From the magazine: SAP rides regional cloud wave

First major global applications vendor with in-region cloud datacentres gains impetus

Customers agree cloud is important for integrating future technologies such as AI, machine learning, blockchain, and IoT, said Mitschein.
Customers agree cloud is important for integrating future technologies such as AI, machine learning, blockchain, and IoT, said Mitschein.

SAP cloud data centre is the centrepiece of the company’s 5-year USD 200 million UAE investment plan

Organisations also benefit from real-time insights on their operations and can scale up their IT infrastructure as they grow.

Many are developing digital transformation agendas to move their operations on to the cloud, from digital oilfields to new levels of e-services in Smart Cities.”

Over the last few years, the Middle East has emerged as a battleground for major global cloud providers.

SAP was the first multi-national business applications provider to go live and onboard customers onto its cloud data centres in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In the UAE, SAP cloud data centre is the centrepiece of the company’s 5-year USD 200 million UAE investment plan, which also includes a Co-Innovation Lab in the country, which links with high-tech clusters around the globe to provide opportunities to foster innovations with local ecosystems.

In Saudi Arabia, the cloud data centre is part of the wider Digital Hub, which includes: an open digital platform supporting entrepreneurship, co-innovation with customers, partners, and the wider ecosystem to leverage cloud to solve customer pain points, and localisation to support Saudi Vision 2030’s digital transformation journey.

SAP has also embarked on training initiatives, with its Training and Development Institute and Next-Gen initiative training young people in digital skills across the region.

“SAP has already successfully onboarded customers on to our UAE and KSA data centres,” said Marita Mitschein, senior vice president, digital skills, SAP South Europe, Africa and Middle East, and managing director of the SAP Training and Development Institute. “In our discussions with our customers from our six largest industries in the Middle East and Africa region -- oil and gas, utilities, public sector, retail, passenger travel and leisure, and banking – many are developing digital transformation agendas to move their operations on to the cloud, from digital oilfields to new levels of e-services in Smart Cities,” Mitschein added.  

SAP cloud data centre is the centrepiece of the company’s 5-year USD 200 million UAE investment plan.

Across the UAE and KSA, organisations are already running SAP S/4HANA, SAP HANA business applications, as well as the talent management suite SAP SuccessFactors, the digital business network of SAP Ariba, and the new customer experience suite SAP C/4HANA on the cloud data centres, said Mitschein. “We will continue to roll-out further offerings as they become available in the cloud,” she added.

The setting up these cloud datacentre is driven by rapid expansion in the adoption of cloud in the region. According to recent YouGov surveys of 502 UAE-based IT decision-makers and 306 KSA-based IT decision-makers, 88% in the UAE and 59% in Saudi Arabia will increase their cloud spend in 2019. “We are seeing strong interest and continued acceleration of Middle East organisations adopting cloud service,” said Mitschein.

“Our UAE and KSA cloud data centres are open to any organisation in-country, in the Middle East, or even worldwide. As a result, we also see interest from beyond the UAE and Saudi Arabia for running operations on our data centres,” Mitschein added.

Cloud migration

Migrating workloads to cloud platforms can be a daunting task for even the most digital-savvy business. Mitschein said SAP’s Channel Partner Program plays a key role in enabling public and private sector organisations across the Middle East and North Africa migrate to the cloud.

“Organisations first should consider their business objectives, then develop their digital transformation agendas, then decide which cloud environment is best for their business.” Mitschein said the Middle East and North Africa is a fast-evolving region for the SAP Global Alliance PartnerEdge Program. “Showing the strength of our Channel Partner Program, in 2018, SAP MENA channel partners contributed to 61% of our SME market and 25% of total business. Our partners can also leverage new online and on-demand partner training on cloud solutions and implementations and help their customers to succeed,” she added.

Cost remains the major driver for businesses in the UAE that are moving to the cloud, cited by 90% of UAE-based IT decision-makers and 62% of Saudi Arabia-based IT decision-makers surveyed by YouGov researchers. Beyond cost, organisations also benefit from real-time insights on their operations, can scale up their IT infrastructure as they grow their business, and meet data regulations such as GDPR when they migrate to the cloud, says Mitschein. Middle East IT teams are increasingly led by Millennials who have the knowledge and the appetite to adopt the latest technology innovations, Mitschein observed. 

“Among IT decision-makers surveyed by YouGov, 76% in the UAE and 83% in Saudi Arabia agree that the cloud is important for integrating future technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things.”


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Hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud is increasingly preferred over 100% public cloud or exclusively private cloud. Mitschein said SAP supports customers in whichever environment best meets their business needs whether on-premise, on its cloud data centres, or in hybrid cloud models.

“Hybrid cloud is definitely an attractive option for our customers across the Middle East and North Africa. Many UAE and KSA organisations are choosing to run many of their applications on our cloud data centres, but keep their most sensitive data on their own on-premise data centres,” Mitschein said.

Across MENA, SAP has also launched Partner Managed Cloud and HANA Enterprise Cloud partnerships to support organisations in their (sometimes complex) digital journeys. Cloud, in whichever flavour, has a bright short, medium and long-term future in the region.

In the Middle East region, 83% of UAE-based IT decision-makers and 66% of Saudi-based IT decision-makers say their organisations plan to be fully or partially on the cloud in 2019, according to the YouGov survey.

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