Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is the Oil & Gas Industry Ready for the Cloud?

I recently joined a LinkedIn group called “Intelligent Well and Intelligent Field Development Discussion Group.”  I am by no means an expert in Oil Fields, but the subject of the cloud for the Oil & Gas Industry was so tantalizing that I was drawn in.  We at Invensys have been working with Microsoft on developing automation products specifically for the cloud. The first two to be introduced will be a cloud-based tiered data historian, and a cloud-based BPM (Skelta).

If you read my blog, you know that over the past couple of months, we’ve been actively promoting the concept of “the cloud for manufacturers” and have conducted a series of seminars, along with Microsoft and partners such as SmartGlance, to show that the market is ready, and products are available, which take advantage of the cloud’s innate benefits, such as ubiquitous access, lower total cost of ownership, and most importantly, faster time to value (that is, from the time it’s installed to the time you get to use it, that cycle is greatly reduced).

This specific LinkedIn discussion was about SCADA systems that are cloud-based.  Most of the discussion centered on either security, or fitness for purpose, or about what that really means when you say the word “cloud.”  I have to agree, there are so many different permutations of what “cloud” means, that you could either surmise it’s a perfect, or terrible, fit.

One of my points in this discussion group was to look at the reason you want to go to a cloud-hosted SCADA system.  Is it to reduce IT burden/overhead?  It is to make systems more web-friendly, and mobile device friendly, which is really a user interface issue?  Or is it to integrate disparate systems that may not be interconnected today, and so by cloud-hosting, you get that benefit of a Platform as a Service.  Once a user determines what they need, they can best determine if the cloud is the way to deliver those systems.

I wrote an article late last year on the cloud which was published in ISA—it was called Is the Cloud Right for Manufacturing and I surprisingly got a lot of feedback.  One gentleman was from a water/wastewater company, who put their SCADA system in a private cloud.  It was the first time I had heard of any industrial company using this technology, and it confirmed our suspicions that with the right environment, and champions, that the cloud can be a great enabler of productivity.

So fast forward a year.  We do have oil & gas customers using cloud-based reporting systems.  They are using Wonderware Mobile Solutions, the underlying product is called SmartGlance, and it takes data from your InTouch, Historian, MES, Energy Management or other plant databases and uses a smart device (phone, tablet) to present data in interactive charts. 
 So, without this being an advertisement for SmartGlance, the takeaway is, don’t be intimidated by the technology, understand what your needs are, and if a cloud-based system makes sense for you, there are many industrial automation companies that are now offering applications on the cloud, from reporting to data historian to maintenance and even MES.  We’ve come a long way in a year, and these products are absolutely applicable to the needs of the oil and gas, or any industry!

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