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Innovate Switzerland: the cloud is continuously developing

Swisscom is stepping up its collaboration with IT giant Microsoft. Politicians and business leaders are discussing this news, as well as Switzerland’s innovative strength and the regulatory conditions for digitalisation in Switzerland, at a special celebration held at Swisscom’s Brain Gym in Berne, alongside simultaneous events in Zurich and Geneva. Numerous partners across Switzerland are also tuning in via a live stream.

Text: Romana Bleisch, Images: Astrid Graf, 11

There’s a lively atmosphere on this overcast Thursday morning at Swisscom’s Berne headquarters. The guests include politicians, academics and business leaders all sharing their thoughts on the current challenges of daily business over coffee and croissants. Challenges such as how to satisfy the needs of long-established IT specialists and digital natives on an equal basis within the same company, for example. Trust, security, digital innovation and legal frameworks – concepts frequently heard at this morning’s event.

 

The day before the event, Microsoft as well as Swisscom announced in a press release the opening of two data centres in Switzerland as well as the closer cooperation between the American IT giant and Swisscom. The Microsoft Azure Cloud is now hovering over Swiss territory – with data stored in Switzerland. Swisscom is the largest Swiss Microsoft partner and now offers its customers managed public cloud services from the global Microsoft Cloud and both Microsoft Cloud regions in Switzerland. Swisscom is also the first Swiss telecommunications provider to offer a direct connection to the Swiss Microsoft data centres via Express Route.

 

The launch event is taking place simultaneously in Berne, Geneva and Zurich. More than 30 partners from all over Switzerland are following it via the live stream. At 9.30 on the dot, the noise level drops and the room goes quiet.

 

The event’s host in Berne, Reto Brennwald, begins by giving the floor to the first speaker, asking: “Switzerland leads the way when it comes to innovation, infrastructure and air quality. What about digitalisation?”

Host Reto Brennwald on stage with Peter Grünenfelder, Avenir Suisse

Host Reto Brennwald on stage with Peter Grünenfelder, Avenir Suisse  

“If Switzerland also wants to remain a leader in digital innovation, the public sector needs to adapt to the digital age,” replies Peter Grünenfelder. The Avenir Suisse director urges parliament to act; his speech is a plea for digital progress.

“We need more courage for digital innovation”

He repeatedly stresses how crucial it is to create the right conditions to promote digital progress. We are in a period of digital transformation, yet the legal foundations still date back to the industrial era. High time to bring the legal basis into line with the age of digitalisation. We need more courage for digital innovation. Courage from both private and public sectors.

“If we stand still, we’ll lose our quality as a location”

He means stronger regulation is needed in the field of security and data protection. Network security, stability and inter-state agreements are required for secure cloud operations. Standing still is not an option, otherwise we will lose our quality as a location.

 

Marc Holitscher, National Technology Officer for Microsoft Switzerland, continues: “We are here to celebrate the opening of the Microsoft Cloud in Switzerland.” He addresses, among others, the 30 or more partners who, as early adopters, have placed their trust in Microsoft – including Swisscom. This diverse range of companies that have moved their sensitive data to Microsoft Azure reflect the broad spectrum of the cloud solution. Microsoft has always been a partner-driven company, understands the challenges facing its peers, and speaks their language. The Microsoft Cloud is empowering companies to achieve more and is reshuffling the cards for technologies such as IoT.

 

The data never leaves Switzerland. This is particularly important.

“Privacy is a human right”

Microsoft invests more than USD 1 billion in cyber security every year. Numerous security experts work round the clock to ensure the cloud is secure and companies benefit from Microsoft’s huge investment in cloud security. An investment that companies cannot manage themselves. “For Microsoft, privacy is a human right,” says Holitscher.

 

The partnership between Swisscom and Microsoft is the perfect match. Microsoft provides the technology, while Swisscom offers the services that create a first-class customer experience.

Experts in conversation

The keynote speeches are followed by simultaneous, live-streamed podium discussions in Geneva, Zurich and Berne. An animated debate concerning collaboration models, agility and digitalisation opportunities.

 

Reto Brennwald then directs his questions to the guests Marcel Walker, Head of Network and Cloud at Swisscom, Balthasar Glättli, faction president and Green Party member of the Swiss National Council for Zurich, and Markus Eberhart, Head of Digital Business at BKW Energie.

Swisscom has its own cloud; isn’t collaboration therefore a problem?

Marcel Walker: “No, that’s the wrong kind of self-protection. It’s the customer who decides, not us as providers. A lot will happen on the Microsoft platform in the future. Our role is to integrate it in such a way that it’s right for our customers. Microsoft offers huge innovation, which we as Swisscom would not be able to top. The energy being used must be sensibly invested. Microsoft covers the highly scalable part, while we combine the different offers in a sensible way. Microsoft is an important partner for us.”

What needs to be done to get the project off the ground?

Marcel Walker: “Customers want innovation and a contact partner when something comes up. They also like to communicate in their own language.

 

You need to know how to deal with people; cultural and economic characteristics need to be taken into account.”

Do you think the public authorities are still dragging their heels when it comes to the cloud?

Balthasar Glättli: “We should not just look at traditional competition, but at collaboration. In our federalist structures, we could do much more if we saw ourselves as an ecosystem.”

Large companies tend to migrate to the cloud, while SMEs are more sceptical. Why do you think this is the case? 

Markus Eberhart: “Many large firms have whole departments dedicated to acquiring the necessary technological know-how. SMEs don’t have the power to do that, which is why they are more sceptical. However, you generate added value in your core business if you pass on your IT expertise. Society needs to be told what it’s all about. People need to know the value of their data.”

After a morning packed with fascinating keynote speeches and discussion forums about innovation and new technologies, Reto Brennwald brings the event to a close on an optimistic note: “Let’s keep our fingers crossed that a boost in the Swiss economy and digitalisation is just around the corner.” The buffet lunch is now open.


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