Schlumberger Information Solutions (SIS), the software development division of Schlumberger, designs and develops software for the oil and gas industry. In 2001, SIS made two strategic decisions that changed the nature of software development in the company. The first was a commitment to Windows as a platform for delivering
||With Partner Advantage, we are increasingly addressing opportunities rather than working around the problems
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technical and engineering applications; the second, a commitment to bringing open applications to the industry.
The flagship product of SIS, Petrel, supports rapidly developing and updating three-dimensional subsurface models with workflows spanning seismic interpretation through reservoir simulation. Petrel, a turnkey application based on Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC), was acquired by SIS to accelerate the delivery of geosciences applications on the Windows operating system. In 2005, SIS began opening the application to external development, migrating to the Microsoft .NET Framework and Windows Forms to better support a stable, high-quality component-based architecture for all developers.
Stephen Whitley, Chief Software Architect of Schlumberger elaborates, “When we looked to move from UNIX to Windows and later from MFC to the .NET Framework we realized that we didn’t really have the internal capabilities to support such migrations.”
In addition to meeting short-term platform migration needs, SIS particularly wanted to:
- Ensure fast time-to-market by assisting developers in getting up to speed with Microsoft Visual Studio tools.
- Gain insight into the strategic road map for Microsoft products and technologies to stay ahead of the market and gain a competitive advantage.
- Maintain system health and avoid reactive situations.
SIS identified Microsoft Services Partner Advantage as an opportunity to extend the abilities of its development team with the expertise of Microsoft. Through this services offering, SIS benefits from a comprehensive, flexible, and cost-effective program that helps the division more effectively develop, deploy, and support solutions based on Microsoft products and technologies. Though SIS initially engaged in Partner Advantage to streamline development of Petrel, the company currently allocates 25 percent of its support hours to other SIS product groups.
Direct, Preferred Services Relationship
Latha Lakshminarayanan, Developer Technical Account Manager from Microsoft, works closely with SIS. An advocate of SIS, she helps guide the SIS team through proactive services that are in line with business objectives and escalates issues through Microsoft channels to help resolve situations in the most effective manner.
SIS compliments this relationship, with its own internal counterpart that mirrors Latha’s mission. Juliani Vachon, Principal Engineer and Microsoft Evangelist for SIS, serves as an advocate for Microsoft technologies and a conduit for technical communications. Being well versed in the internal workings of SIS products, she is able to proactively pursue technical collaboration opportunities between both organizations.
Through Partner Advantage, SIS works directly with Microsoft experts, such as the Microsoft Visual C++ and Common Language Runtime teams, and engages in architecture consultations to ensure that the SIS development teams are following best practices. These teams frequently visit application compatibility and performance labs at Microsoft and in special cases have put source agreements in place, enabling Microsoft engineers to troubleshoot issues faster by reproducing them in-house.
Microsoft also provides the company with best practices guidance on developing with Microsoft Visual Studio tools and helps with debugging and troubleshooting complex issues. For instance, to help SIS better manage the large Petrel baseline using Visual Studio tools, Microsoft provided hotfixes, updates, and even private releases, which were then reflected in the next major version of the product.
Establishing a proactive IT environment is central to Partner Advantage. For SIS, this means engaging in ongoing technical training, threat modeling, performance tuning, and the Technology Adoption Program from Microsoft, which provides access to prerelease products.
SIS also gains insight into the technology road map of Microsoft. Says Whitley, “With Partner Advantage, we investigate emerging technologies, such as Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows Presentation Foundation, and then plan ahead for which technologies to adopt and when to adopt them.”
With Partner Advantage, SIS has streamlined product development across product groups. Says Whitley, “Partner Advantage is critical to our business. It helps us maintain system health, react quickly to critical situations, and plan appropriately for the future.”
Achieve Predictable Time to Market
Streamlined product development helps SIS achieve a predictable time to market for its products. For example, when migrating Petrel to the Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft provided knowledge transfer, best practices, and proactive and reactive services that helped SIS deliver subsequent releases on time. Says Whitley, “Instead of working around issues and waiting for all the small problems to accumulate, we can reach right out to Microsoft and get help immediately. What’s more, we have learned to better use the products and technologies to our advantage so that we can get quality products to our customers on schedule.”
Gain a Competitive Advantage
With insight into the Microsoft technology road map, the SIS has hastened the decision-making process for product development. Says Whitley, “Partner Advantage helps us with product development planning, ensuring that what we do from a technical standpoint is in line with what’s happening in the market—now and in the future.”
For instance, by understanding future security enhancements to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, the company has avoided dedicating its own resources to developing similar enhancements.
Since engaging in the Partner Advantage Program, SIS uses considerably fewer problem-resolution support hours. Across groups, SIS now only spends 30 percent of its hours each year on problem resolution, compared to 80 percent when the company first engaged in Partner Advantage. Says Whitley, “The fact that only 30 percent of our support hours are for reactive support is a sign of a healthy development relationship.
With Partner Advantage, we are increasingly addressing opportunities rather than working around problems.” With Partner Advantage in place, SIS looks forward to the future. Says Whitley, “As the market evolves and other SIS solutions come into the spotlight. Partner Advantage helps us ensure that those new products will have the same quality and level of support as Petrel.”