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WesternGeco, the world's largest seismic services company, made the investment to boost its oil reservoir imaging and data collection services.
The company provides oil companies with 3-D images from seismic data but needs enormous computing power to process the images.
In the past WesternGeco used a worldwide network of mainframes but it has been trialling clusters of smaller IBM servers which, it said, provided exceptional price/performance and industrial-strength robustness.
"The complex algorithms we use to convert images into useable data are incredibly processor-intensive, so both the high performance and cost effectiveness of the Intel powered IBM servers are very important to us," said Kannan Venkataraman, area manager for Worldwide Computer Systems and Support, WesternGeco.
"We have been running tests for quite a while and it has convinced us of the long-term value of using larger clusters and the Linux operating system."
Venkataraman said the scalable clusters could easily handle changes in processing requirements. "We can boost computing power by simply adding more servers as capacity requirements grow.
"While we haven't abandoned our traditional non-Linux computer systems yet, this is a significant step forward for us in a new direction," he added.