Advanced Seismic Technologies, a seismic processing software developer, wanted to gain market share by making highly scalable seismic imaging possible for customers at a low up-front cost. The company developed Oasis, its flagship application, to run on the Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 SP1 operating system and to take advantage of new “burst to Windows Azure” capabilities, thus giving customers a flexible, highly secure, desktop-to-cloud seismic imaging option.Business Needs
Oil and gas companies rely on seismic imaging to reveal possible oil- and gas-bearing reservoirs hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Seismic imaging involves bouncing sound waves off underground rock structures and recording the waves’ echoes within the earth using geophones. Sophisticated imaging creates high-definition pictures that can cover areas as great as thousands of square miles, many miles below the earth’s surface.
Scientists use complex software and algorithms to analyze these images, and technological advancements continue to make more-detailed images possible for more-accurate business decision making. Processing these images for analysis requires large, high-performance computing (HPC) clusters. Traditionally, oil and gas companies use HPC clusters that run on the Linux operating system. Even with sizable clusters, however, processing can take months for a given data set, which can be up to 2 terabytes in size. Companies often have substantial backlogs of data to be processed, due to the complex physical and capital requirements of scaling out hardware to meet uneven demand.
That need for processing power has a particularly negative effect on smaller oil and gas companies that lack the financial resources necessary to implement a large HPC cluster and run complicated algorithms such as the reverse-time migration algorithm, which provides accurate imaging in and below areas with great structural and velocity complexities. Therefore, those companies miss business opportunities because they cannot accommodate the processing scale required.Solution
Advanced Seismic Technologies aims to change all that. The start-up software development company decided to create a desktop-to-cloud application for seismic processing and imaging based on the Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 SP1 operating system and the Windows Azure platform. “We were impressed with the Microsoft product-development road map for cloud computing,” says John Almon, President of Advanced Seismic Technologies. “No other platform has such a complete desktop-to-cloud offering.”
||Offering Windows Azure burst capabilities in our application gives us a competitive advantage … while giving customers the flexibility to run seismic processing on the desktop, cluster, and cloud.
President, Advanced Seismic Technologies
The company’s solution, called the Oasis Seismic Processing System, is a stand-alone client application that runs on the Windows 7 operating system and provides velocity model building, graphical representation of seismic data, creation of seismic data subsets, and other capabilities. Oasis users create workflows in a parameterized form and send parameters, file paths, and other information to the Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 SP1 head node using Windows HPC Cluster Manager. The Windows HPC Cluster Manager partitions the algorithms and distributes data to existing cluster nodes or uses “burst to Windows Azure” capabilities, which involve a cluster or head node responding to the need for compute resources by quickly adding Windows Azure worker roles and using them as if they were on-premises nodes.
Advanced Seismic designed Oasis so that it would allay any customer concerns about cloud computing and data security. “Data protection is critical to oil and gas companies because seismic images are so valuable to their decision making,” says Almon. “Our application sends intermediate, encrypted binary data chunks to Windows Azure and then deletes the data when processing is finished. That obfuscation serves to safeguard customers’ image data.”
As of May 2011, the company is beginning work with Spectrum ASA, a seismic services company, which will serve as a 300,000-shot test project for its Oasis beta rollout. When Oasis, with burst capabilities, is ready for production, Advanced Seismic plans to design an individualized pricing structure to meet the needs of enterprise oil and gas companies and boutique processing firms alike.Benefits
Advanced Seismic Technologies now can provide prospective oil and gas customers with an affordable, highly scalable option for seismic imaging. “Offering Windows Azure burst capabilities in our application gives us a competitive advantage as we enter the marketplace while giving customers the flexibility to run seismic processing on the desktop, cluster, and cloud,” says Almon. Benefits include:
Broad market opportunity. For Advanced Seismic, developing Oasis to burst to Windows Azure means the potential to serve not only smaller customers, but large companies as well. “Oil and gas companies need a reason to use something other than their traditional Linux clusters,” says Almon. “By giving them the ability to burst to Windows Azure and also run Oasis on their Windows 7 desktops, we provide them with that competitive differentia–tor and gain entry into a wider market.”
Cost-effective scalability. The company appreciates that customers can adopt Oasis with minimal capital investment to expand their seismic imaging capabilities. “Oasis and its burst to Windows Azure capabilities open up new opportunities for our customers,” says Almon. “They will be able to take on jobs that previously were beyond their capacity because of access to a nearly unlimited amount of hardware.”
Reduced risk. With no need to invest in additional hardware or convince decision makers to find space for a cluster, companies can give larger, more complicated algorithms a try using subscription pricing. “The pay-as-you-go model is so attractive to customers,” says Almon. “They install a head node, get a Windows Azure subscription, and they’re ready to go. There’s no big financial penalty if a project fails, and a huge reward if it’s successful.”
Ease of use. Advanced Seismic recognizes the reliability, performance, and integrated management that comes with Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 SP1 and, by extension, burst to Windows Azure functionality, all of which makes it easy for Windows and Linux users alike to adopt. “Once you see how few steps are involved to add Windows Azure worker roles, you will be amazed at how easy it is. Everything just works,” says Almon.
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