It’s not getting any easier to be an oil and gas operator. More complex reservoirs combined with emerging markets and a changing demographic create data management headaches, and often there is a huge disconnect between the technicians acquiring and interpreting the data and the managers who have to make informed decisions about them at the end of the day.

Sensing this need, Microsoft recently announced the formation of the Microsoft Upstream Reference Architecture Initiative. Currently comprising 19 members, the goal is to automate the decision processes and results in a way that provides a common, reliable environment for implementation and integration of the many technologies that make up the digital oil field. Ultimately, this architecture will help to dramatically improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness for upstream oil and gas analysis, operations, and business.

The announcement came during the annual meeting of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers in Barcelona.

“We see our role as working closely with our partners and delivering a platform to support these solutions,” said Paul Nguyen, industry technology strategist for Microsoft’s Global Oil & Gas division. The ultimate goal is a solution that integrates decision-making capabilities, captures the results (the decisions), and builds an “institutional memory” that becomes part of the digital oilfield operations that will continuously inform those systems.

Part of the existing problem, Nguyen said, is that the existing legacy systems hinder upstream workflows, making it difficult for domain experts to execute their strategies. “These are areas that we can organize and simplify,” he said.

But this is not a Microsoft-mandated system; rather, it will develop and deliver a framework to its partners who can then leverage that framework and build their own solutions. Having this overarching framework will also ensure a longer life for the system.

Partners are a combination of service providers, system architects, and software developers. Michele Isernia, global alliances manager for Microsoft’s Worlwide Industries Team, likened the collaboration to tourists visiting the same monument in Barcelona but wishing to capture the experience in different ways – perhaps one with a camera, one with a video camera, and one who plans to write a blog. “We have the same objective, but we bring different skills,” Isernia said. “We’re not forcing something to happen. A number of us have gotten almost to this point on our own. Now it’s time to leverage our skills to better expedite the solution.”

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