Oil IT Journal Interviews – Johan Krebbers, Shell and OSDU and Steve Nunn, CEO The Open Group

Oil IT Journal caught up with Johan Krebbers and Steve Nunn at the 2019 EU meet of The Open Group in Amsterdam. We chatted (separately) to Krebbers about OSDU specifics and to Nunn about The Open Group’s approach to standards.

Interview with Johan Krebbers, Shell and OSDU

Oil IT Journal - We been tracking various attempts at upstream interoperability for over 20 years. The Open subsurface data universe booklet reads like poetry. OSDU has a very ambitious scope which may not be a bad thing. But how can you solve these issues after 20, 30 years of folks trying to do the same? What’s new now?

Johan Krebbers – The cloud is what’s new, along with our implementations by Microsoft, Amazon and Google, plus a bunch of standards. PPDM has just joined the initiative and we will be using the PPDM definitions (not the data model). In the cloud there will be no RDBMS. The deal is to separate data and applications so that small companies can play in this space.

No Database? How do you persist data?

With cloud-based blob* stores. All apps will get access through the API to a metadata schema database, along with Elastic Search**. Deployable in Amazon, Google or Azure.

Why TOG? Why not Energistics?

Back in 2017 Shell made a strategic decision around its in-house SDU. We decided to consider it as ‘non-competitive’ and that its future would be better served by sharing across industry. Shell needed a legal framework such that we could talk freely and share information with Exxon and others. All the OSDU intellectual property goes to TOG. The contracts around this were signed in only 6 weeks of discussion.

The big news of late was the arrival of Schlumberger – our 800lb gorilla. Doesn’t this mean that OSDU is falling towards/into the Schlumberger camp?

No. As I said, this is all open source IP owned by TOG and, for parts of the open source stack, by the Linux Foundation.

So could I use it?

Yes – just sign up with an Amazon account.

Is there a test data set?

Yes, the current Azure demo includes 5,000 Dutch wells.

Did you consider Volve?

We looked at Volve but the data set was too small.

What’s in the blobs? SEG-Y, LAS?

Not so much. Some of these are at the proprietary layer – such as Petrel data files. Also, we prefer OpenVDS from Bluware to SEG-Y.

And GIS – will it be an open source GIS?

We can’t have any proprietary stuff on the platform.

So, it is open across-the-board?


In our last issue we wrote up the work that Shell has been doing with IT4IT. Does this have relevance to OSDU?

No. Even though Shell does use IT4IT. All Shell SDU code has been handed over to OSDU.

And is this a parallel development to O-PAS?

Not really. O-PAS is more standards-based. OSDU Is code-based. (see our interview with Steve Nunn below)

And if I wanted to run the whole shebang on my workstation? Do you have to have the cloud?

Maybe – you could run it against a MySQL database. Actually, we will have a special solution for small companies – more of a software as a service solution.

And this is all in the public cloud?

Not necessarily. It could be running in your own datacenter or it can be Amazon Outpost or Microsoft Stack.

Is Halliburton out in the cold?

No. Halliburton gave a demo a few weeks ago with their apps running against OSDU.

We chatted with some folks at SPE ATCE and it seems like for some, there is no way they are going to open source their stuff!

Maybe, for an application provider.

What about the pure-play data management software vendors? Will they get burned by this?

Yes, they will lose out as we move to a non-competitive API and data store.

How is OSDU going now?

PPDM just joined and we had a face-to-face in Houston with 220 people and 75 companies. We cannot be seen to be just Schlumberger.

* Binary large objects.

** A word of warning on ‘Elastic Search’ which, according to the New York Times is suffering from unfair competition from Amazon’s homonym ‘Elasticsearch’. More on this issue from Elastic.

Interview with Steve Nunn CEO TOG

Oil IT Journal - What’s the raison d’être of The Open Group (TOG)?

Steve Nunn - Our goal is boundaryless information flow, even though information boundaries will always be there. Our member organizations solve technical and business issues, working with IT vendors and customers in government, financial services and academia. We build standards and certify their adoption in different industries.

I see you are wearing a UNIX badge.

Yes indeed, in 2019 we are celebrating UNIX at 50. There’s some interesting history there. Originally UNIX belonged to ATT and was defined as a code base. The user community wanted standards here and TOG was chosen to standardize, not the code, but the specification. This was done with some 1,100 specs.

Such as?

Shell script behavior and the like.

We have just reviewed some other TOG output… IT4IT and the DPBoK and were struck by the absence of code – your specs are more of a touchy-feely nature.

Yes, we produce text-based standards, guides and white papers although we also do code-based test suites for conformance. The Apple iPhone for instance runs a version of Unix that we have certified. The same goes for other UNIX vendors. IBM AIX, Oracle Solaris, HPE…

I thought IBM has downplayed AIX in favor of Linux?

Actually, it seems like AIX has been reinvigorated of late. Unix is still very important to banks/financial services.

Where will OSDU be in the code vs touchy feely stakes?

OSDU will be text and code-based, along with a significant open source reference implementation of the OSDU architecture. Schlumberger has contributed code as a starter.

And is there code in O-PAS?

No not at the present. We are currently evolving the standard and certification program. We will also be developing certification programs for individuals.

What exactly is TOGAF, TOG’s architecture framework?

Back in the 1990s, the US Department of Defense had an enterprise architecture called TAFIN (Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management. The DoD wanted to share and develop a common approach to architecture and donated TAFIN (which became TOGAF) in 1995. Today some 100,000 individuals have TOGAF certification and 80% of Fortune 50 companies use it. They like it because it’s free. Although consultants and educators need to be licensed. TOGAF is modular and can be used piecemeal.

Where did your oil and gas credentials originate?

In 2010 we were approached by the US Navy to develop a Federal Avionics Consortium FACE. Building aircraft meant multiple contractors and designs and there was a push for more reuse and rationalization, so that not everything was designed from scratch. They formed the FACE organization (aka the cockpit of the future) to develop an open systems architecture. FACE includes TOG’s SOSA, the sensor open systems architecture. FACE caught the eye of ExxonMobil which modeled its OPAF/O-PAS, the open process automation standard initiative on the FACE approach. O-PAS was a direct result of FACE. Exxon had similar issues as the Navy with procurement and bringing in suppliers. Exxon went with Lockheed Martin (also behind FACE) and joined up with other oils and process industries.

We just reviewed some TOG output. IT4IT and Shell, and the DPBoK – where we concluded that it was a shame that there was no mention of either FUD or FOMO*!

(Laughs) Yes – there was a lot of push back in O-PAS from folks who had ‘tried all that before’ but in the end it was the customer pull that was the key along with customers mandating certified products. Only then do folks see the benefits! Bringing other industries on board gives critical mass.

We sat in on the ‘process’ track this afternoon. One talk (from Audi) was all about virtualization and did not mention O-PAS. OSDU is all about the cloud. What does the enterprise architecture have to say about these game changers?

You can’t be an architect if you don’t know what all this means although you don’t have to have an in-depth knowledge of what the cloud means. There is a gap in the standards landscape for the cloud but not, as yet, a demand from customers. Meanwhile the vendors are feeding the flames and folks are trotting out old stuff and calling it new!

* Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Fear of missing out. Two old IT tenets!

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