Oil IT interview, Mike Jones (Landmark)/David Holmes (Dell/Emc)

Oil IT Journal gets the low-down on Landmark’s ambitious OpenEarth initiative in this exclusive interview with CTO Mike Jones and David Holmes from partner Dell/EMC. The ‘free, global and open' community of scientists, engineers and software developers, with backing from majors and service companies, proposes ‘horizontal' interoperability as opposed to Petrel’s ’single app’ approach.

Mike Jones - The OpenEarth (OE) story started back in 2015 with the squeeze on development spend. At Landmark we launched an internal project to see how other verticals were addressing modern digitalization. We visited advanced verticals, finance, medical and aerospace. What we found was that these industries benefit from community-supported platforms. We then got thinking about how to apply to oil an gas what sort of a model might apply. We drafted a deck to make the case for an oil and gas platform which we showed to 13 of our major clients? We were pleased when 12 of them gave the initiative a warm welcome and a commitment to help. OE was introduced at the 2016 Landmark Life event last summer and we will be launching in Q1 2017.

What is Dell/EMC’s role?

David Holmes – We saw synergies with our stuff, notably our Cloud Foundry offering. We also have been looking in some detail at what oils and vendors do on a regular basis. A lot of which I call, ‘undifferentiated heavy lifting.’ As I think you reported from the EAGE workshop on open source software in geophysics, there were almost as many SEG-Y readers as presentations! An enormous duplication of effort. More generally it’s a pain to have to support multiple platforms and either to commit to a proprietary platform or develop code that already exists. Many vendors pretend to be ‘open,’ as long as you sign up to their platform. Hence the idea of a central common platform and a community-driven roadmap that is not hostage to fortune and a single vendor.

MJ – It is a bit like the difference between the Apple iOS ecosystem and Android. If you develop for the Apple ecosystem you get the technology and access to the platform – but you will not be able to influence the system’s future evolution or commercialize your application independently of Apple. It is ‘open’ but … closed. With Android, you can get under the hood of the technology and monetize your work as you see fit. Android is open and transparent. The OE model is much closer to Android.

DH - OE is a common central platform that can evolve in different directions and that oils and other clients can manage themselves. The idea is to even the playing field.

If we look a few years ahead, what will you get if you do not buy into DecisionSpace – will there be, for instance, an app for reading SEG-Y?

MJ – Our plan is for a secure environment for interoperability. OE is not application-centric. It is designed for vendor-to-vendor and data source-to-data source interactions. To imagine the future, OE certified applications will raise the game with respect to interoperability. Today our main competitor [read Petrel] inter-operates around a single application. Our focus is more horizontal. To take your example of, say, a free basic SEG-Y reader, we are working on this. It’s a good example of David’s heavy lifting. Likewise we might see visualization or basic simulation functionality available at the platform level. For the moment, most of our effort is on the computer science behind the platform.

We have seen Landmark as a long time supporter of platform independence, using Java, and offering Linux and Windows software as opposed to Schlumberger’s early move to Windows. Is OE following this way of thinking?

MJ – That’s a reasonable conclusion. Schlumberger went to Microsoft early and we remain a Java shop. In fact our DecisionSpace Enterprise Services have been used to seed the OE platform.

Will this involve re-architecting to a cloud-style/microservices type architecture?

MJ – Yes we are migrating to a microservices platform and to smaller orthogonal components. And we are helping others move in this direction. Our plans include a core IT platform, then support for 4D seismic and real time data where we are partnering with Pivotal.

DH – Today, Landmark’s overall offering is client server/Java based. At the SEG we announced a microservices-based cloud offering for on-and/or-off premises deployment. This is under development at Dell with our Pivotal division. We plan for a native Cloud Foundry development that will support a next generation cloud architected scalable solution. A step change in IT.

What other operators and vendors are signed up?

MJ – Several were on stage at our Life event. We have not yet signed but we have strong interest from Dell/EMC (clearly), Pivotal, IHS, BakerHughes and CGG. On the operator side we had similar support from Anadarko, Devon, Shell, Statoil and Total. Since Life, interest has been growing strongly. CIOs are very supportive of a platform that is open to all.

What’s the entry fee?

MJ – We are planning something along the lines of an ‘open core’ model, like Linux, with an offering that is free to developers but that will be commercialized like RedHat as a platform-as-a-service.

How does this relate to iEnergy?

MJ – It is a separate initiative. iEnergy reflects Landmark’s work helping clients with their ongoing digitization effort. It is a community effort that is working to help customers deploy our technology.

Anything else on OE?

MJ – Yes, one other thing. OE is not just owned by Landmark. I have been iterating my PowerPoint to reflect the fact that OE is now co-branded Landmark and Shell. We are in talks with other vendors and expect more third parties to be in a position to proselytize the platform.

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