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Vodafone and IBM prep user clouds for future network tech

Companies expand existing collaboration to enable enterprise customers to prepare for the impact of advanced networking technologies

Mobile operator Vodafone has inked a new commercial agreement with long-term collaborator IBM to help its customers adapt their cloud environments for the wave of digital transformation expected to be unleashed by incoming technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing and software-defined networking (SDN).

The eight-year, £423m contract gives Vodafone Business customers full access to IBM’s cloud portfolio, while IBM will provide managed services to Vodafone’s cloud and hosting unit. The two firms said this would enable users to benefit from IBM’s optimisation, automation and cognitive capabilities to help them run their businesses effectively in a multi-cloud environment.

With IBM’s own research claiming that over 70% of organisations use up to 15 cloud environments to help them access new digital services, the interconnectivity between clouds and the vulnerability of the data they hold has become a global issue. The two firms hope to remove some of the complexity and barriers from this situation, letting data and applications flow freely and securely across organisations.

“Vodafone has successfully established its cloud business to help our customers succeed in a digital world,” said Vodafone CEO Nick Read.

“This strategic venture with IBM allows us to focus on our strengths in fixed and mobile technologies, while leveraging IBM’s expertise in multi-cloud, AI and services. Through this new venture, we will accelerate our growth and deepen engagement with our customers while driving radical simplification and efficiency in our business.”

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty added: “IBM has built industry-leading hybrid cloud, AI and security capabilities underpinned by deep industry expertise. Together, IBM and Vodafone will use the power of the hybrid cloud to securely integrate critical business applications, driving business innovation – from agriculture to next-generation retail.”

As an example, remote locations – such as offshore oil platforms – could overcome connectivity problems using edge computing and IoT technologies from Vodafone coupled with AI and augmented reality applications from IBM to pinpoint and resolve equipment faults on site in a matter of minutes.

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Vodafone and IBM said they expected the new venture to be able to “act like a startup” to respond to rapidly changing market conditions and customer demands.

“This new venture between Vodafone and IBM addresses the ‘full stack’ of real-world, multi-cloud concerns with a powerful combination of capabilities that should enable customers to deliver multi-cloud strategies in all layers of their organisations,” said Carla Arend, senior programme director of European software at IDC.

Arend said IBM’s October 2018 acquisition of Red Hat, coupled with Vodafone’s emerging 5G mobile network plans, would bring further value to the venture.

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