Remote management takes flight at oil explorer

KVM reduces IT support burden

Oil and gas exploration company AGR Asia Pacific has drastically cut down its server administration overhead by deploying KVM appliances at its remote locations, including offshore rigs.

Formerly Upstream Petroleum before it was acquired by AGR of Norway, the company has a number of facilities offshore crewed by non-IT people leading to a high number of expensive site visits by technical staff, including by helicopter.

AGR's IT manager, Ivan Prescott, told Computerworld he wanted to access servers and networking equipment remotely and securely and be able to reboot those machines should they ever freeze or require maintenance.

"The KVM solution is hardware but not software so we now have an independent network attached to the Microsoft network," Prescott said. "I can remotely control all devices, reboot them, and manage them from a central location without sending people offshore. A helicopter to Bass Straight is a very expensive task."

Since the devices can be accessed directly over the Internet the only time there are problems is if the Internet connection fails.

"Then all we have to do is get a person on-site to reboot a single device," Prescott said. "From a security perspective it is a much more elegant solution."

AGR chose Raritan's KVM devices which Prescott said are a "traditionally very good" offering.

"It was then they introduced me to the remote management solution and that sold me immediately," he said. "I now have a second path to be able to manage servers remotely and out of band. It also does monitoring of the health of the systems and full statistics down to service level. From a central console in Melbourne I can see and analyze everything."

AGR has five devices in Melbourne and each one of its locations in every state and on all offshore facilities.

As the company's first IT manager, Prescott proudly "paid myself off within a year" as the ROI for the project was about six months since going live in August last year.

"When I received the first box I had it operational within an hour so there was no steep learning curve," he said. "A lot of our networks are running over satellite and Raritan has a small footprint on expensive satellite networks. By not having an agent we only need to access devices when we need to."

AGR's general infrastructure consists of HP servers and switching gear, Juniper firewalls, and offshore rigs that have data centres "out there".

With all its SCADA facilities running over IP, the offshore staff now need more IT support.

For software the company is a "full Microsoft shop" with SQL Server Wonderware on Windows running SCADA.

"It's been a good project to take this forward and it is good knowing we have a handle on safety requirements on offshore datacenters," Prescott said.

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