Australian oil and gas firm Santos has begun migrating core technical applications away from a consolidated environment in an effort to improve front-end performance and minimise downtime.
The company had previously worked from a single, Adelaide-based server farm made up largely of Sun SPARC M5000 clusters that served applications to Santos staff.
In an bid to reduce the time take to spatially map and allocate production at drilling and exploration operations, Santos' surface and sub-surface IT systems were moved to a separate infrastructure.
The majority of surface applications would be migrated to Exadata in the next week, including Santos' engineering and project management, chemical monitoring database and SCADA systems.
Santos bought two quarter-rack Oracle Exadata clusters to host the applications, one to act as a geographically diverse disaster recovery site.
The company reported application performance improvements up to 62 times faster than previously possible on the M5000 clusters.
"We had a specific challenge which we knew was going to get more intense with regard to production allocation," Santos' manager of surface information systems Steve Benn said.
"We needed to come up with a new system, a new solution in a reasonable time in the context of the challenge."
Core drilling operations for the Cooper Basin Area project encompassed more than 1200 oil and gas wells, 300 major processing centres and 5600 kilometres of pipeline.
Liquefied natural gas drilling projects also had the potential to significantly increase Santos' size by 2014.
The Exadata rack was expected to underpin several projects planned for coming years that Benn labelled as "huge" for oil and gas companies.
However, the company had remained with a quarter-rack Exadata deployment for the time being.
The Exadata configuration was chosen after side-by-side tests with the current configuration and another, unnamed alternate provider.
Despite attempts by Benn's team to provide a fair game for the alternate provider in multiple proofs of concept, the Exadata remained "miles ahead" in performance.
"[Oracle founder] Larry Ellison was quoting things [at OpenWorld] that were 10 to 15 times quicker and then apologising for the applications that were only two or three times quicker," Benn said. "I'll take two or three times any day, the additional stuff is the gravy.
"If the technology can see better ways of running certain snippets of code in the SQL queries, the challenge should go back to the application vendors - why aren't your guys writing the code to be as 'performant' without this kit so we can get the incremental performance of this kit as well, again?"
Reaching for the holy grail
The quarter-rack Exadata hardware was configured for redundancy with identical kit in Santos' other data centre, also in Adelaide.
The two sites were continually maintained for the same data integrity with a patch-and-release deployment of technical bundles and information.
"It's a lot quicker than the very convoluted, very complex combined environment we had previously," he said.
"We're driving towards the holy grail of no downtime at all.
"Even though Santos is very much an Asian and Australia-centric company a lot of the work we're doing at the moment is truly global... it's all very well scheduling downtime for Sunday morning Adelaide, it still has a significant impact on the rest of the business elsewhere."
James Hutchinson travelled to OpenWorld 2011 as a guest of Oracle.