The emergence of industry standards and the devolution of computer power to industry desktops may well provide solutions to the problems confronting oil companies in the late 1980s. Falling prices, coupled with the post-1970s exhaustion of inexpensive, offshore oil reservoirs, has driven companies, forced to optimise high risk onshore drilling budgets, to rely with increasing dependence upon highly detailed and accurate computer-processed evaluations of petroleum reservoirs. Landmark Graphics Corp, a Houston-based company which, in seven short years, has gained substantial profits and a 40% share of the exploration software market with its range of computer aided exploration development tools, has now responded to the greater efficiency demands of its end-users by launching OpenWorks, an interactive, bus-based software architecture. Essentially, OpenWorks, the fruit of 18 months’ development work, will provide companies with the means to integrate in-house or third party applications and hardware, share databases, and unite separate teams of geophysicists, geologists and engineers involved in exploration and production projects to work in a synergised high speed environment. OpenWorks comprises three modules: the application software development tool kit, SmartBus, the SmartWindows user interface, and the SmartData database interface. The key to the system’s interactivity lies in its adoption of Unix, TCP/IP and X/Window industry standards: effectively, each user is provided with a common mouse-driven user interface, and through learning the simple point and click technique, can access data stored at any point on the company information network. Landmark will propose the OpenWorks system as a non-proprietary industry standard, and believes that, longterm, the product could – and should – provoke a fundamental change in the way computer-aided exploration software is developed. Landmark has also established a development-oriented Early Partners Programme, and currently has projects underway with two participating companies. Cray Research Inc, not surprisingly one of the largest players in the petroleum industry computers arena, has ported OpenWorks onto its computers, in a well-timed bid to extend in-house applications to its customers. Cray claims that OpenWorks solves the which-operating system? which-windows? style issues that have dominated recent interactivity debates, and insists that OpenWorks offers the kind of common user interface which it has anxiously been awaiting for several years. Similarly, Robertson ERC, a UK-based petroleum consultancy firm, has opted to use the OpenWork’s architecture as the kernel for its government and industry-backed integrated reservoir Tigress initiative, and believes that the software system could be of considerable future value to its mineral and geological divisions. Landmark, which recently reported an annual turnover of $35m for 1987, believes that other companies will be keen to participate in the programme, and seems set to prove that the oil company poison is very lucrative corporate meat.
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