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Microsoft to Open Cloud Region, Invest $1.5B In Italy

'This plan will support those working across the country to sustain and rebuild businesses to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities and help solve some of the country’s most difficult challenges, all while meeting critical security and compliance need,' says Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Microsoft global sales, marketing and operations.

Microsoft continues to ramp up its cloud infrastructure with plans to open a new data center region in Milan – its first in Italy -- as part of a $1.5 billion, five-year investment in the country.

The tech titan plans to provide access to local cloud services and help organizations in Italy -- hard hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic -- restart by providing access to artificial intelligence (AI) hubs and programs for small and medium-sized businesses. The initiatives are part of its “Ambizione Italia #DigitalRestart” plan, which builds on its “Ambizione Italia” program launched in 2018.

“This plan will support those working across the country to sustain and rebuild businesses, to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities and help solve some of the country’s most difficult challenges, all while meeting critical security and compliance need,” Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Microsoft global sales, marketing and operations, said in a statement. “We see enormous potential to accelerate innovation within the national ecosystem through cloud services, AI and digital skilling.”

The new cloud region has the potential to generate more than 10,000 job-related opportunities and an estimated $9 billion in direct and indirect business impact -- including data center construction and operations, and business and technology ecosystem opportunities -- by the end of 2024, according to research by Politecnico di Milano School of Management and Microsoft Italia.

The Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will expand its relationship with Poste Italiane to promote innovation among developers, startups, enterprises and government, and launch a new digital skilling effort. Poste Italiane has the largest service distribution network in Italy, and its activities in addition to letter and parcel delivery include financial and insurance services, payment systems and mobile telecommunications.

Microsoft, the second-largest cloud computing provider, also will launch a Sustainability Alliance that Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said in a statement was of “utmost importance” to his national Green New Deal to put the environment at the center of all public investments.

“We need to orient the country toward digital and technological transformation by addressing three challenges: digitalization, innovation and ethical and sustainable development,” Paola Pisano, Italy’s minister of technological innovation and digitalization, said in a statement. “Artificial intelligence presents a real and tangible opportunity to revolutionize our country, and we have a duty to invest and play a leading role in its development, to ensure we don’t fall behind.”

The Milan cloud region would bring Microsoft to 61 announced regions in 140-plus countries. Microsoft last week also announced plans to open a cloud region in New Zealand and a $1 billion investment in Poland over seven years that would include its first cloud region there in partnership with Warsaw cloud provider Chmura Krajowa. Other Microsoft cloud regions are planned in Israel, Mexico, Spain and Qatar.

Microsoft rival Amazon Web Services, the top cloud provider, announced the opening of its own cloud data center region, AWS Europe (Milan) Region, late last month. And in March, Google Cloud and Telecom Italia signed an agreement to jointly collaborate on building public, private and hybrid cloud services.

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