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February 16, 1993


By CBR Staff Writer

The 69 members of the Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation are in the final stages of deciding what standards and technologies, from those submitted, are to be included in its Software Integration Platform. At a user group meeting in Aberdeen, Tim Haynes, the Corporation’s European technical director, said he hoped the integration platform would establish guidelines for suppliers working to develop interoperable applications for the oil industry and enable the oil companies themselves to harmonise their internal computing efforts. The Software Integration Platform guidelines will be made public in April: it is a combination of open systems strategies, de facto industry standards plus some established products adopted under previous technology requests, such as Hewlett-Packard Co’s object-oriented OpenODB database and UniSQL Inc’s relational-to-object database linking technology. Petrotechnical Corporation member companies – the oil industry’s open systems user organisation – and the group’s permanent staff have been evaluating potential Software Integration components since last December. The Corporation is positioning the Base Computing Standard in SIP as a building block for portability, scalability and interoperability and Electronic Data Interchange using established and emerging technologies.

Industry-specific widgets

This encompasses Posix, the X/Open Portability Guides 3 and 4, TCP/IP, Open Systems Interconnection, and Fortran and C languages. Graphics standards supported are GKS, Phigs, X Window, PEX, Motif and probably Open Look. The Corporation says it will call for the development of a set of industry-specific widgets next year when a more complete range of interface recommendations will be presented. Emerging standards such as C++ and the Open Software Foundation’s Distributed Computing and Management Environment will also feature in the Software Integration Platform. Windows NT has yet to be endorsed in the Platform because Microsoft Corp refuses to back open systems standards for the oil industry, Haynes says. The Corporation has established common data and access (SQL-based) models for developers and suppliers to incorporate in their offerings derived from its members’ data processing requirements. The Corporation says the models will enable different departments within an organisation to share applications and data. Using systems that deploy these models, production and operations divisions should, for example, be able to share well and drilling information with their geology and geophysics counterparts. With X/Open Co Ltd’s help, the organisation will try and get a branding scheme going for Petrotechnical Corporation-compliant products using the Integration Platform. According to Haynes, the problem in establishing any branding effort – and one that the Corporation has encountered – is the reluctance of vendors to re-engineer existing products to meet the requirements of one section of the user community. To help its cause, it has set up interoperability labs in Houston, Texas and London which preview the various model and technologies in use. The Petrotechnical Corporation began life in November 1990 as a three-year effort backed by $15m funding plus membership fees of up to $100,000 which depend on the organisation’s size. Funding beyond November this year depends upon the success of the Platform and how the Corporation’s 1994 to 1998 business plan, expected next quarter, is received by majors sponsors such as Mobil, Chevron, Elf, Texaco and British Petroleum. Haynes stoically suggests that Corporation’s future is not indefinite. Its aim, he says, is not to become a commercial body but to point users towards products and technologies that support their interests.

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