Santos moves to cloud

Open source project ‘snowballs’ as VirtualGL-based remote visualization solution displaces traditional desktop workstations, saving $1.8 million. Santos to sponsor migration to new TigerVNC codebase.

Santos has turned to the open source community for a remote visualization solution for its geoscientists accessing an in-house web portal from their Red Hat Linux desktops. Various proprietary thin client solutions were trialed and found wanting. However two open source projects, VirtualGL1 and TurboVNC2 offered high performance, hardware accelerated 3D graphics deployable across the network.

Santos signed up as a VirtualGL project sponsor in May 2010 and has since been working to upgrade the TurboVNC solution to ‘rock-solid’ enterprise standards.

The thin client solution outperforms the ‘traditional’ 64 bit workstations to the extent that geoscientists are running their Red Hat desktop via TurboVNC exclusively, even requesting that the workstations be removed to give them more desk space.

Santos now caters for more users by adding servers to the TurboVNC farm and has decommissioned infrastructure in its interstate offices. Now all Linux and associated geoscience applications (such as Paradigm’s seismic interpretation and visualization tools) run in the Adelaide cloud, benefiting from more processing power and shared NFS storage. Data management has been simplified as users now see the same applications, disks and databases. The solution has brought immediate capex savings of around $1.8 million and a reduction of $750,000 in yearly admin costs.

Geoscience Systems Specialist Darren Stanton said, ‘Our sponsorship of the TurboVNC and VirtualGL projects gives us direct access to the technical brains that have made this all possible. Any bug-fixes or feature enhancements are dealt with quickly, and it’s not uncommon to have a new version of code sitting in our inbox ready for testing the morning after emailing a request to the programmers. The move to Open Source thin-client deployment has been a huge success for us in so many ways, and we would encourage other companies to adopt and support Open Source technology.’

TurboVNC hides network latency by decompressing and drawing a frame on the client while the next frame is being fetched. The system provides authentication with one-time passwords or Unix login credentials. Over 30 Megapixels/second of image data can transit over a 100 mbps LAN with ‘imperceptible’ loss of quality.

Santos is now sponsoring the migration of the TurboVNC codebase to ‘TigerVNC,’ based on the newer RealVNC 4 and codebases. Early work on both Virtual GL and TurboVNC benefitted from sponsorship from Sun Microsystems and Landmark Graphics which also contributed seed IP to the project.

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