Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, December 3, 2021

IBM, AWS Partner to Help Energy Companies Solve Global Data Silo Challenges 

Large global energy companies have a seriously challenging technology problem – due to varying compliance and data residency regulations around the world, they have business data that must be maintained in diverse ways in multiple locations.

That results in critical business data being stored in separate silos, making it much harder to find needed data from among multiple repositories in various nations around the globe.

And if these energy companies have any hopes of finding ways to stay competitive and eventually transition to creating and providing sustainable energy alternatives in the future, they need to be able to bring together all their disparate data to help drive and fuel those strategies.

That’s the goal of a new partnership between IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that will bring together IBM’s Open Data for Industries software platform and the AWS cloud to help energy companies find ways to solve these frustrating issues.

Manish Chawla of IBM

“Operational data is key to helping drive efficiencies and unlocking insights that can help accelerate energy transition, but so much energy data is locked by proprietary data formats or restricted by data residency challenges,” Manish Chawla, IBM’s global managing director for energy, resources and manufacturing told EnterpriseAI. “For example, while AWS has a large footprint in the energy space, several oil producing countries require companies to store their data within their respective country’s borders or others prefer these massive datasets stored in their data centers to reduce latency during analysis.”

Those requirements prevent the disparate data from being used as one to better serve the companies, said Chawla. “Our collaboration with AWS is focused on addressing these challenges. By combining the benefits of IBM Open Data for Industries … with AWS cloud infrastructure, energy companies can now use cloud data tools in their privately owned data centers or in the AWS cloud.”

A big, expected benefit is labor savings among data scientists who are tasked with evaluating and using a company’s data, he said. “Eighty percent of a data scientist’s valuable time is spent simply finding, cleansing and organizing data, leaving only 20 percent to perform analysis. That data can provide valuable insights to help energy companies drive efficiencies and reduce costs and emissions in operations today. In turn, this aims to help free up more time and resources to invest in discovery and innovations to accelerate energy transition.”

By bringing all this data together and expanding the data tools that are available to do this, it will also help energy companies add non-petroleum assets, such as wind and solar, to their portfolios as they continue to undergo transitions in the energy space, said Chawla.

“The energy sector is undergoing a massive transition as companies face pressure to reduce emissions yet meet a growing demand for affordable energy,” he said. “We have not yet reached a point of price parity or storage capabilities to fully rely on renewable energy and affordably meet that demand. Our collaboration with AWS helps to reduce the emissions generated to meet the energy demands of today, and free up more time, resources and capital to invest in discovery to fuel energy transition.”

The new IBM AWS partnership was announced recently at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC), which is one of the world’s largest oil, gas and energy events.

IBM’s Open Data for Industries software – the actual full name of the product is IBM Open Data for Industries for IBM Cloud Pak for Data – is an open source application that complies with the requirements of the Open Group’s Open Subsurface Data Universe Forum (OSDU), which is a vendor-neutral environment for the development of open standards in the energy industry. IBM Open Data for Industries integrates with IBM Cloud Pak for Data and is built on Red Hat’s OpenShift Kubernetes platform and open architecture.

By using the combination of IBM applications and the AWS cloud, energy company customers will be able to run OSDU Data Platform applications in the AWS cloud or on-premises while addressing data residency requirements.

Chawla said that the partnership between IBM and AWS could expand in the future to other industries to deliver similar services in the future. “Right now, the immediate application is on upstream operations for the energy sector, but as this industry is rapidly transforming, there is need for these kinds of open technologies to work across the value chain: from upstream to downstream, all the way to transmission and distribution [in the] the world of utilities.”

Several IT analysts told EnterpriseAI that IBM and AWS working together to solve these issues is a positive step for the energy industry.

Shelly DeMotte Kramer, analyst

“This partnership … is an example of yet another smart strategic alliance that is centered on facilitating more rapid digital transformation – this time focused on the oil and gas industry – which is rather woefully behind the curve on this front,” said Shelly Demotte Kramer, principal analyst and co-founder at Futurum Research. “Customers need to not only speed, simplify and secure their digital transformation journeys, they also are focused on solutions that mitigate costs and complexities.”

Kramer called the IBM Open Data for Industries open source application “another benefit we can point to resulting from IBM's $34 billion dollar acquisition of Red Hat in 2019. This collaboration affords customers the massive benefits derived from AWS cloud services, along with the ability to better leverage data, streamline operations and realize all the benefits associated with that partnership.”

Charles King, analyst

Another analyst, Charles King, principal of Pund-IT, agreed.

“By the nature of the industry, energy companies are global organizations that often face myriad regulations and operational hurdles in the places they do business,” said King. “Oil and gas exploration and production processes are challenging enough without having to deal with running multiple isolated IT infrastructures and solutions.”

By using the combined products and services of IBM and AWS, energy company customers will gain "write once and run anywhere functionality that enables companies to easily deploy and manage applications and data across multiple public cloud platforms and sites,” said King. “The depth of IBM's offerings and breadth of AWS's global data center infrastructure make them natural partners for solutions like this.”

Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions, told EnterpriseAI that “by seeking to combine the virtues of cloud, open data standards and data integration capabilities, this type of data freedom effort should be a bellwether for many other industries.”

This will be particularly helpful as the internet of things trend continues to build and companies need to find the best ways to free up data from systems and devices from across an industry’s legacy infrastructure, said Gardner. “This should be a priority,” he said. “The need to reduce greenhouse gases while keeping energy affordable is a no-brainer imperative for freeing up as much data as possible to drive improvements. This is a great use case to demonstrate how the power and utility of pervasive data analytics can help solve such difficult problems as transitioning the world’s energy to sustainability affordability.”

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