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Telstra banks on Microsoft Azure for digital overhaul

Telstra banks on Microsoft Azure for digital overhaul

Formalising several existing streams of work between the two companies

Satya Nadella (Microsoft)

Satya Nadella (Microsoft)

Credit: Microsoft

Telstra has deepened its ongoing partnership with Microsoft, with Azure providing the digital foundations for the telco’s plan to streamline and simplify its operations, transitioning from legacy and on-premises applications to cloud-based solutions.

The move, which equates to a formalisation of several existing streams of work between the two companies, sees Microsoft and Telstra extend a long-standing strategic partnership to focus on accelerating the development and release of “innovative and sustainable” cloud-based solutions across multiple industries.

The rationale behind this acceleration, with Microsoft working as Telstra’s preferred cloud provider for its ongoing internal digital transformation, is firmly targeted at driving efficiency, amplifying decision making capability and enhancing the telco’s customer experiences. 

Under the partnership, 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 its Data Hub, IoT and Digital Twin capability. 

“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,” Telstra CEO Andy Penn said. 

“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. 

“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 added.

It is hoped that the deepened partnership will help Telstra enterprise customers 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, ultimately, grow revenues.

According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who spoke with Penn and other local business leaders as part of an online dialogue hosted by the AFR, 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 [artificial intelligence], digital twins and mixed reality,” Nadella said. 

Among the specific streams of work included in the partnership  between the two companies is an effort to design and build a scalable and unified internet of things (IoT) platform leveraging Azure IoT and aimed at enabling Telstra to simplify operations and significantly reduce time to market.

The companies are partnering to build a digital twin across Telstra’s own commercial buildings with an initial deployment of five buildings, including the flagship site at 242 Exhibition Street in Melbourne.

When fully deployed this project will represent one of the largest Azure-based digital twins in Australia, the companies claimed.

Once complete, the digital twin will see Telstra establish a “digital nerve centre” it hopes will promise enhanced transparency by modernising business processes and work environment, enhancing digital interaction between personnel and enabling the company to improve operational efficiency.

Meanwhile, Telstra is working with Microsoft through its technology services provider, Telstra Purple, to provide a digital twin solution for the asphalt plants of integrated services company Downer Group.

Telstra and Microsoft suggest that this ‘digital asphalt plant’ promises greater efficiency, reliability, and safety while at the same time increasing operational transparency and control. 

Telstra Purple and Downer collaborated to identify an opportunity to leverage Microsoft Azure AI and edge services, along with Telstra’s Smart Spaces video analytics, to provide real time worker safety information directly to Azure Digital Twins. 

These so-called ‘digital safety barriers’ are designed to identify and track dangerous activity across the Downer plant. The companies see the solution being deployed in 33 asphalt plants across Australia.

Another stream of work being undertaken by Telstra and Microsoft involves the Telstra Data Hub (TDH), with the two companies having collaborated over the past year on the initiative, which is designed to enable “many-to-many data interconnects” to occur through a common platform, according to the companies. 

The Telstra Data Hub, built using both companies’ technologies, is designed to facilitate complex data sharing and permission scenarios without the need to create multiple, bespoke point-to-point integrations required between systems.

Early customers of the TDH include the Queensland State government, which is evaluating how to securely gather the critical data to manage the state’s natural water system, developing an end-to-end view of the state’s water asset and providing value to the industries that use the water.

Other users of Telstra Data Hub include the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, which which the company is 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

It is also hoped that Azure will also help Telstra achieve its sustainability targets, with Telstra and Microsoft exploring and pursuing technology and data-driven work to advance their sustainability and climate commitments. An initial focus will be on reducing emissions, the circular economy and remote work. 

The companies plan to work together to pilot real-time data reporting solutions, such as Microsoft’s Sustainability Calculator that will deliver greater understanding of the two organisations’ joint carbon footprint to achieve further emissions reductions. 


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