COVID-19: Tech sector has a chance to create a 'new normal'

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T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh.
T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh.

T-Systems CEO Adel Al-Saleh this week hosted a virtual conference presenting the German IT company’s plans to help businesses become more resilient during the pandemic.

Speaking from London via a video link, he said the company has an obligation to deliver resilient services to its clients. 

He announced that its public cloud has been made available for free to any R&D institution that needs extra computing capacity.  The offering is valid for three months and includes free services.

Better than cure

As a provider of critical infrastructure, T-Systems had already started preparing its crisis management strategy when the news of coronavirus broke late last year, Al-Saleh said.

“Part of our business DNA is to have business continuity plans on standby. We even go as far as certifying these plans. We use ISO 22301, the standard for the technical certification of business continuity plans,”  he added.

As more people started working from home, the company said it was eager to see how its networks performed with these changes in the load.

The things that would normally take months or years to happen are happening over a weekend.

Adel Al-Saleh

Deutsche Telekom (T-Systems’ parent company), has seen a multi-hundred percent increase in its fixed-line usage, said Al-Saleh. In Germany, it has seen mobile voice usage grow by up to 50%. What came as a surprise, was the 8% drop in mobile data use as people connected to the Internet using WiFi and home networks.

Al-Saleh said when the crisis did hit, it deployed tactical solutions to support organisations.

“We deployed different collaboration platforms such as Cisco Webex. We worked with Microsoft to deploy 365 on Azure starter packs and we’ve also worked with some of our partners to create new VPN connections, enabling employees to work securely from home.”

While the economic impacts of this crisis are unprecedented, T-Systems has seen a dramatic increase in business agility, said Al-Saleh. “The things that would normally take months or years to happen are happening over a weekend.”

Fast into the future

Al-Saleh was joined virtually by some of T-Systems partners.

VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger, said he sees the pandemic as an opportunity for organisations to accelerate their digital transformation. “One of the US agencies we work with had 5 000 mobile devices on its network. That became 150 000 in the course of a week.”

Gelsinger added that the ability to go ‘fast into the future’ has been proven, your business capacity and workforce are ready for it. “Our mobile and work-from-home offerings have become even more important.”

He used video conferencing platform Zoom as an example of VMware’s strategic partnerships that will help clients with their remote work. “Zoom has become a strategic partner, we’re building joint offerings with them, enabling customers to build, run, manage their next-gen applications and secure their environments.”

Christoph Wegner, BASF’s chief data officer, said the chemicals producer is exploring the use of high-performance computing (HPC) in fighting COVID-19.

"A couple of years ago, we invested in HPC infrastructure of almost two petaflops. This has given us a chance to bring in vitro work from the labs in silico (tasks performed on a computer or via simulation).”

Al-Saleh also made announcements on some of T-Systems’ other ventures.

"Last year Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson announced their partnership in building a 5G campus network; and two weeks ago, we switched on the first 5G standalone network.” The campus is in Deutsche Telekom’s Centre for Connected Industry in Germany.

He said in closing, “The digital agenda of companies will be adjusted during this crisis, but also rapidly accelerated. This is an opportunity to learn lessons in the way we operate and create a new normal.

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