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Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Firewalls

Selina Sandoval

Cloud, cloud, cloud – it seems all prognostications we’ve heard for a while now are that IT and data are marching towards to the cloud without delay. And the arguments are largely sound – reduced overhead and infrastructure costs, instantly available capacity on demand, economical access to software and data services, and so on. But looking at it from an Oil and Gas perspective, one does need to maintain a modicum of skepticism and concern over data security – particularly sensitive proprietary data.

We’ve attended a couple of events over the last month that have us thinking about the cloud. The annual Esri Partner Conference is always an excellent barometer of where the GIS industry in general (and Esri in particular, of course) is headed, and this year two messages really resonated for us. The first is the continuing evolution of ArcGIS Online – it’s very clear that this online platform is a core future direction for Esri. And the second item – and this one is downright exciting for Oil and Gas users – is the addition of a global imagery dataset. The quality looks good – and if they keep it fresh, this could really change how we access that sort of data. If it’s a simple matter of plugging in to ArcGIS Online, overlaying one’s own datasets, and being ready to go, what a difference in workflows that could make!

The question of the cloud, though, is trickier when it comes to your own data. We were proud to be co-sponsors of a breakfast meeting recently in Houston, where Bryan Ferguson, GIS Data Manager at BP Biofuels presented lessons learned as they rolled out a cloud-based GIS solution in their department. The upsides were clear – deployment time was a fraction of typical GIS project, and the costs were too. Looking forward, the system is absolutely scalable. The financial argument is compelling – as is the ease of responding to users’ needs.

But what of security? Well, if we take a good hard look at how much of our data truly is sensitive, it’s pretty likely that it’s nowhere near all of it. To go with that, the “cloud” doesn’t have to mean the public cloud – it’s quite possible to have your own cloud, guarded by your own firewall, where that sensitive, proprietary data can live. You don’t need to have your most valuable information cohabiting with someone else’s data on a piece of Amazon hardware in an unknown location to gain the benefits of the technology itself.

We’re looking at the technology too here at WhiteStar, and will be rolling out some cloudy news in the near future ourselves. Stay tuned!

Upcoming Events

LandWorks User Conference 2013, April 15th - 18th in Nashville - Robert will be speaking Tuesday, April 16th on strategically updating your grid.

Esri Petroleum GIS Conference - May 7th - 9th, 2013, in Houston. Stop by booth #602!

WhiteStar Symposium - June 11th, 2013, at the Houston Museum of Nature and Science. Check for details coming soon!

 Esri International User Conference - July 8th - 12th, 2013, in San Diego.
PUG Social Sponsor - Tuesday, July 9th, 6:00 - 9:00 pm