Q&A: An IBM-Red Hat-Schlumberger Cloud Accelerator for the Energy Industry
IBM, Red Hat and Schlumberger, the world’s leading oilfield services company, have announced a collaboration to accelerate digital transformation across the oil and gas industry. The joint initiative will increase global access to Schlumberger’s leading exploration and production (E&P) cloud-based environment and cognitive applications by leveraging IBM’s hybrid cloud technology, built on the Red Hat OpenShift container platform.
Manish Chawla, a member of IBM’s Industry Academy and IBM Global Managing Director for Energy & Natural Resources, along with Trygve Randen, Global Director Digital Subsurface Solutions, Schlumberger, explain what to expect from the collaboration and how it could accelerate the industry’s digital transition.
Why is Schlumberger working with IBM and Red Hat?
Trygve Randen, Schlumberger: At Schlumberger, to address the historical imbalance in global supply and demand for oil today, we ensure our performance partnerships include an eye toward digital technology, sustainability and New Energy. We view digital in two ways: the acceleration of digital adoption among our customers and across their workflows and operations; and second, the impact of digital on our own operations.
This is why we are collaborating with IBM and Red Hat. Together we will expand and evolve an environment where energy professionals in all countries across the globe can collaborate using data and new software applications for digital innovation.
How did the partnership with Schlumberger come about?
Manish Chawla, IBM: In addition to IBM’s leadership in enterprise technology innovation, we also have a long history with clients in the energy industry. We have worked with Schlumberger for a number of years, supporting their efforts to drive efficiency in their enterprise functions, and helping many energy companies modernize their operations.
For the general consumer, or even the general person, why should they care about this partnership?
Randen: Our latest technology collaboration will help place new technology capabilities in the hands of many more energy companies, helping them to accelerate their digital transformation. This translates to more efficient operations, driving down costs for the consumer as well as enhancing safety and helping to reduce environmental impact through operations that have first been fully optimized digitally, before the physical extraction of oil and gas.
What is DELFI?
Randen: The ‘DELFI cognitive E&P environment’ is a secure, cloud-based software technology that enables team collaboration across the entire industry lifecycle. It is an open, scalable, and fully managed environment, seamlessly connecting people, data and leading software applications across exploration, development, drilling, production and midstream to produce a high fidelity and evergreen digital model for planning and operations.
What have IBM, Red Hat and Schlumberger achieved so far?
Chawla: We recognize the significant advances Schlumberger has made to establish the DELFI environment as the industry’s leading cognitive E&P environment. Schlumberger, IBM and Red Hat began this latest endeavor by piloting a new hybrid cloud deployment of DELFI on Red Hat OpenShift. That work involved Red Hat and IBM Services, the world’s largest team of Red Hat certified consultants to show it could work successfully. The two organizations focused on demonstrating the flexibility and portability for compute, storage and data-intensive exploration and field development applications.
User growth of DELFI has exceeded an impressive 400 percent since 2019. Still, while the platform offers access to a number of public clouds, half of the oil and gas companies of the world are unable to easily access these cloud platforms. This is due to constraints around data sovereignty, reach of public clouds and the specific architectural choices companies have employed.
Within these boundaries we saw an opportunity to apply hybrid cloud built on open technologies. This allows for workload portability, orchestration and management across multiple infrastructure environments allowing the DELFI environment to be available across a variety of infrastructure choices. For example, in-country clouds, on-premise, and private clouds. In other words, it fosters an ecosystem where ideas from customers, suppliers and partners can be brought together and gain the benefits without being constrained by their location.
What are some of the other challenges that this partnership will help overcome?
Randen: A key aspect is capturing data. But you have to make it standard and available to the right professionals involved in a process. There’s a principle in the industrial world—“as designed, as built, as maintained”—that’s critical and has historically been under-developed in the exploration and production industry.
Take the example of building a tunnel through a mountain. Once it’s built, is the design available, in all its gory detail, to whoever is going to maintain it? You’re constantly maintaining, upgrading, improving and operating, so that same data should be carrying through for the right people to access.
Many processes in the industry—even something like finding and analyzing a seismic image underneath a location and deciding where to drill a well—requires multiple professionals, often working for different organizations. They’re all using different applications, and if you have to copy data from one application or database to the next, you can have distortions, errors. You can lose time.
How will this move to hybrid cloud help solve that problem?
Chawla: The mission-critical workloads that run large businesses and institutions often span extensive IT estates. In fact, the average company today draws data from more than 400 sources, and it can run as high as 1,000 sources or more. The idea is to create a single source of truth.
We have shown that adopting a hybrid cloud architecture can be 2.5 times more valuable than relying on public cloud alone. Red Hat’s OpenShift allows customers to containerize their applications—essentially, to encapsulate them and make them cloud-portable.
So, instead of needing to rewrite software code for each cloud provider, the code can be written once and encapsulated for use in any technology set-up. That includes traditional data centers as well as public, private and edge clouds. It helps open up a truly global market.
Our collaboration with Schlumberger is part of IBM’s commitment to investing in an ecosystem that is accelerating adoption of hybrid cloud and open architectures. Along those lines, we’ve also launched a new Red Hat Marketplace, a new one-stop-shop where technology professionals can find, try, buy and manage enterprise software across an organization’s entire IT infrastructure, including all major cloud platforms. Taken together all of these initiatives underscore that companies are accelerating their embrace of ubiquitous interoperability which will speed innovation across industries.
What are some of the tangible challenges that this partnership will help overcome? What do IBM and Red Hat bring to the equation for Schlumberger?
Randen: In many locations across the world, companies are not fully able to leverage the scalability of the public cloud. This may be due to one of several reasons: government requirements to keep data “in-country” (a.k.a., “data sovereignty”); inconsistent quality and reliability of telecoms networks between an office and a cloud data center; and in some cases, the distance between office and data center, which can degrade the software performance experienced by the end user.
Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform will enable the DELFI environment to be deployed on a much, much wider selection of public and private cloud options. Practically, this means customers can now access DELFI in locations that previously were not possible. With this powerful combination of DELFI and OpenShift, these customers can now start to realize the gains from digitally transformative workflows for their businesses.
What is the Open Subsurface Data Platform and what is Schlumberger’s role in the initiative?
Randen: The OSDU, or more precisely, the Open Group Open Subsurface Data Universe Forum is a cross-industry collaboration to develop a common, industry-standard and open basis for oil and gas data. Its output is free code as well as data standards that companies, organizations or specialist providers can use.
By streamlining access and use of data the industry expects to drive higher performance and greater efficiencies, including the use of new data-driven workflows and innovation using artificial intelligence.
Schlumberger announced in August last year that it would open-source its data ecosystem—part of the DELFI environment—and contribute it to the OSDU Forum to accelerate the delivery of the OSDU data platform.
We are committed to supporting the ongoing development of the OSDU data platform, which together with the contributions of others will provide industry-leading capabilities, knowledge and experience.
How do you see the collaboration between Schlumberger, IBM and Red Hat evolving over time?
Randen: Schlumberger and IBM have an extensive history dating back several decades. With the adoption of Red Hat OpenShift technology both companies will be working together to extend the reach of DELFI to help oil companies accelerate their digital transformation. As members of the OSDU Forum we’re also looking at opportunities to further our collaboration with the creation of a differentiated data management and operations solution for the OSDU data platform - enabling oil and gas operators to build, deploy, and transition digital solutions with hybrid-cloud data infrastructures. Our goal to foster wider collaboration and greater efficiency across professionals in the E&P value chain.