Woodside Energy has leveraged the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to massively accelerate key computations, presaging a new generation of cloud-computing applications that will benefit as Amazon Web Services (AWS) prepares to launch a new Melbourne data centre by 2022.

Having worked as a strategic partner with AWS since 2014, Woodside took the cloud-computing provider’s architecture to new levels last month when it successfully harnessed more than 1 million virtual CPUs (vCPUs) to complete a complex full waveform inversion analysis 160 times faster than was previously possible using supercomputers.

Full waveform inversion analysis – part of a larger process called seismic inversion, which can take 12 months to complete as energy companies map underground reservoirs based on the underground reflection of sound waves – normally takes 10 days to complete using a supercomputer.

By scaling its algorithms across some 1.1m virtual AWS vCPUs, the Woodside team was last month able to complete the same analysis – across , square kilometres’ worth of data – in just 90 minutes.

The achievement “was an exciting milestone, not just for the technical achievement, but because it tackled one of the industry’s biggest problems,” Shaun Gregory, Woodside’s executive vice president for sustainability and chief technology officer, explained in joining AWS to announce the new Melbourne regional presence.

“This is the power of partnership, driving innovation to world-scale problems,” he said.

The race to the cloud

Woodside was one of several customers joining AWS to announce its investment in the new Melbourne AWS Asia Pacific (Melbourne) region, which in late 2022 will join the company’s existing Sydney region to provide even more scalability for local businesses.

The expansion will create an estimated 90 new jobs in Melbourne, including data centre operators and technical engineers.

AWS regions contain multiple ‘availability zones’ – groups of logical data centres that each have their own power, cooling and physical security – that improve fault tolerance by spreading applications across multiple discrete architectures.

“Customers focused on high availability can design their applications to run in multiple availability zones to achieve even greater fault tolerance,” said Simon Elisha, AWS ANZ director of technology and transformation.

Having more availability zones within Australia would support data-sovereignty objectives, he said, enabling “data storage and additional backup entirely within Australia and across multiple cities”.

AWS currently has 25 availability zones spread across eight Asia Pacific regions, and the new Melbourne investment will add three more to the total.

Cloud over Melbourne

The new facilities are the latest volley in the ongoing war between cloud giants AWS, Microsoft – which launched Melbourne capabilities in 2014 – and Google, which announced a Melbourne regional centre in March with the support of strategic customers like the ANZ and NAB.

Amazon, which has over 3,000 local employees and has expanded to more than $3b in annual revenues since its first technical engineer clocked on in 2011, has been engaging with technical and educational partners and last year clinched a massive whole-of-government deal with the federal government.

Its presence has supported partnerships with customers like Swinburne University of Technology, which joined AWS to launch its Data for Social Good Cloud Innovation Centre in 2019 and has subsequently led to innovations like its Beat COVID-19 Now symptom tracker.

The new Melbourne region will give students “greater access to new tools and technologies than ever before”, Swinburne deputy vice chancellor (research and enterprise) Bronwyn Fox explained, noting that the university’s Innovation Precinct had earlier this year transitioned to run completely in AWS.

“We’ve seen some incredible startups being supported through this program,” she said, “and there are going to be so many new opportunities for growth and further development of the technology and innovation-led economic growth and digital transformation of our region.”

Tim Pallas, Victoria’s Minister for Economic Development, welcomed the AWS announcement as a win for Melbourne that “will draw on our high-skilled people and renowned capabilities in growing employment fields such as cloud computing.”