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Telstra and Cisco 'co-innovate' on SDN, NFV, Spark, Telstra Air

Telstra and Cisco are collaborating on innovating in three main areas, with the overarching aim of digitisation.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Cisco has described its partnership with Telstra as being one of "co-innovation", with the technology companies working together on several projects led by their digitisation strategy.

"We made an announcement at Cisco Live," Yvette Kanouff, senior vice president of Cisco's Service Provider Business, said at the Telstra Vantage 2016 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon.

"We announced this unified customer experience, cloud networking services, rapid deployment ... elastic provision of services, operational efficiency, all of these great things that really change the way that networking and IT works.

"So it's about co-innovation between the two of us."

Cisco has a long-standing cloud, communications, and collaboration partnership with Telstra, with Kanouff saying that currently, they are co-innovating on three areas in particular: The Telstra Air Wi-Fi service; Cisco's Spark collaboration tool; and Cisco and Telstra's software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) functionalities, which is labelled by Cisco as the Symphony Initiative.

"Symphony is this intelligent network orchestration that allows you to build products quickly," Kanouff explained.

"So the idea is as a company, you want to be able to take advantage of SDN, you want to be able to build things quickly."

Telstra and Cisco in March announced their three SDN and NFV products to improve cloud security and global datacentre interconnection: Cloud Gateway Protection, Internet VPN, and Data Centre Interconnect.

The first is a virtual security application designed to secure cloud services, internet access, and Next IP networks against cyber attacks and unauthorised access; the second provides a secure and encrypted office network over public internet for businesses to use across several sites and by mobile workers; and the third extended Telstra's SDN PEN1 global datacentre interconnection product through the addition of Australian points of presence.

According to the two companies, these three products were designed to "transform" the use and function of cloud and managed services.

Telstra and Cisco followed this up with the announcement in May of a hybrid software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) solution, which enables a more efficient and flexible end-to-end solution by selecting the highest-performing transport path available for application traffic routing.

The move to SDN saw Telstra earlier this month begin seeking 120 voluntary redundancies from its Network Delivery business due to workers needing to be reskilled, however.

Secondly, Kanouff said Telstra Air is built on Cisco's Meraki cloud management system, with the third feat of co-innovation between the two involving an extension of the Spark tool to include advanced mobility integrating voice and collaboration solutions.

"Telstra's working with Cisco and Apple on this whole native, integrated dialler," Kanouff said.

"How it is that we can take this teamwork and collaboration environment, and if you have an iPhone or if you have an iPad, you create a better user experience."

Both Kanouff and Telstra CEO Andrew Penn also agreed that customer service must be digitised.

"More and more organisations today are using digital technology to transform customer experience," Penn, who has previously advocated AI-led customer experience innovation, said at Vantage on Wednesday morning.

"My point of view is if there is one significant change that is happening in the world today, it is this shift from just how we think about traditional customer service to a holistic experience digitally enabled for all of our customers.

"That is a key area for investment for us: It's the digitisation so that our customers can engage with us simply and intuitively. It's the digitisation of our back-end systems, and it's the digitisation of the interface between the technology and the network, because one of the things that's happened over the last 10 years which is actually driving much of the innovation that is occurring today, or at least providing the platform for much of the innovation that is occurring today, is there has been a convergence between the traditional worlds of technology and the traditional worlds of telecommunications.

"The complexity arises when those two worlds come together, and technology and software is playing a crucial role in how we net those two areas together in such a way that we can provide virtual and seamless and contiguous service across all of our networks, whether they be mobile, whether they be fixed, or whether they be Wi-Fi."

Kanouff added that Gartner has forecast 90 percent of companies will compete "primarily on user experience" in future.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, speaking via video link at the Vantage conference on Wednesday morning, said Cisco is a "proud partner" of Telstra.

"Our shared vision and strategy enables us to combine our outstanding network capability with product innovation to deliver world-class services across Australia, and into Asia," Robbins said.

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

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