Microsoft strikes up another strategic alliance, this time with NTT Communications

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left), and Jun Sawada, president and CEO of NTT Corporation, pose for a picture after announcing a new multi-year partnership. (NTT/Microsoft)

Microsoft has struck up yet another partnership with an industry heavyweight by announcing on Tuesday it has inked a multiyear alliance with NTT.

The alliance merges NTT’s ICT infrastructure, managed services and cybersecurity expertise with Microsoft’s cloud platform and AI technologies to enable new digital solutions for both companies' enterprise customers. “Our strategic alliance combines NTT’s global infrastructure and services expertise with the power of Azure,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. “Together, we will build new solutions spanning AI, cybersecurity and hybrid cloud, as we work to help enterprise customers everywhere accelerate their digital transformation.”

The partnership includes three key pillars; the creation of a "Global Digital Fabric," development of digital enterprise solutions built on Microsoft Azure and innovation of next generation technologies such as an all-photonics network and digital twin computing.

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The Global Digital Fabric combines Microsoft's cloud with NTT's globally connected ICT infrastructure to develop productivity solutions, public cloud,global data center and network infrastructure products and services. By working with Microsoft, NTT's enterprise customers will be able to access applications such as Office 365 in order to minimize latency.

RELATED: Intel, NTT and Sony join forces on a new global forum for 'smart world,' photonics and edge computing

The all photonics network and digital twin computing elements are part of NTT's Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) project. NTT, Intel and Sony announced the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) Global Forum in October to focus on developing silicon photonics, edge computing and connected computing through frameworks, specifications and reference designs.

As for the cloud, NTT will work with Azure to develop advanced analytics for cybersecurity threat intelligence, social robotics with "relational AI" for digital companions and digital workplace solutions, as well as "knowledge discovery and management."

The two companies plan to invest in projects that use the technology built on NTT's sustainability projects and Microsoft's AI for Earth grants.

NTT also picked Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform for modernizing its global IT infrastructure and customer solutions in the areas of advanced analytics for cybersecurity threat intelligence and its hybrid-IT management platform. 

Prior to Nadella coming on board as CEO in 2014, Microsoft wasn't known for collaborating with other vendors, but that has changed dramatically as enterprises are demanding cloud-based services and applications.

Last month, NTT Communications, along with Citrix (SD-WAN); Silver Peak (Unity EdgeConnect); NetFoundry (network-as-a-service); and ZScaler (internet access), was certified to deliver Office 365 in accordance with Microsoft’s guidelines.

RELATED: Cisco notches an SD-WAN partnership with Microsoft

Also in November, Microsoft announced it was integrating Cisco's Viptela-based SD-WAN service with its Azure Virtual WAN and Office 365, which allows customers to extend their wide area networks (WANs) into Microsoft Azure Cloud. Cisco and Microsoft plan to make their joint solution available to early field trial customers at the end of the first quarter of 2020.

RELATED: India's Reliance teams up with Microsoft Azure on 10-year alliance

In August, Microsoft announced a 10-year alliance with Reliance Industry, which is the owner of telecom Jio. As part of the alliance, Jio will build data centers—consisting of next-generation compute, storage and networking capabilities— across India that will be hosted on Microsoft Azure's cloud.

RELATED: AT&T's Chris Rice: What the Microsoft cloud deal brings to AT&T

Microsoft also a struck a large deal with AT&T over the summer as part of the telco's "public cloud first" strategy, which includes moving most of its non-network workloads to the public cloud by 2024.That deal is reportedly worth billions, and also encompasses edge computing and a go-to-market strategy for the two large companies that share some of the same customers. Microsoft also will throw its support behind AT&T's efforts to consolidate its data center infrastructure and operations.

Also in July, Microsoft announced it was investing $1 billon with San Francisco-based research firm OpenAI to develop large-scale AI solutions for Microsoft Azure as well as a Microsoft partnership with IT services vendor DXC Technology.

In May, South Korea's SK Telecom and Microsoft announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly develop 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud solutions for SK Telecom's customers.

While Azure is already a major contributor to the company's earnings, the cloud partnerships will boost its bottom line going forward. Microsoft's cloud fortunes will also get a boost from the 10-year, $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract the Department of Defense awarded it on Oct. 25, but Amazon is protesting the Pentagon's decision to go with Microsoft.

RELATED: Amazon blames President Trump for loss of $10B JEDI contract

In October, Microsoft posted first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations. Microsoft's success has been driven by large gains in its cloud-computing services. Microsoft's cloud business includes Azure as well as cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s Office suite of software, but it doesn't break out specific revenue amounts for Azure like Amazon does with AWS.

Microsoft said its "Intelligent Cloud" business revenue increased 27% to 10.8 billion in the first quarter, with revenue from server products and cloud services increasing 30%. Azure's revenue grew by 59%, but that was a decline from a growth rate of 76% a year ago.

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