Vendors use .NET to drive databases

In the high stakes world of the oil and gas industry, managing corporate data is a demanding and complex process.

Gathering reliable information on oil and gas is only getting harder. Declining global resources, sparser oil fields and an aging workforce are calling for better data management tools. The industry is looking for new ways to collect useful information to cut down on its costs.

Two Calgary-based software vendors say they’ve got the tool to help network managers in the energy sector work more effectively in database management: the Microsoft .NET platform.

Decision Dynamics Technology Ltd. and zed.i solutions Inc. are currently running SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services. Both companies are moving towards the .NET platform that incorporates the SQL Server platform with BizTalk Server 2006 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003.

“One of the reasons why .NET has some attraction [to software vendors] is because Microsoft traditionally does well in mid-size firms. Really, what they’re trying to do is automate as much as possible because they’re skeptical they can replace their workforce,” says Jamie Sharp, vice-president of customer segments research at IDC Canada.

Sharp thinks IT investments are essential parts of the oil and gas sector’s future, especially in automated data management.

Microsoft SQL Server’s product manager says the vendor’s partners are leveraging the .NET platform because it allows for easy migration of applications through its development language.

“The tightly integrated nature of the platform, the fact Visual Studio and SQL were designed to work together — we know half of all databases are used with custom applications,” says Dave McJannet of Microsoft Canada.

One software vendor thinks that the motivation to take on better database management is due to the decline of its biggest resource: people.

“The business intelligence needed to run the manufacturing plant needs to be done with fewer people and less skilled people,” says Rod Heard, vice-president of sales and corporate development at zed.i solutions.

Heard says his company’s corporate acquisitions have made it essential to incorporate a new platform into his company’s software packages.

“Really, our engagement with Microsoft in looking into their products like SQL Server is to enable us to evolve our foundational technologies,” Heard says.

Decision Dynamics is concerned with the company managing its data for clients in order to promote “customer self-service reporting,” says Mark Amelang, the company’s executive vice-president.

“The new SQL server reporting services are huge for us. We had to do it before and now Microsoft can do it and it frees up our time.”

But in an industry that requires a great deal of scalability to meet a company’s data gathering needs, does employing a Windows-only architecture serve the oil and gas sector effectively?

Sharp says you can’t look at the oil and gas industry as one continuous sector. “Companies like Exxon, these are massive multinational firms. They use SAP solutions, IBM solutions. In Canada, the oil and gas industry is primarily at the mid-market level where they serve the oil patches, more specific to their needs.”

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