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Seismic modelling through the cloud

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hue, Calgary Scientific, Lenovo, NVIDIA and Magma have teamed up to combine hardware and software offerings that deliver high-performance interactive, visual energy exploration data from the cloud

Five companies - Hue, Calgary Scientific, Lenovo, NVIDIA and Magma - have developed a solution architecture to enable an oil company's geoscientists to perform graphics and processing-intensive tasks on their desktop computers (or laptops or even tablets), with all of the data storage and real-time processing actually carried out many miles away in a private cloud.

This can include processing raw seismic data, and then interpreting and modelling it, and running simulations.

It is common practice to use visualization to operate a regular workstation remotely on mobile devices, but until recently the quality and performance of the visualization has been limited by the capabilities of these devices.

The initiative from Hue, Calgary Scientific, Magma, NVIDIA and Lenovo solves this problem: providing a user experience tailored to a tablet or browser, which effectively has 70+ teraflops of visualization and compute capacity backing that experience.

So, instead of constraining the geoscientist by providing inadequate tools, the combined solution supports challenging scenarios related to interactivity, scalability and data management and performance.

With the joint solution, a software company could enable geoscientists to access cloud-enabled applications on mobile phones or tablet computers, while they are in the airport or elsewhere, with the performance and quality of a dedicated workstation.

Hue does not offer end user software itself, but develops a software development platform, utilizing NVIDIA's visual computing and parallel processing technologies that enable other companies to rapidly build powerful E&P applications to reveal hidden reserves behind complex geologic structures.

Among Hue's clients are the world's largest oilfield services providers, international oil companies, and leading-edge software companies.

Calgary Scientific has a system to enable people to work on any software system remotely, on any device that has a web browser, and only requiring a web link (which could be sent by e-mail) in order to get started. The software does not 'screenscrape' (scrape a video image from one screen and send it to a remote device), it interacts directly with the software code.

Lenovo and Magma build the high performance computer that runs the software in the remote data centre, with 70 teraflops of computing power (70 trillion floating point calculations per second).

NVIDIA supplies the graphics processing units (GPUs) and the CUDA parallel computing platform, which deliver the high-performance processing environment that enables the seismic data to be processed. Tesla GPUs also process the raw seismic data (in addition to the visualization provided by Quadro/GRID GPUs).

Altogether the five companies provide a joint solution for software companies (or oil and gas companies) to develop new E&P software that does not need any high-performance computers or data stored in the geoscientist's office at all.

The companies assembled the system because they believed that the oil and gas industry needs better technologies to work with large seismic data volumes and manage the underlying data, and a lot of work takes longer than it should do, due to the underperformance of previous-generation computer technology.

If you have a system where geologists are sending requests to a data centre and waiting a day for a response, or sending requests for new seismic which takes a day to receive, it is equivalent to having to do research in a local library which you are only allowed to visit once a day, says Jim Medeiros, strategic business development manager with Magma.

It is well documented that geoscientists often struggle to get the data they need on time, and their bosses often bring the deadlines for finishing work forward. Seismic data volumes are getting bigger and interpretation is getting more complicated. So any system which makes it easier to work on subsurface data, with less data communication required, should be a big help to the industry.

Hue develops unique and tailored software and services to solve the most complex visualization and compute challenges for oil and gas E&P.

Hue has developed HueSpace, the only software development toolkit created exclusively for E&P that combines exceptional data management, advanced compute capabilities, and state-of-the-art visualization into a single, easy-to-use toolkit, unified by a Core Engine.

By working with Hue, oil companies can develop both in-house and commercial solutions that go far beyond what the market and users currently expect.

Michele Isernia, EVP strategy and alliances with Hue, notes that most oil and gas software has a basis which is over 15 years old, and was built to run on a single processor, handling a limited amount of data.

The Hue platform, by contrast, was originally designed to run on massively parallel processing systems, with multiple CPU and GPU processors.

Hue is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with offices in Houston, TX.

Calgary Scientific
Calgary Scientific provides the software visualisation and transmission part of the offering.

Calgary Scientific makes the 'PureWeb' tool which enables remote access to visually intensive software applications. The company has a heritage in the medical / healthcare sector.

If the software (for working with big data volumes) is written in C++, .Net or Java under Windows or Linux, Calgary Scientific's tool is able to transfer the 'visualisation layer' (ie the display) to a remote computer without rewriting any of the code.

One user can invite a second user, or even a whole team, to see what they can see, by emailing them a web browser link. So both users are sharing the same software login license.

No data is stored on the mobile device and no special software is required. The data arrives at the user's computer in HTML5 or Adobe Flash.

'We integrate lightly with the source code, we don't screenscape, and turn it into web services,' says Gary Mendel, VP Global Sales and Business Development with Calgary Scientific.

There is a good demonstration of the software online at

Lenovo + Magma + NVIDIA
The high performance computing part of the offering, running in the computing centre, is provided by Lenovo and Magma.

Lenovo provides the 'ThinkStation D30' workstation, which the company claims is the 'highest performing, most reliable and most user-friendly workstation technology available.' The workstation is powered by an NVIDIA Quadro K6000 graphics card to generate the real-time visualizations of the seismic data.

Together, with Magma's ExpressBox 3600, which contains up to eight NVIDIA Tesla K40 GPU accelerators to process the seismic data, the solution provides the high performance hardware core that Hue's software solution takes maximum advantage of.

Magma's Expressbox 3600 provides the power, cooling and high performance PCIe 3.0 links to keep the GPUs fed with data as needed for near real time analysis. Additionally, Lenovo enabled its BIOS to be able to initialize all eight NVIDIA Tesla K40 GPU accelerators, making it one of the most expandable platforms on the market.

NVIDIA's GRID K2 GPUs and virtualization technology housed at Amazon Web Services are also used to deliver high-performance, high-resolution seismic visualizations in real-time to laptops, tablets and other mobile devices remotely in the field.

The Hue technology is already optimised to work using the Lenovo / Magma / NVIDIA system.

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