Microsoft and Telstra have announced an extension of their long-standing partnership, with plans to jointly build cloud-based solutions on Azure while leveraging the Telstra Data Hub.
Specifically, this will see the pair leverage Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, artificial intelligence, and digital twin capability to develop solutions in areas such as asset tracking, supply chain management, telematics, and smart spaces.
One of those projects will involve Telstra building a digital twin based on Azure across its own commercial buildings, which will be initially deployed at five buildings including the telco's flagship site at 242 Exhibition St in Melbourne.
Additionally, under the partnership, Telstra will leverage Azure as the cloud platform for the telco's ongoing internal digital transformation, involving transitioning from legacy and on-premise applications to cloud-based solutions.
The pair also plan to work together to develop solutions to advance their sustainability and climate commitments. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its ambitious plans to be carbon negative by 2030, while Telstra has set a target of reducing its absolute emissions by 50% by the same time.
"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 … today's announcement with Microsoft formalises the several streams of work we are already collaborating on," Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.
"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."
The announcement comes as Penn joined Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, along with other executives, on a virtual panel on Friday, discussing how digital technologies are changing businesses.
For Nadella, he believes the lines between what is currently considered as part of the digital tech industry, and what is not, will disappear in the next five years.
"Just because digital capabilities that are going to be built into a bank, into an energy company, into a network operator, is going to mirror pretty much what a software company does," he said.
"It's not that that domain expertise goes away, it's just that domain expertise gets augmented by real digital capability, and that, I think, is what's driving the world's cogs of becoming digital. It's not just the tech industry."
Penn agreed, explaining that for the next phase of digitisation, the physical world would increasingly adopt new technologies, such as IoT.
"If you think about how the world has digitised for the last several decades, it's really been in services -- provision of services or the administration or in the back office of businesses.
"If you think about the physical world -- manufacturing, cities, buildings, mining, logistics -- the physical world hasn't really been digitised yet. So, how do you digitise the physical world? Well, what you do is put sensors into physical assets. Those sensors can draw information around that physical asset, which you can then capture and then understand," he said.
Penn added how 5G along with a combination of other capabilities would play a significant role in driving the ongoing adoption of new technologies.
"5G is really important because it's the first telecommunications network that's been designed specifically to accommodate millions, if not billions, of sensors being put into things … and so, what's interesting is … we've got a convergence of some technologies maturing at the same time," he said.
"You've got 5G, which enables you to connect the sensors. You've got cloud to give you the compute capability to process all that data at scale, flexibly. And then you have artificial intelligence and machine learning, which is evolving to be able to take off all that information to turn it into insights … so I think it'll be transformative over the next decade as we bring these technologies together."