20% of the effort on customization. Today, customizing our products is very quick. It involves identifying what is specific to the client’s setup. The guiding principle which we learned from our experience with POSC is, ‘don’t move data around!’ Data needs to be left in its system of reference although this is not cast in stone. A flexible approach means that data can be copied or moved if operational requirements make it necessary.

When do you move data?

Teoh—Data in the process historian is a good example. The historian provides a moving window on operations data that needs to be captured to a database. Project data may likewise benefit from copying. We bring all these disparate data sources together using our federated data model.

What is your relationship with Microsoft?

Teoh—Two years ago we ported our solutions to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), opening, rolling in other Microsoft applications and user-developed solutions. Previously all development was on Oracle and Unix and we still supply on and integrate with these environments. MOSS migration was the result of push from clients to add business-focused software to Microsoft’s offerings.

Irani—This has given a significant boost to our business and we are opening an office in Dubai for the Middle East market. Other major accounts are Pemex, Shell Nigeria and RasGas (Qatar).

And Marathon…

Irani—Yes, I loved the ‘quick failure or quick success*’ quote and the fact that Marathon’s pilot selected a ‘difficult’ business unit. Marathon, like most of our clients realize that some development is always involved in a project and they prefer not to waste time educating service providers about ‘what is a well.’ iStore’s domain knowledge is generally very well received. The Marathon proof of concept was finished in three months and one week into the ‘six month’ trial period, Marathon said, ‘OK we’ll take it!’

Are you still on a 80/20 product to service ratio?

Irani—Yes. Over time we have gotten very keen on project planning in fact one of our engineers is pretty much on this full time. Our clients know what the deliverables are and when they will arrive.

Your solutions are about data browsing.

Irani—Yes. But ‘browsing’ understates the power of data collection. It’s more than just visualization. It’s about enabling ‘intuitivity’ through time line displays of multiple production parameters, all available as pre-wired solutions. Traditional systems are too cumbersome. We can easily add in knowledge management type tools—notes that pop up warning of paraffin build up in wells—producing the ‘aha’ moment! This avoids data overload and helps answer the questions that engineers will be asking tomorrow.

Teoh—The Petrotrek Digital Oilfield is now all running on MOSS with AJAX-enabled interaction (mouse-over, changing time scales and generally customizable displays). Production data can be easily exported to Excel and we can tie in to financials in SAP, JD Edwards etc. All are WebParts-based so it’s easy to add KPIs, dials and gauges.

How do you tie all the different databases together?

Teoh—We use the techniques like well alias tables that were developed in POSC. It’s curious that although these issues were fixed a long time ago, it’s only now that the business intelligence community has got in on the act with new terminology. So now we read about ‘master data’ and think, ‘Oh, yes—that’s what we are doing!’

There have been reports of poor SharePoint scalability…

Teoh—We have been working with Oracle since the days of dial up modems. Achieving scalability across different architectures is part of our ‘secret sauce.’ We use this knowledge to fix SharePoint deficiencies.

Can you fire up applications in context?

Teoh—Yes this can be done but this is not our focus. Petrotrek is primarily a tool for the non specialist. It is not really intended for project building or interpretation—more about data integration such as data viewing in Microsoft Virtual Earth. Our technology also knows about entitlements and will integrate with whatever is already deployed—single sign on, security and identity systems. We can even limit access to individual wells and by producing/depth interval.

Do you host client’s data?

Irani—Not all of it. We host Petroleum Geo-Services’ non exclusive seismic index. Chevron’ Mid Continent unit hosts its joint venture data with iStore technology—this involves access by around 100 JV partners.

What is iStore’s financial structure?

Irani—We are a privately held, employee-owned company. We have no debt and our operations fund everything.

* At the 2009 Microsoft GEF—more in next month’s Oil IT Journal.

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