Microsoft Heads IT Architecture Initiative for Chemical Industry

Consortium looks to create common technology framework for chemical and oil refining operations.

Microsoft Corp. embarked on an initiative Sept. 20 to develop a common technology architecture that will address increasing technical complexity in the chemical and oil refining industries.

The program is called the Microsoft Chemical Reference Architecture Initiative, or ChemRA. Microsoft has partnered with six technology service and development providers to create the IT-based framework.

"The main purpose of the Chemical Reference Architecture is to provide our partners and customers a baseline or a uniform way to build applications that provide value for our customers in areas that represent the principles of this architecture, like user experience," says Sam Youness, Microsoft's industry technology strategist for process manufacturing.

Some of the areas the program partners will explore include standards for interoperability between new and legacy systems and enhanced collaboration throughout chemical organizations using communication technologies such as instant messaging and web conferencing, Youness told IndustryWeek during the MESA 2011 North America Conference in Orlando.

The initiative will also look at ways to collect information from different areas of the organization and transform the data into predictive models for decision-making purposes, Youness says.

The initiative is an ongoing effort that includes collaboration by participating companies, independent software vendors, systems integrators and customer in-house developers.

The announcement follows the release of a survey conducted by Aberdeen Group Inc. that shows 94% of chemical and oil refining companies say their IT infrastructure is not flexible in handling change. Eighty-one percent of the 127 oil and chemical industry executives responding also say IT is not supporting or barely supporting geographic expansion in their industries.

"With all the money poured into collaboration processes and systems in the past, it may be something as simple as cloud computing that will finally drive collaboration into all the operational nooks and crannies of chemical companies," said Kevin Prouty, research director for enterprise applications at Aberdeen.

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