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How will the standardisation of data formats be critical to driving efficiency in the Energy industry in years to come? What does the OSDU mean to that revolution? And why has the last year seen a shift towards more openness and connectivity? By Sean Goodman, Regional Segment Manager, Seequent.

“With standardised data formats, it’s the data, not just the workflow, that becomes the focus. Data silos are reduced, and your data becomes more productive.”

When the story of 2020 comes to be written, it will encompass challenge, hardship and resolve. But I believe as we move into 2021, it will also be seen as the year when a number of significant barriers began to fall. And within that, amidst the many difficulties, I think there is still something for the geoscientific community to observe and celebrate.

Even more so than climate change, the spectre of Covid-19 has revealed that we all face the same problems, and these problems can often only be tackled by a spirit of openness and collaboration; in the most obvious case, among the scientists, doctors, immunologists and more who have worked at record speed to deliver the vaccines that will allow our lives to return to normal. (Well, as normal as they ever were!)

But while it’s a big leap to go from medical pandemics to the Energy industry – and I’m not suggesting for a moment that the issues equate – there is something about the ‘data zeitgeist’ of 2020, and now 2021, that marks a turning point in how these challenges are approached, and which should resonate with us too.

A key stepping stone in the route to digital transformation

One shift we’ve witnessed in the last year is an acceleration in the standardisation of data formats as a way to unlock faster and further reaching digital transformation. It’s a manifestation of openness that has special relevance to the sectors Seequent works with.

Such standardisation has been around in one form or another for a number of years. But it’s only relatively recently that it’s begun to be embraced in a widespread manner and it’s something we wholeheartedly support. As businesses, scientists and managers, we all work and communicate better when we speak the same language. We have been an advocate for the Open Mining Format for a number of years and seen the benefits to users as it is engrained in our solutions.

I don’t think it can be denied that the Energy industry – and many others like it – has traditionally been protective of its data. A competitive disinclination to share has only been buttressed by the attitude of vendors whose use of particular, sometimes unique file types has made sharing, and collaborating even more daunting. (And, some might cynically but correctly say, made moving between vendors harder as well…).

But that is changing as companies realise that the optimisation and efficiency they’re seeking, and which is essential to their growth, is best pursued by making their data as productive as possible. Achieving that requires greater openness and interoperability, hand-in-hand with a broader use of the Cloud.

 

OSDU and the benefits of boundaryless information

A powerful advocate and driver of this move this has been The Open Group, a global consortium of 800 organisations leading the development of open, vendor-neutral technology standards and certifications. Their vision is of “boundaryless information flow achieved through global interoperability in a secure, reliable and timely manner.”

Their work with the oil and gas industry has been fundamental in the development and expansion of the Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) – a standard data platform for the industry that brings a range of benefits we see as key in promoting efficiency, productivity and growth.

Why? Because with standardised data formats it’s the data, not just the workflow, that becomes the focus. Data silos are reduced, and your data becomes more productive. With better interoperability, it becomes easier to transition between different applications based on what you need to do and the smartest way of achieving it. The ability to utilise the software that best suits your requirements enhances optimisation, speeds results and supports cost efficiency.

Having interoperable, standardised data formats means you don’t have to change the code every time a new data format comes along. Talented people within the industry can write their APIs knowing they’ll work with whatever data presents itself, and whatever vendor package they happen to be using.

When the link between one software package and the next is seamless, that also facilitates easier and more powerful automation. Meanwhile the important meta-data that risks being lost during endless data conversions is now preserved for the future, helping you understand the lineage of your information and more comprehensively audit it.

The ‘heavy lifting’ that was once done within racks of expensive, space-consuming on-premise servers can be more easily moved to the Cloud with a resulting boost in speed and flexibility, while enabling teams to access the data they need, whenever they want and from wherever they are.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in the words of The Open Group, the OSDU will “accelerate the deployment of emerging digital solutions for better decision making”.

 

Seequent’s path to a new cloud ecosystem

How companies adopt it will of course be up to them. But we see standardised formats and interoperability as trends that will only spread ever more rapidly across a variety of data formats and data-driven industries in the months and years ahead.

To return to my original point, there has never been a year when the power of connection has been more important. During Seequent’s Lyceum 2020 Virtual Conference, it was reported that more than four and a half billion meeting notes were being captured in Microsoft Teams meetings every day during the Covid 19 pandemic. That is connection on a massive and unprecedented scale.

This transformation, the development of OSDU and the work of The Open Group aligns entirely with our own direction (which is why we are members), typified by the development of Seequent Evo, our ecosystem that will hybridise the cloud and the desktop. Our COO Graham Grant has called it “the single biggest investment in technology we have made in the history of the firm”.

Because now is entirely the right time to be open, to share, to collaborate and to remove the barriers to interoperability that will allow the Energy industry to build a stronger and more sustainable future. We are completely behind it, and we look forward to working with the industry as we implement this standardisation in our own workflows.