David Petherick, Head of Marketing, talks with Peter Westwood, Technical Director at EnergySys, about the latest release of our cloud-based oil and gas software application suite.
David: You’re announcing a new release of the energysys.com software today, Peter. What are the main changes?
Peter: This release, “Hallmark”, takes inspiration from the following reference:
A hallmark, traditionally applied by “guardians of the craft”, identifies the purity of the raw materials used to construct any artefact. There is a certainty in this mark, guaranteeing a raw material that can be relied upon to conform to known characteristics. Without this certainty the quality of any production item is at best haphazard. CH Fulton, 1910.
A new release of energysys.com represents our raw material, and we need to guarantee a certainty of product quality. As a result, much of the work in Hallmark is designed to guarantee the performance, resilience and availability of the service.
Our main changes relate to the removal of single points of failure, coupled with increased capacity and power. To me, one of the main benefits of cloud computing is that the details of these changes need not be left to the business to deal with. That is what we are here for; we make the software and hardware improvements, while users can continue to focus on their own business processes.
DP: So, does that mean that the existing service was deficient in some way?
PW: No. The existing service was and is highly resilient to disaster. Key to the service is our management of all the data entrusted to the service. This is the part where the two releases are unchanged. We still hold all data in an off-line secure repository for one year. Since we first offered energysys.com, more than three years ago, we have not suffered any failure significant enough to bring our Disaster Recovery (DR) site on-line, but it was there, if we had needed it.
That said, we have tested the process a number of times. It is fair to say that the full recovery would have required some time. A really large scale disaster, such as the loss of the primary data centre, might have caused an outage of up to twenty-four hours. Hallmark addresses this risk by having two entirely separate copies of the infrastructure in two separate geographic locations. We copy all the data from one centre to the other, and so have a ‘warm standby’ service. There is no need to recover the DR system, we can just switch between the two in minutes instead of hours.
We also took this opportunity to upgrade all the service hardware throughout both data centres. This change meant that we were able to re-architect and eliminate certain risks relating to key hardware failures, providing more hardware resilience. So, in addition to making the switchover faster, we simultaneously make it less likely.
DP: Does that mean the cost of all this will be somehow passed to customers?
PW: No. All subscription rates remain the same. We are continuing to invest in the product, in line with our development budgets, and this provides enhancements from which everyone benefits. As the user community grows, this cost sharing increases and, while we will always need to balance our investment plans, it is our hope to see the subscription prices reduced as time goes by.
DP: So, what are the major differences I’ll notice as an end user?
PW: The appearance of the application has been updated to include more data in a smaller screen area, and we’ve refreshed the visual appearance. The service exposes the same interfaces and functionality as before. That said, we also addressed many defects and issues raised by our user community. Also, we have updated and tested for the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers.
DP: Will I need to change any of my login details?
PW: Yes. Part of the new security measures will change the way you login, and establish a new password for future use. Full details of these changes will be sent out before Hallmark is live. The main visible impact will be that, in common with many on-line services, you will use your email address as your login.
DP: Do I need to upgrade my system or take any action to perform the upgrade?
PW: No. It’s one of the great benefits of delivering our service via the Cloud. The service will continue to work in exactly the same way, via the browser, from wherever you need to gain access. Once you login, all your applications, process, data and reports will all be unchanged. It’s from energsys.com, which means no downloads, no patches, upgrades or reinstalls, and no interruption to your business productivity.
DP: Will the system operate differently?
PW: No. From an end-user viewpoint, the service will operate in a very similar fashion to now. And, of course, our customers will continue to enjoy the same high quality contextual help within the software, and benefit from our normal support mechanisms.
DP: So, how will these changes benefit me?
PW: As I said previously, in Hallmark, we are introducing higher levels of security and reliability of service, and working to ensure that users will not be exposed to risks around server hacking, hardware failure, and so on. And if something terrible does happen, we can get the DR centre in service in a matter of minutes.
DP: Have you changed the infrastructure behind energysys.com in any way?
PW: Yes indeed. Hallmark is built on a significant upgrade of our hardware and software infrastructure. The new systems make everything faster, as well as removing any single point of failure. It also allows us to manage the ongoing development of the service a lot more smoothly, which means we can add power when and where it is needed. All this adds up to a significant increase in the flexibility and business resilience of the service.
DP: Will it work faster than before?
PW: Yes. Although, given that the existing service is fast, this might not be readily apparent to an individual user! We have also made a few changes designed to reduce our network traffic, so we are looking forward to feedback from our users in more remote locations. One example of this will be the ability to specify that you want to add a number of rows to a form, and not just one, making the screens feel more responsive. There are other changes to the protocols we use to help with this kind of communication too.
DP: Have you added any new features to the product?
PW: Very few. Many of the features in Hallmark are behind the scenes. They also allow us to include the usability enhancements that we expect in our next major release, Smoothy, which will be the next release. But that is story for a different day.
DP: Do I need to change or amend any file formats I currently use?
PW: No. All your existing work will move to the new service and you can continue to use it as before.
DP: Are there any changes to the reporting components?
PW: Not a great deal in this release. We have fixed a few things and, of course, the same levels of security and resilience will apply to the new report service too.
DP: Finally, Peter, when will the changes come into effect, and will there be any downtime?
PW:The Hallmark release is planned for later this quarter. There will be a small amount of downtime, but this will be organised during a weekend to minimise any impact.
DP: Thank you for your time today, Peter, and I look forward to seeing Hallmark!