Toronto-based data analytics firm becomes Microsoft’s go-to data and AI partner in Canada

Almost all CIOs agree that the cloud is a standard way to access services and systems quickly with minimal effort, and one of Microsoft Corp.’s analytics partners is finding creative ways to put that added computing power to use.

Global analytics firm Adastra Corp., which has one of its headquarters in Toronto, has grown its Azure business by 900 per cent year-over-year in the fiscal year 2019 and recently picked up Microsoft Canada’s Commercial Enterprise Partner of the Year Award. Big data software is becoming increasingly popular as the world’s insatiable hunger for data grows – the global big data market is forecasted to grow to $US 103 billion by 2027, more than doubling its expected market size in 2018 – and Kevin Harmer, Microsoft practice lead for Adastra, shared how exactly the added computing power from the cloud is helping clients.

“We used a media processing component in Azure to create videos that feel like they were customized for a specific customer, but are in fact produced en masse,” he said.

The solution was recently purchased by T-Mobile and to-date the company has deployed more than 250,000 videos to customers that include purchasing, data usage, and roaming behaviours. It includes some music and keeps customers in the loop about their smartphone habits while introducing them to new deals or contracts.

“To do something like that in the past would have been very expensive,” indicated Harmer, adding the video solution is being sold to additional enterprise clients in Europe and North America – including Canada.

Building solutions like this comes from the need for Adastra partners, and those partners’ customers, to communicate and analyze insights in a consumable way. And since video is showing no signs of slowing down – YouTube reports that mobile video consumption rises 100 per cent every year, and this year, global consumer internet video traffic is expected to account for 80 per cent of all consumer internet traffic – it made sense to build an analytics dashboard delivered through video.

“That’s the cool thing about the cloud. You get access to these amazing capabilities almost instantly. You don’t have to buy special hardware and a high upfront license cost to be able to do something that’s the latest and greatest,” explained Harmer, adding he frequently runs into clients who still assume a data science background is required to step into the big data arena.

“It’s a big push by Microsoft to get people well-versed in those capabilities,” he said.

Harmer also shared a few thoughts about Microsoft’s attempt to discontinue the Internal Use Rights (IUR) benefits for its Action Pack and competency programs. While Microsoft quickly backpedaled on the decision, Harmer said the removal of IUR benefits would have put massive cost pressures on the company. Adastra uses Microsoft’s software internally for everything.

“We might have had to start looking in the open source community for alternative solutions,” he said. “We were happy to see the decision being reversed.”

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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