The digital oilfield is a fundamental consumer of information technology. It requires the sourcing of reliable data, managing and storing that data effectively and serving it to operational decision makers. Cloud computing has forever changed the game in information technology. It could bring significant enhancements to the digital oilfield providing that the industry feels comfortable that data resilience, privacy and security are maintained. This paper looks at how to provide this assurance.
The big concerns with cloud computing are data loss and an uncertainty where the data is actually residing. Coupled with a growing number of security threats, these are holding back adoption in digital oilfield implementations. Some companies have introduced a "private cloud", which has enabled them to retain data within their own network boundary. However, this has prevented them from reducing their infrastructure costs and they have had to size their computing power and storage requirements to meet the highest level of demand, which may only be needed occasionally. Conversely, a public cloud enables a "pay as needed" service.
The cloud benefit is not just concerned with the cost of information technology. Smart applications can be deployed quickly to aid decision making, access to information is improved enormously and systems of record are much easier to manage. These processes support the very foundations of digital oilfield: operational efficiency in drilling and production, enhanced collaboration and remote decision support. So we are not just making an information technology decision when considering cloud technology. In this paper we demonstrate that the cloud can not only be as private and secure as a ring-fenced infrastructure but in many cases it offers much higher levels of protection, resiliency and agility. As with many aspects of the digital oilfield, the challenges to success reside in people transition and the development of appropriate work processes. We have a natural tendency to over-estimate the privacy and security of our own infrastructures but unless they are actively rather than passively managed, it is most unlikely that the governance processes will be superior to those employed by Microsoft in their Azure Cloud, for example.
The digital oilfield is a journey towards advanced ways of working. The oil and gas business is evolving continuously as we develop ever more challenging fields. In the future we can expect to have more limited resources available and possibly, as we are seeing currently, lower returns. The cloud is an important evolution that we cannot afford to overlook.