I had the good fortune to recently participate in a Cisco sponsored summit with some of our most important oil & gas industry customers and partners. The primary goal of this summit was to bring together key customers with Cisco experts and our partners to have an open discussion about technology topics relevant to the industry.
It was obvious from the discussions that the convergence of technological issues from the enterprise side and operations on the process control side was top of mind. Historically, the information technology (IT) concerns of the enterprise and the operational technology (OT) activities of the process control departments within the oil & gas industry could function fairly independently. Operations kept the upstream, midstream and downstream functions running smoothly, and IT managed business applications from the front office and control centers. However, the oil & gas industry is changing.
Although the fundamental business of finding, extracting, moving, refining and selling remains the same, there is a definitive digital transformation underway as new technology is making operations safer, more productive and efficient. To reap the benefits of this ongoing transformation, organizations must not only adjust the underlying technology but also adapt the operational processes to accommodate the change.
This IT/OT convergence is a theme that has gained momentum for several years and depending on who you listen to, you may hear that in fact the IT/OT convergence in oil & gas has already happen. In reality what I heard during the summit, and what we are finding as we work with our oil & gas customers and partners, is that this convergence was not a static event but is an evolving process which is still in the early stages of development with a long way to go before both the IT and OT worlds consider it complete.
During the discussion, several technology themes emerged as areas of significant focus including wireless communications, new ways to collaborate, use of the cloud and security efforts. The following summarizes some of the most relevant observations on these topics.
There is more to wireless than just Wi-Fi and LTE and unfortunately, there is no wireless silver bullet. Different wireless technologies are needed for the multiple use cases such as asset visibility, field services and remote equipment tracking.
As the industry seeks ways to refine their operating models they are evaluating and piloting no-cloud, all-cloud and hybrid cloud type solutions. There are already several solutions using the cloud as the back-end however the push to cloud is not just about cost, it’s about capability and function. Balancing the opportunity to move to a cloud environment are the ever-present concerns over security and data access/availability/ownership.
The need for collaboration tools which can drive more efficient operations continues to increase. Applications and tools which digitize forms and workflows and focus on ePTW are beneficial. As experienced workers continue to age out of the workforce, collaboration technology maximizes the transfer of institutional knowledge to younger workers.
While cyber security is in some ways just another risk to be managed, it is an ever-present concern and growing in importance. Better cyber security training is required on the process control side of the business and it is probable that there will need to be more regulatory control around security in the future.
For me the summit emphasized the importance of the ongoing IT/OT convergence in the oil & gas industry. As individuals from both the IT and OT worlds work more closely together, they’re unlocking new opportunities. Although they may have different approaches, backgrounds, and key performance indicators (KPIs), both are heavily invested in achieving digital transformation for their organizations.
At Cisco, we’re helping unite IT and operations for digital oil & gas initiatives that save money, enhance profitability, amplify security, and improve operational efficiency. Ready to take the next step? Learn more about Cisco solutions at www.cisco.com/go/oilandgas