Nov/Dec 2014

Early in my construction career, I was approached by a Pennsylvania oil exploration and development company to develop oil and gas well sites and construct lease roads. Many of these new sites required passing through existing leases, some of which had been in operation for more than 100 years.

These old operating oilfields were a fascinating place. Unlike today’s oilfields, which are equipped with electric pumpjacks, these had an amazing network of mechanical jacks that were connected through a network of “rod-lines” that ran from the pumpjacks back through a device called an “eccentric” that could operate up to 18 rodlines. The eccentric was powered by a single cylinder engine that ran on a Dixie cup of gasoline or casing-head gas from a nearby well.

Once put in operation, these engines operated dozens of wells on a lease, and the man who operated the engines (“pumper”) would put a notched soda or beer can on the engine exhaust pipe. In this way, an experienced pumper could run several engines across a valley, listen, and could tell when a wellfield had been pumped off and needed to be shut down for the day. In one respect, this was the pumper’s audible control point.

Today, our jobsites are similar; there is a normal cadence in the machinery that we use; and when the cadence changes, it’s telling us something needs attention.

Despite the noise abatement technologies that have been implemented throughout the past decades, our jobsites have a constant hum of equipment. The experienced operator, crew chief, and foreman know the cadence of the noises associated with each piece of engine or piece of equipment and can tell when something has changed and needs attention.

Our jobsite today is more dependent upon computing, communication, and networking technology than ever before; and there is also a cadence to each of these. The flow of information to and from (as well as on) the jobsite to multiple stakeholders has never been more important. Long before smartphones and tablets came on the scene, information flow was important, but now it is essential. Client/server software is being replaced by cloud computing; but with the movement to the cloud, there are new control points, which management needs to recognize.

As our need for more information and more timely information continues, management has really only two viable choices: 1) buy more servers and computing and communications resources (equipment, software, and people), or 2) move to the cloud.

The cloud is where the industry is headed and for good reasons: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, location independence, rapid elasticity, and measured service.

But, you also need to be looking at external and internal hosting services that comply with SSAE 16 (secure computing) standards and facilities, and offer the levels of data protection consistent with that of a mainstream financial institution.

The health of your computing environment in a cloud environment means you and your cloud service provider need to be paying attention to the tasks of IP reputation filtering, vulnerability management, intrusion detection, network security (network firewalls, Web application firewalls), hardened operating systems, and managed anti-virus programs.

Additionally, your ears need to be attuned to issues like data loss prevention and encryption, log capturing and correlation, and security event management and security access controls. You need to be monitoring server resources, network speed, storage capacity, health of Internet links, and server and network load balancing.

It’s a lot of new stuff to listen to, but those that learn how to listen to these cadences will become masters of this latest enabling technology.

Jim Kissane is a retired construction industry veteran, having served the design/construction industry for more than three decades. He can be reached at

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