The digital revolution will run on the cloud

Global cloud providers expand Middle East presence

Cloud computing, Microsoft, Azure, AWS

The Middle East region aspires to be at the forefront of the global digital revolution now underway that is driven by artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and blockchain and other advanced platforms.

These technologies, however, require extensive compute power as well as vast storage space. AI, for instance, has to be trained using large amounts of structured and unstructured data. Recent investments in local datacentres by global cloud providers in the region should help regional organisations pursue their digital efforts while complying with data residency laws.  

Microsoft recently launched two new cloud datacentres in the United Arab Emirates. The new cloud regions (as they are referred to) in Abu Dhabi and Dubai join Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure network to provide organisations, enterprises and developers in the UAE with access to scalable, and highly available cloud services while fulfilling data residency, security and compliance requirements.

The two data centres are connected to Microsoft’s global network global footprint, which now numbers a total of 54 regions

The two data centres are connected to Microsoft’s global network global footprint, which now numbers a total of 54 regions, explained Necip Ozyucel, business group lead for Cloud and Enterprise, Microsoft Gulf.

“For our customers, we are delivering ‘global reach with local presence’. Since they are connected to a global network, our customers can either use UAE data centres, or other data centres in the US, Europe, or Asia depending on what meets their business requirements,” said Ozyucel.

The new UAE locations will also deliver better performance for applications to Middle East customers and partners through the Microsoft cloud platform Azure., an expanding set of cloud services, offering computing, networking, databases, analytics, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) services.

The Microsoft investment also avails Microsoft Office 365 locally through the new cloud regions in the UAE. BI tools Dynamics 365 and Power Platform, will be available from the cloud regions in the UAE by the end of 2019.

We are delivering ‘global reach with local presence’, said Microsoft’s Ozyucel.

Infrastructure region

Last month, Amazon Web Services announced the opening of the AWS Middle East (Bahrain) Region to serve regional businesses. The AWS Middle East Region consists of three Availability Zones (also known as AZs). AZs consist of one or usually more separate data centres, each with redundant power, networking, and connectivity, housed in separate facilities. These AZs provide customers with the ability to operate production applications and databases which are more highly available, fault-tolerant, and scalable than would be possible from a single datacentre, said Vinod Krishnan, head of MENA, AWS.

AWS has two AWS Direct Connect locations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that make it easy for customers to establish a dedicated private network connection between AWS and their datacentre, office, or colocation environment. AWS also has two Amazon CloudFront Edge locations in the UAE, providing faster content delivery and added cybersecurity protection. Customers in the region have embraced cloud like few others. Between them, the two cloud providers count some of the most prominent businesses in the region as customers, a figure that will only expand with the new facilities.   

The number one reason customers choose to move to the cloud is the agility and speed, said Krishnan.

Skills shortage

The global IT skills shortage is real and is acute for cloud technologies. AWS has made its Training and Certification programs available to customers to help them in their cloud journeys and has also grown its regional training team, said Krishnan. “We see significant growth in the number of AWS certifications, and it’s not just growth in the volume of certificates, but also a steady growth in higher-level Professional certifications,” he added.

The Microsoft Cloud Society, on the other hand, has trained over 150,000 IT professionals in the Middle East and Africa. Customers will further benefit from the increased availability and performance of cloud services delivered from the UAE to help realize the business benefits of cloud and upskill them in migrating and managing their cloud infrastructures.

“Half of all enterprises in the region have already adopted Azure and Office 365. The availability of the facilities locally should help those in the other half that wish to migrate, without having to worry about data residency concerns,” said Ozyucel. 

Although cost is almost always the conversation starter as far as moving to the cloud is concerned, the number one reason customers choose to move to the cloud is the agility and the speed that they get in the cloud, said Krishnan.

“This agility is not only the ability to spin up thousands of servers in minutes as opposed to 10 to 18 weeks it takes for most on-premises companies to spin up servers, it is also about giving customers a plethora of infrastructure services at their fingertips to get from idea to implementation in several orders of magnitude faster than they could before,” he added.

Hybrid cloud

In the fullness of time, the vast majority of companies will run almost all of their IT workloads in the cloud. In the meantime, it pays to embrace hybrid infrastructure for those still on the fence.

“We see our role in hybrid as working with and for our customers to develop integrations between their existing infrastructure and AWS, so our customers can easily use AWS as a seamless extension to their existing infrastructure investments. We’ve built a set of hybrid architecture functionality to enable customers to do everything from integrating networking, security and access control to powering automated workload migrations, and controlling AWS from their on-premises infrastructure management tools,” said Krishnan.  

Hybrid cloud is the reality, said Ozyucel. “Customers can still use their own data centres, move some of their applications or start new applications on Azure either in UAE data centres or other data centres, he added.

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