Feeds

GPUs slick up with oil sleuths

Mind-boggling data streams

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

I stopped by the Oil & Gas track at the 2010 GPU Tech conference this morning and learned quite a bit about the key drivers on the exploration side of the industry. I already knew the key drivers on the distribution side of the business - potato chips, watery fountain drinks and herbal energy pills - but that was presumably covered in a different break-out session. In this session, the speaker, from the exploration arm of oil giant Schlumberger, did a great job of laying out the big picture and relating it to their computing challenges.

It breaks down like this: we're hungry for oil and they need to find more of it. The costs of finding and extracting black gold have escalated as the easy stuff laying around the surface has already been found. While there is lots of oil out there, it's either still hiding or is buried beneath deep oceans or under piles of rocks. Finding it and pulling it out is where computers come in handy.

I've heard the term seismic processing for years and understand the concept - it's where you send waves into rocks and see how long it takes them to bounce off the rocks and hit receivers located somewhere else. Do this enough and you'll build up a good picture of what's located in the various strata underneath the surface. The more waves you send at a higher frequency, the better the picture. But this tends to send the amount of data you end up processing through the roof.

For example, the average ship running seismic gear has between 20,000 and 25,000 sensors on board, and you typically use several ships in concert to survey an area. This will yield anywhere from 50 to 200TB of data per run and take five to seven days of solid processing on a large number of systems to get results. If you ramp up the resolution, it can take 15,000-20,000 compute nodes running days or weeks to complete the job.

The competitive advantage for the surveying company comes from delivering high-quality results quicker than the next guy. Computing power is critical in winning that race. These oil and gas guys are brand agnostic to the extreme - they buy what yields the best price/performance (with an emphasis on performance) at any given time. Sometimes that means Intel, sometimes it means AMD - but right now, it means GPUs. Lots of GPUs, in fact.

Between June and October 2009, they almost doubled their overall capacity by adding GPU compute capacity and since then have doubled it again. They've seen about a six-fold reduction in overall cost and a five-fold increase in performance on their algorithms. According to the speaker, they didn't have much problem porting their code or performance tuning it to run under CUDA. Their analytical tools are a fairly limited set and all are embarrassingly parallel, making them a near perfect fit for the GPU computing model.

Getting such a non-qualified endorsement for GPU computing isn't surprising at the GPU Technology Conference, right? But it's a more compelling story when it comes from real world practitioners, rather than marketing slide monkeys or coin-operated sales people. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
Nimble's latest mutants GORGE themselves on unlucky forerunners
Crossing Sandy Bridges without stopping for breath
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.