The evo­lu­tion of smaller, more flex­i­ble data cen­tres will bring bet­ter lev­els of ser­vice and vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion closer to home

OffComm News - - INSIGHT REPORT -

“Oil and gas is the orig­i­nal big data in­dus­try” Charles Karren, se­nior di­rec­tor of oil and gas in­dus­try strat­egy, Or­a­cle

Sev­eral dif­fer­ent sec­tor data trends have emerged over the last cou­ple of years, namely the deep wa­ter off­shore, and the un­con­ven­tional on­shore, pri­mar­ily in the US but also in Aus­tralia. The amount of in­for­ma­tion com­ing out of th­ese as­sets has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially. What makes it in­ter­est­ing is the abil­ity to man­age this data back at the op­er­a­tion cen­tres.

Most com­pa­nies now have what are called ROCs ( Re­mote Op­er­a­tions Cen­tres) where they are able to look at data in real- time on an oil rig. While this is prob­a­bly one of the big­gest evo­lu­tion­ary, rather than dra­matic, changes ~ be­ing able to man­age the data on­site as well as back at the op­er­a­tions cen­tre is an in­creas­ing ne­ces­sity.

“One thing we are work­ing very closely on now is to de­velop mo­bile so­lu­tions that will be able to take ap­pli­ca­tion data and man­age it re­motely on any kind of far- flung as­set,” said Charles Karren, Or­a­cle’s se­nior di­rec­tor of oil and gas in­dus­try strat­egy. To in­crease its depth of of­fer­ing, as well as de­vel­op­ing mo­bil­ity ap­pli­ca­tions, Or­a­cle bought mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies and in­te­grated as­set man­age­ment for pre­dic­tive and preven­tive main­te­nance ~ a big part of the big data com­po­nent. “Once you are able to see, use and re­spond to the dif­fer­ent data that’s be­ing col­lected from mul­ti­ple as­sets and dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments, and achieve more real time and in­ter­ac­tive vis­i­bil­ity of day- to- day op­er­a­tions, the net ef­fect is a re­duc­tion in de­ci­sion lag- time and more ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tions,” he added.

Big Data

In terms of big data, the oil and gas in­dus­try will evolve to en­able more data an­a­lyt­ics, from a wide range of sources, from which to de­velop best prac­tices. Hav­ing bet­ter well- his­tory, from lo­cal ac­tiv­i­ties as well as from other op­er­a­tions else­where, can help with col­lab­o­ra­tion, in­crease op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and re­duce non- pro­duc­tive time.

Cap­ture, Keep, Use

How­ever, as the big data rolls in so does a re­source prob­lem for man­ag­ing it. Many or­gan­i­sa­tions are strug­gling to find a way to sit back, think and an­a­lyse what the data is say­ing. Some com­pany in­fra­struc­tures sim­ply can’t han­dle such vol­umes of in­for­ma­tion so it gets thrown out leav­ing only a limited data set. Some are turn­ing to an en­gi­neered sys­tem ~ con­tain­ing both hard­ware and soft­ware com­po­nents ~ that can not only cap­ture big data, it can hang on to it and use it to make pre­dic­tive rec­om­men­da­tions.

Should, for ex­am­ple, a drill bit be­come stuck in a par­tic­u­lar type of rock for­ma­tion or the drill site col­laps­ing around the tool, all too of­ten op­er­a­tions have to stop un­til the sit­u­a­tion is re­solved. To­day, there are two choices of ap­proach: Pre­scrip­tively, with vi­bra­tion or fish­ing an­tics to shake and lift the tool out; and pre­ven­ta­tively, by ref­er­enc­ing the risks from prior in­ci­dents in sim­i­lar ( al­though not nec­es­sar­ily lo­cal) en­vi­ron­ments and plan­ning ac­cord­ingly. Th­ese ref­er­ences could be from deep wa­ter in the Gulf of Mex­ico, the North Sea, off­shore in Brazil, West Africa or some­where else. Pre­vi­ously, what hap­pened and when it hap­pened was never recorded. Now that this data is be­ing kept, op­er­a­tors will be able to an­a­lyse and im­ple­ment risk as­sess­ments to make bet­ter rec­om­men­da­tions for fu­ture op­er­a­tional ap­proaches.

Part­ner­ships & Stan­dards

Part­ner­ships, re­gard­ing data han­dling, are grow­ing too. For ex­am­ple, PPDM ( Pro­fes­sional Pe­tro­leum Data Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion) is talk­ing about how to man­age well- data ( big data), and En­er­gis­tics is an or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps in­te­grate that data from, for ex­am­ple, a data ware­house. “We at Or­a­cle are big sup­port­ers of those be­cause they’re open stan­dard, and the in­dus­try ~ the oil and gas com­pa­nies them­selves ~ are part of th­ese in­no­va­tions. “We do not ad­vo­cate for pro­pri­etary or closed sys­tems; we are very much an open stan­dards com­pany. That helps peo­ple, helps the in­dus­try, helps th­ese com­pa­nies to col­lab­o­rate bet­ter and in a more ef­fi­cient way,” said Karren.

Des­per­ate Need for Real Stan­dards

While there are stan­dards as­so­ci­a­tions such as Euro­pean Data Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion, Data Cen­tre Al­liance ( also based in Europe), and ECO ( Ger­many), there is a huge need for an in­ter­na­tional bench­mark de­vel­oped by an in­de­pen­dent body.

Cur­rently, the largest is the Up­time In­sti­tute’s tier­ing stan­dard, which is by far the most com­monly ap­plied to a data cen­tre. How­ever, there are a num­ber of prob­lems with the cur­rent sys­tem, namely that peo­ple usu­ally self- de­clare as Tier 3, Tier 3 plus or Tier 3 star. Con­sider that in the UK, by way of an ex­am­ple, there are only two cer­ti­fied Tier builds ~ yet op­er­a­tors will claim to be Tier 3 or above, which only con­fuses the is­sue.

“There are var­i­ous stan­dards and var­i­ous bod­ies but the prob­lem is that they are so widely abused that they are be­com­ing ir­rel­e­vant. There is a des­per­ate need for real stan­dards to come out,” said Alex Rab­betts, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at MigSolv, pic­tured.

Lo­ca­tion Mat­ters

In the last year or so, par­tic­u­larly with cloud com­put­ing, many IT ven­dors ~ that had pretty much viewed the data cen­tre as merely the phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion where some of their more pre­cious equip­ment ends up ~ have put in a lot more ef­fort. Com­pa­nies like OHP, IBM and Cisco have been de­vel­op­ing vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion and cloud tech­nolo­gies. But, as well as tak­ing a much closer look at data cen­tre as­pects, one of the greater is­sues is with lo­ca­tion.

“We have seen a lot of new lo­ca­tions emerg­ing. We’re do­ing some work in Ice­land as a lo­ca­tion at the mo­ment, and per­haps rather more in­ter­est­ingly from our side, we’re also do­ing some work for Trinidad and Tobago as a new lo­ca­tion for data cen­tres,” said Broad­Group’s MD, Steve Wal­lage, pic­tured.

Typ­i­cally, data has gone to the big hubs where telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions are very strong. For ex­am­ple, in the Western Euro­pean mar­ket around 70 per­cent of the built out data cen­tre space has been in Lon­don, Frank­furt, Am­s­ter­dam or Paris. Even fairly large cities like Madrid or Mi­lan have been marked as much smaller data cen­tre lo­ca­tions.

Over the last cou­ple of years other re­gions have started to be mar­keted as data cen­tre hubs thanks to two main driv­ers: Firstly that the in­ter­net gi­ants like Google, Ama­zon, Face­book, and Mi­crosoft sought suit­able al­ter­na­tives, set­tling for ‘ mid­dle- ofnowhere’ places in the US. As well as op­er­a­tional ben­e­fits, re­sult­ing from th­ese di­verse and re­mote lo­ca­tions, state own­ers also started of­fer­ing spe­cific in­cen­tives for tax and prop­erty. That model is now be­ing copied around the world.

“More re­cently we’ve seen places like Ice­land and Nor­way start­ing to pro­mote them­selves as low- cost power lo­ca­tions, as well as po­ten­tial ben­e­fits if you go to cer­tain lo­ca­tions out­side the big cities. For ex­am­ple, if you don’t go to Stock­holm, but opt to go fur­ther north in Swe­den, there are a lot of in­cen­tives avail­able,” said Wal­lage.


One of the big weak­nesses has been the con­nec­tiv­ity. If there aren’t de­cent tele­coms or fi­bre choices, al­though th­ese new lo­ca­tions have worked hard to de­velop them­selves as data cen­tre honey pots, it has still been nec­es­sary to build some new sub­sea ca­bles. For ex­am­ple the Emer­ald Ex­press links Ire­land and the US, and also goes to Ice­land, so sud­denly Ice­land be­comes a lot more vi­able as a lo­ca­tion. Google built in Fin­land and Face­book in Swe­den, and with those in­vest­ments came new fi­bre; adding more re­gions to the list of at­trac­tive data cen­tre lo­ca­tion choices.

“In­creas­ingly, com­pa­nies want to keep their data close, not just for se­cu­rity and pri­vacy rea­sons but also for the de­creased cost of get­ting it in and out of the data cen­tre. They are look­ing for so­lu­tions, ~ and those so­lu­tions are very much on a re­gional ba­sis.” Alex Rab­betts, MigSolv

Rab­betts’ in strik­ing Nor­wich a com­pany, chord in the with MigSolv, UK. the Be­cause sur­round­ing is a data of its cen­tre lo­ca­tion, oil and sit­u­ated gas it’s in­dus­try op­er­at­ing just off the north­ern coast.

“A lot of our cus­tomers be­lieved that con­nec­tiv­ity into some­where like Nor­wich was go­ing to give them prob­lems with la­tency and speed. But of course this is not the case.” He doesn’t think that con­nec­tiv­ity is go­ing to be an is­sue for re­mote lo­ca­tions such as oil

rigs and wind farms ei­ther. “At least noth­ing like it used to be gen­er­ally with comms. Now you can get very low la­tency links in to re­mote lo­ca­tions much eas­ier than you used to be able to, that’s a mas­sive change,” he said. “If cus­tomers can’t get fi­bre into the

lo­ca­tion they come to us and put in a mi­crowave link. We’re for­tu­nate as we have lots of roof space that we can use for satel­lite comms.”

Chang­ing Ser­vice Based Mod­els

A shift is headed to­wards data cen­tre ser­vice based mod­els. His­tor­i­cally once you moved into a data cen­tre it was tough to move out. It re­quired mil­i­tary style plan­ning, down time strate­gies and risk man­age­ment to re­lo­cate data as­sets. Th­ese days how­ever, data cen­tre cus­tomers are de­mand­ing a bet­ter level of ser­vice. While there are other as­pects to the data cen­tre SLA ( Ser­vice Level Agree­ments), they have tra­di­tion­ally been in place for a data cen­tre man­ager and even the real es­tate/ fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment. To­day, data cen­tre cus­tomer com­pa­nies are look­ing to make those SLAs much more mean­ing­ful, in­clud­ing IT re­quire­ments such as ap­pli­ca­tion avail­abil­ity and the im­pact on the broader busi­ness ~ as op­posed to just the man­age­ment of the data cen­tre build­ing. “I think that it is true that data cen­tres are be­ing taken to task, and to a large de­gree I think it’s about time. I absolutely think that it’s right that data cen­tre op­er­a­tors be­come more re­spon­si­ble,” said Rab­betts. “The whole shift is all about main­tain­ing a re­la­tion­ship, and get­ting a bet­ter ser­vice in a more se­cure lo­ca­tion. Cus­tomers are look­ing for en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fi­ciency, they are look­ing for bet­ter ser­vice, they are look­ing for more se­cu­rity, lower comms costs; and all of those things are driv­ing this shift to­wards choos­ing a more re­gional op­er­a­tor.”

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