Telstra partners with Pivotal, launches innovation lab in Melbourne

Australian telco Telstra has opened its innovation lab in Melbourne and simultaneously announced a partnership with Pivotal for the provision of cloud platform as a service.

Telstra has marked the opening of its Gurrowa Innovation Lab with the announcement that it is partnering with Pivotal for an enterprise software platform, and has subsequently become a member of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

The Gurrowa Innovation Lab, launched on Tuesday morning, provides a co-creation space for Telstra and its associated enterprise customers, vendors, research institutes, and incubators to collaborate on technological projects such as geolocation, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) via the Pivotal and Cloud Foundry Foundation-provided open-source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud software.

"Technology is changing at a faster rate than ever before, impacting business models and traditional industry structures, and to stay ahead of the curve, we need to be constantly innovating," Telstra COO Kate McKenzie said.

"By partnering with Pivotal, who are global leaders in agile development and cloud-native platform, we will enhance our innovation offering for our customers and create a pipeline of skills to grow our development capabilities."

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn identified three factors driving change in the industry that needed to be met: IoT, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

"The really complex thing about cloud computing is how you get the data in and out of the cloud in a secure, timely, and safe way. And that's a telecommunications challenge," Penn said. "And that's why Telstra is investing heavily in cloud computing. Cloud computing is the fastest-growing part of our business."

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, who was also present at the opening of the lab, said it is imperative to push technological innovation through such products and partnerships to ensure that Australia remains competitive on a global scale.

"It is enormously important that as an economy we are globally competitive, and that in industry after industry -- many of them not traditionally thought of as technology industries -- that we are using technology to be efficient and competitive. We talk of IT as an enabler, and that has never been more important than it is today."

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(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Fletcher also made reference to the National Broadband Network (NBN), saying that the provision of high-speed internet access to all parts of Australia will allow these technological advances to occur.

"Unless we have high-quality broadband services, mobile and fixed, covering as much of the landmass as possible, available to every Australian, then we're not able to capture all of the possibilities of these new technologies," Fletcher said.

Telstra CTO Vish Nandlall revealed that a Pivotal Labs facility will be opened in Sydney later this year, and identified a gap in the market for providing enterprise cloud software services as the reason behind Telstra becoming a part of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

"Software development is not something that goes hand in glove with a telecoms provider, so there are a lot of telecommunications companies who are on a software journey. The way we are able to take innovation to the next level is to adopt those software platform practices, so we're using Pivotal as kind of the kernel of that," Nandlall said in an interview with ZDNet.

"A big part of what we need to do to remove the friction around the enterprise transformation into software is to be able to have a vehicle to convey those applications on top ... of a cloud infrastructure, and that's what the Cloud Foundry initiative does: It gives us a platform as a service that we can start to deploy applications in a much more modular way, and be industrial in the way we expose our assets to enterprise customers and allow them to build different types of workflows they need in their everyday processes."

Nandlall also said that the idea behind the innovation lab is to "take the world's smartest people, put them in a facility, remove all friction ... and you create a market".

"When technology is uncertain and markets are highly uncertain, you need something to be a forcing function to catalyse the invention of that industry," he added.

Fletcher agreed, saying, "It is the collaboration aspect of this lab that will be so important, because it's going to be Telstra working with startups, working with well-established businesses in so many industries, and working with industry partners."

Pivotal is a big data, cloud, and agile development enterprise software services provider that was spun out of EMC and VMware.

"Pivotal's mission is to help enterprises to become great software companies," said Melissa Ries, VP of Pivotal APAC, on Tuesday.

Last month, Pivotal's incoming APAC CTO Jason Jackson said expansion in the region will be a major focus for the company going forward. He identified helping enterprises address their datacentre's software layer will bring them into line with infrastructure as a major issue.

"The initial point of attack for a lot of companies have been removing legacy infrastructure. But a lot of recent Gartner posts have forecast how much of the world's software services will be rewritten by 2020.

"What happened was that a lot of companies, when they removed their infrastructure, was they continued to use the same legacy software, and somehow they have thrown it on a cloud and just shovelled it up there.

"We're now on the edge of seeing the next phase of that transformation, where the focus won't be on infrastructure as a service ... what we're moving on to now -- since a lot of those problems have been solved -- is the work that needs to be done now, especially in these large organisations, where we need to address the software."

In January, Pivotal revealed that the Cloud Foundry Foundation, an open-source PaaS cloud service that launched over a year ago, had made $40 million in the final three quarters of 2014.

The Cloud Foundry Foundation was launched in collaboration with Linux under a non-profit banner. Its members include EMC, HP, VMware, IBM, and SAP.

"The cloud is too important to allow it to become proprietary and have customers locked in," Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz said in December. "It needs a healthy open ecosystem of users, developers, and providers linked via a common, open platform, much as Linux provided for the server market. Not only is open source a key to this, but equally so is orderly, open governance and participation. The Cloud Foundry Foundation will ensure that Cloud Foundry is and remains an ecosystem where many players can contribute to the platform and benefit from it."

In February this year, Sam Ramji -- the former head of Microsoft's open-source software lab -- was appointed as CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

"Cloud Foundry has quickly become the way applications are built on the cloud," said Ramji in a statement. "Major corporations on the supply and demand sides of the cloud market are putting significant resources behind what we're doing. They're doing so because they know they can commit to Cloud Foundry as their cloud platform with confidence."

Gavin Jones, managing director of Pivotal for Australia and New Zealand, said on Tuesday that the partnership with Telstra will open up open-source PaaS for more organisations in the region.

"The arrival of Pivotal Labs in Australia presents a great opportunity for local organisations. Pivotal Labs will quickly become a software innovation hub for Australia's largest enterprises in all industries to transform into great software companies."

The Gurrowa Innovation Lab is situated on level two of Telstra's Melbourne headquarters.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Telstra.

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