Desire Petroleum plc is a UK based company listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), dedicated to exploring for oil and gas in the Falkland Islands.
The company was formed in 1996 to participate in the first Falklands licensing round where there is potential for multi-billion barrel recoverable oil and gas reserves. Focused specifically on the North Falkland basin, Desire has been conducting a major drilling programme to exploit the area’s potentially significant hydrocarbon reserves.
- Cloud-based service perfect for early stages of the Desire business.
- Peace of mind that systems are being managed by experts in the oil and gas industry.
- Turn-key solution enables Desire to focus on their business not their IT.
- Simple, flexible and scalable solution that will grow with their business.
- Straightforward cost-per-user pricing.
- Removes necessity for ownership of IT assets and day-to-day responsibility for IT function.
- HP Proliant G7 servers
- VMware 5 server virtualisation Citrix XenApp application virtualisation
- Citrix XenDesktop desktop virtualisation
- RIM Blackberry Enterprise Server
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008
- Microsoft Exchange 2007
- Cisco Catalyst switching
- Check Point firewalls
- RSA SecurID two-factor authentication
Like any industry, oil and gas has its own quirks and we were really attracted by ISN’s track record in the sector. They have a good reputation, and extensive experience working with some well respected names in our business, and in delivering much more complex systems than we were looking at. This gave us confidence that we were in safe hands.Eddie Wisniewski, Finance Director Desire Petroleum plc
Spread far and wide
The Desire business model is based on a lean operation of only eight core staff members, largely consisting of a director level management team and a small administration function.
Eddie Wisniewski, Finance Director at Desire explains: “the team is geographically dispersed with users in Malvern, Birmingham, London and Aberdeen in the UK, but also further afield in South Africa, plus travel to the Falklands is commonplace. All other functions are brought in as needed or outsourced accordingly. Importantly none of the management team’s core expertise was running IT systems.”
The disparate nature of the users had meant that, to some extent, some users were responsible for managing and maintaining their own IT requirements, and for securing and protecting their business data. The exception to this was in London and Malvern where, due to permanent office locations, basic systems were in place including small office servers for file and print.A low-cost service contract with a third party was in place for regular data backup.
Derek Munro, Director at ISN Solutions comments “the evolution of the infrastructure in this way meant it was susceptible to points of failure and risk. It was an unstable platform for critical data and services – everything from users downloading email via POP3 to their personal device to error-prone user maintained backup – nothing was standard and would not be workable as the business grew”.
Likewise, IT being organised in this way did nothing for collaboration across the team, especially when sizeable content needed to be shared. Staff would often need to send lots of emails to one another to maintain version control.
Ringing the changes
Desire wanted to break away from the fragmented set up after an unsuccessful attempt, with their existing support provider, to centralise data and improve back-ups, which resulted in a system outage whilst trying to link up the Malvern and London offices.
They knew they needed to look at alternative partners to get some professional support and advice on technology that would be up to the job.
Eddie Wisniewski continues “whilst we always want good value, cost was not the overriding factor. The incremental cost of getting a reasonable system in place to meet our needs would be massively outweighed by the issues and problems caused by not doing things properly. The primary concern was always getting someone in who was professional and would provide the service we needed.”
We were impressed by the proposal – it ticked all the right boxes, and costs became very transparent. It didn’t take long for Desire to make the decision and give the project the green light.Eddie Wisniewski
Through a mutual connection ISN were recommended to Desire as experts in the field of Citrix technology, which Desire had been advised might be an answer to some of the challenges they faced.
Cloud ticks all the boxes
Critically for Desire they needed to store data centrally so users, regardless of location, could access and share it. This alone would greatly enhance collaboration across the business. Similarly they wanted to ensure their systems and data would be wrapped with a consistent level of security and resilience.
Despite the previous aborted project, Desire had realised that one of the biggest limitations they faced was latency issues because of slow broadband connections, especially at the Malvern office. Speeds of circa 512 Kbps meant moving data and content of any size was slow going and made systems sluggish.
The same challenges existed when members of the team travelled to the Falkland Islands where fast, reliable connectivity is not always available. Whilst the technical challenges that Desire faced were clear, ISN took time to understand the business objectives for IT in line with the company’s growth potential. The lack of in-house IT capability, the familiarity with using specialist outsourced expertise, plus an aspiration to avoid all out ownership of their systems, meant Desire would be well-suited to an on-going managed service.
Following this review and an audit of the individual offices and user machines, ISN put forward a proposal to use a cloud-based service delivered from the ISN datacentre. The solution addressed the major challenges Desire faced:
Using VMware and Citrix solutions, data and applications would be delivered from a central infrastructure in ISN’s datacentre. Citrix XenDesktop is very economical of bandwidth, meaning that users would be able to access everything they require from anywhere in the world without the need for superfast connectivity.
Two-factor authentication using RSA SecurID tokens would ensure secure encrypted communications between user devices and the datacentre. Similarly the management control offered by Citrix would allow user privileges to be assigned, based on need. All anti-virus, content and spam filtering would also be delivered in a consistent manner through the cloud.
Resilience and Availability
Host infrastructure would be backed up to disk and then to tape providing the guarantees Desire needed in the event of an outage, whilst offline access to applications and email would also be provided.
Desire had also experienced some challenges around the synchronisation of data and email using mobile devices, so a Blackberry Enterprise Server was proposed as part of the solution to ensure that mobile users always had an accurate ‘version of the truth’ with respect to email and calendaring.
Rapid response to support issues would be provided by a fully manned UK service desk that included out-of-hours service.
Commercially, the service would be based on a cost per user fee which could be scaled up or down as needed, offering Desire a reassuring level of flexibility.
ISN sized the environment and provisioned what would be needed in their datacentre. In tandem the small amount of IT infrastructure that Desire had in both Malvern and London was either retired or re-purposed for local print duties and IP address allocation. Connectivity would be essential in a new cloud-based environment so some work was also undertaken in Malvern to tidy up frailties in client side connectivity to be certain links would be as reliable as possible.
Once the new system was built inside the ISN datacentre, all essential data needed to be centralised. For the office locations this was reasonably straight forward as users could be reached easily, but for staff and management further afield, USB hard drives were sent out and remote backups to these devices were completed. Following the extraction, the hard drives were returned to ISN to upload data into the new environment.
Whilst we have a lean operation day-to-day, the nature of what we do and the success of drilling campaigns can lead to large spikes in staff and therefore users. When this happens we don’t want to deploy a new solution to cater for this change in circumstances.Eddie Wisniewski
Flexibility, scalability and security as standard
The new service went live as planned in February 2011 and a hitch-free switch in systems occurred ahead of the forthcoming drilling campaign.Now new users can be added easily, wrapped with consistent levels of security and resilience as standard.
Speaking of the new system Eddie Wisniewski explains: “Having this kind of growth potential built in to the new service is perfect for our business. Whilst we have a lean operation day-to-day, the nature of what we do and the success of drilling campaigns can lead to large spikes in staff and therefore users. When this happens we don’t want to deploy a new solution to cater for this change in circumstances.”
The flexibility and control offered by the service also means that user privileges and access can be centrally maintained and tailored to the needs of each individual user – ideal for when contract staff need to be utilised. Eddie Wisniewski remarks “having critical data stored centrally, with the knowledge that everything is secure and being backed up, takes away the previous worries. Whilst it seems obvious now, simply being able to work from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection is a massive step forward.”
Transformation breeds confidence
Ultimately the service has transformed the way Desire work. Time saved is immeasurable and has made staff and management significantly more efficient in everything they do.
In particular Eddie Wisniewski highlights how much faster they now produce management and financial information, essential to running the business, which they can do by delegating systems access to outside parties – something which would have involved considerable manual intervention previously.
The first thing to say is how pleased we are with the outcome, having a fully functioning solution in less than three months was outstanding. It has given us the confidence to grow, when the time comes, and to add new applications that make doing business easier as we need them. ISN have been extremely professional and responsive at all times, and have shown a level of care that has really impressed us.Eddie Wisniewski
Download this Case Study and read in more detail how ISN has helped Desire Petroleum.