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Microsoft gets serious about oil and gas

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Microsoft has launched a new Middle East and Africa centre of excellence for oil and gas in Dubai to assist customers in driving digital transformation, cost cutting and optimisation of their operations across the region and the world.
It is the largest such centre for Microsoft globally.
The centre will help companies in the sector take advantage of the latest trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, modern productivity and cloud computing using Microsoft technologies like Microsoft Azure and Office 365.
The centre also brings together leading industry players like Accenture, Aveva, Baker Hughes, Honeywell, OSIsoft, Schneider Electric and Schlumberger.
Despite oil price challenges, the industry is seeing increasing IT spend as a way to maintain profitability and boost productivity.
According to the 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey by Accenture and Microsoft, 80% of upstream oil and gas companies plan to increase spending on digital technologies in order to help them drive leaner, smarter organisations.
The International Data Corporation (IDC), predicts that IT spending in oil and gas will increase to nearly $50-billion in 2016, while spending on connectivity related technologies should increase by 30%.
“Digital transformation is top of mind for executives in the oil and gas industry, which is why we built the centre of excellence in the Middle East,” says Omar Saleh, director for oil and gas at Microsoft, Middle East and Africa. “For the industry to transform, companies need to develop sound digital strategies, built on secure and agile platforms, either on a company’s premises or in the cloud.
“Continuous dialogue with our customers and partners is essential for enabling innovation and moving the industry forward. This is what the centre of excellence is built for.”
With 44% of respondents in the 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey reporting that investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) is their next big priority, it’s clear that in the current challenging environment the industry is focusing technologies on areas that will deliver efficiencies and savings in the short term while enabling faster decision making.
Respondents also saw the greatest impact from IoT in enabling connected field workers, with 60% planning to have field workers and assets digitally connected with smart devices.
According to Massimo Pagella, resources lead for Accenture Middle East and North Africa: “Oil and gas industry leaders continue to look to digital technologies as a way to address some of the key challenges the industry faces. They are expected to continue investing in areas that help lower operations costs, infrastructure costs and drive better asset management through analytics.
“However, looking into the future, these companies are starting to realise that traditional cost cutting levers will not be enough to sustain future growth. Accenture’s unique alliance with Microsoft will help give this sector an opportunity not only to cut costs but also redesign businesses to thrive in volatile market conditions.”
As with all industries in the modern marketplace, oil and gas needs to ensure that any progress made in technology is done so in a safe, trusted, and secure way.
According to a report titled The Global State of Information Security Survey 2015, there were nearly 6 000 detected security incidents against the sector in 2014. Other research done by Symantec found that more than two-thirds of organisations in the Middle East struggle to protect themselves from sophisticated cyber-attacks, and close to 70% of the region’s IT experts lack confidence in their company’s cybersecurity measures.
Microsoft’s experience in cyber security, including its own Digital Crimes Unit, brings industry-leading experts and technology together to protect against modern threats. Security will be at the core of conversations taking place at the new centre of excellence for the oil and gas industry.
Solutions for the industry from Microsoft and its partners are based on the world’s most cost-effective, functionally-rich technology platforms. For example, Microsoft’s Azure Internet of Things (IoT) Suite captures and analyses disparate data and connects devices to improve business results.
“The relationship between Schlumberger and Microsoft delivers industry-leading technologies to the oil and gas market,” says Trygve Randen, vice-president: Middle East and Asia of Schlumberger Integrated Solutions.
“We are delivering cloud services that enable geoscientists and reservoir engineers to run simulations using the Intersect high-resolution reservoir simulator on Microsoft Azure, without having to worry about sizing, deploying, and maintaining the required infrastructure. This is definitely a step change, and we are already extending Microsoft cloud services to other products such as the Olga dynamic multiphase flow simulator.”
“Since Honeywell’s introduction of the modern distributed control system in 1974, we have helped manufacturing sites around the world manage and use an increasing amount of data to solve productivity and safety challenges,” adds Bruce Calder, Honeywell Process Solutions’ chief technology officer.
“Now, adding our deep expertise in industrial IoT, we are better able to solve customer challenges by analysing consolidated data from disparate systems and engaging experts from anywhere in the world. Combining Microsoft Azure, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service services with our recognised expertise, we can help operators improve productivity and uptime, as well as more efficient remote operations. Operators can often see a return on investment in as little as six months,” he says.