Friday, 25 September 2020 10:12

Telstra and Microsoft: partnership extended as Telstra bets its future on Microsoft's ability to deliver

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Source: Screenshot of Telstra announcement graphic from Telstra Exchange blog Source: Screenshot of Telstra announcement graphic from Telstra Exchange blog

With the partnership billed as signalling "new generation digital foundations for Australian businesses", Microsoft will help Telstra set up "one of Australia’s largest digital twins", with emissions reduction initiatives, and the continued driving of digitally transformative operational models.

Betting the farm on Microsoft. While some would say this is a brave move, Microsoft isn't one of the world's largest and most successful technology, software and cloud companies for nothing, and the last few years under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership have undeniably been extremely fruitful - even if a certain fruit themed company has well and truly usurped Microsoft's once dominant position in the personal computing space.

All of that aside, Microsoft and Telstra have already enjoyed a very long-standing strategic partnership, with this new extension to "focus on accelerating the development and release of innovative and sustainable cloud-based solutions across multiple industries driving efficiency, amplifying decision making capability and enhancing customer experiences".

We're told the partnership is "founded on Telstra and Microsoft’s shared understanding that cloud, combined with 5G, will enable intelligent devices to be securely deployed on a much greater scale. Combining Microsoft Azure and Telstra’s network also supports Australian developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) as they develop solutions that leverage AI, low latency and increased resilience".

Both companies say this will "help enterprises build end-to-end digital processes and enable completely new transformative business models that leverage data to accelerate smart decision making, maximise business opportunities and grow revenues".

So, what exactly will Telstra and Microsoft partner on?

Telstra and Microsoft say they will partner to:

  • harness IoT, Edge, AI and digital twin capability to develop important new industry solutions in areas such as asset tracking, supply chain management, telematics and smart spaces;
  • leverage Azure as preferred cloud for Telstra’s ongoing internal digital transformation.
  • explore and pursue technology and data-driven solutions to advance our sustainability and climate commitments and
  • build ground-breaking, nationally important solutions that leverage the Telstra Data Hub.

Then there's the digital twin announcement:

Here we're told that both companies "will partner on digital twins for Telstra customers as well as for Telstra’s own commercial buildings and selected other infrastructure – which when fully deployed will be one of the largest Azure-based digital twins in Australia.

"Telstra’s digital twin will map physical environments in an online virtual setting, to create models that provide at-a-glance understanding of what is happening in the real world, and support improved what-if scenario planning.

"Telstra is working with Microsoft as its preferred cloud provider for ongoing internal digital transformation. Azure will provide the digital foundations for Telstra’s strategic plan to streamline and simplify operations, transitioning from legacy and on-premises applications to modern cloud based solutions."

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said the strategic partnership brought together the best strengths of the two organisations, stating: "We already have a longstanding relationship with Microsoft and have worked together in areas that are market-leading to create unique experiences for our customers.

"Over the past 18 months, we have exclusively launched Xbox All Access for Australian gamers, were the first to launch Telstra Calling for Office 365, the only native Teams voice calling plan in Australia, which we recently expanded to include Microsoft Business Voice for SMB customers; and co-collaborated on Telstra Data Hub to help industries better manage their data securely.

“Today’s announcement with Microsoft formalises the several streams of work we are already collaborating on. The global scale of Microsoft’s platform, tools, and applications, together with Telstra’s network solutions, reliability and leadership, will drive new and unique solutions for Australia,” Penn continued.

“In July, Telstra was certified carbon neutral in our operations. Significantly reducing emissions while the demand for connectivity and new digital technologies is rising rapidly is one of our biggest commitments, as well as one of our biggest challenges. Microsoft and Telstra both have ambitious climate targets and share a commitment to a net zero carbon future.

“The outputs from all workstreams will also help deliver more innovative products for customers across all segments of the market, and will aim to enhance customer experience and engagement, solve business challenges, and drive a new level of technology leadership. This is a great opportunity to drive further digital innovation to strengthen the Australian economy, and to build a sustainable, connected future so everyone can thrive,” Penn concluded.

Penn's post at the Telstra Exchange blog on the topic is in full here

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: "The broad adoption of cloud and 5G technology will create new opportunities for businesses worldwide, including in Australia.

“We’re expanding our partnership with Telstra and bringing together the power of Azure and Telstra’s network to build new solutions in critical areas like asset tracking, supply chain management, and smart spaces, harnessing the latest advances in AI, digital twins, and mixed reality.”

Telstra also included some additional detail on what this all entails, which I'm simply reprinting for those that want to know more:

Focus areas of the extended partnership include, but are not limited to:

Digital twin, IoT and cloud: Telstra has selected Microsoft as a strategic partner in the design and build of a scalable and unified IoT platform leveraging Azure IoT that enables Telstra to simplify operations and significantly reduce time to market. Telstra is partnering with Microsoft to build a digital twin across its own commercial buildings with an initial deployment of five buildings including the flagship site at 242 Exhibition St in Melbourne.

When fully deployed this represents one of the largest Azure-based digital twins in Australia. Once complete, the digital twin will allow Telstra to establish a digital nerve centre that promises enhanced transparency by modernising business processes and the work environment, enhancing digital interaction between personnel and enabling Telstra to improve operational efficiency.

Using its technology services provider, Telstra Purple, Telstra is working with Microsoft to provide an advanced digital twin solution for Downer Group’s asphalt plants. This ‘digital asphalt plant’; promises greater efficiency, reliability, and safety while at the same time increasing operational transparency and control. Through a collaborative design process, Telstra Purple and Downer identified the opportunity to leverage Microsoft Azure AI and edge services and Telstra’s Smart Spaces video analytics, to provide real time worker safety information directly to Azure Digital Twins. These ‘digital safety barriers’ identify and track dangerous activity across the plant. The companies envision the solution will be deployed in 33 asphalt plants across Australia.

Digital Foundation:

Telstra is working with Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud provider for ongoing internal digital transformation. Azure will provide the digital foundations for Telstra’s strategic plan to streamline and simplify operations, transitioning from legacy and on-premise applications to modern cloud-based solutions.

Telstra is expanding its use of Azure for several critical IT applications, including the creation of a Digital Foundation for the ongoing modernisation of IT infrastructure, and also underpinning Data Hub, IoT and Digital Twin Capability. Azure will also help Telstra achieve its sustainability targets.

Sustainability:

Addressing climate change is one of the defining challenges of the decade. Our sector has the potential to enable emissions savings more than seven times greater than the emissions we generate through providing our customers with low carbon products and services such as cloud computing.

Telstra and Microsoft are committed to exploring and pursuing technology and data-driven work to advance our sustainability and climate commitments. The initial focus will be on reducing emissions, circular economy, and remote work. We will work together to pilot real-time data reporting solutions such as Microsoft’s Sustainability Calculator that will deliver greater understanding of our joint carbon footprint to achieve further emissions reductions.

Armed with that insight the companies will be able to identify and support the development of more efficient products and processes.

Telstra Data Hub (TDH):

Collaborating over the past year, Microsoft and Telstra have made significant progress with the Telstra Data Hub which enables many-to-many data interconnects to occur through a common platform. Designed to facilitate complex data sharing and permission scenarios, while alleviating the need to create multiple, bespoke point-to-point integrations required between systems, Telstra Data Hub has been built using the companies’ technologies to help customers realise the value of their data, to share their data across industry and act as the foundation for new AI models.

Early customers include the Queensland State government, who are evaluating how to securely gather the critical data to manage the state’s natural water system, and in doing so not only develop an end-to-end view of the state’s water asset but to also provide immediate value to the industries that use the water to fuel the economy. Other users of Telstra Data Hub include the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, where we are collaborating on a data sharing and analytics ecosystem focused on understanding sudden cardiac death in young people, as well as with Charles Sturt University on a data ecosystem for agricultural commodities.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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