Microsoft is being credited with accelerating the Arabian Gulf’s digital economy transformation with plans to open two huge datacenters in the United Arab Emirates providing a major confidence boost for data sovereignty and regional competitiveness.
Altaf Alimohamed, Managing Director, Cobweb Solutions UAE, said the datacenters, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, each the size of four soccer pitches, will deliver the intelligent and trusted Microsoft Cloud which will further enhance the productivity of regional organizations, governments and businesses.
This is a major stride forward in addressing key issues which have concerned many local organizations, both public and private, which were adverse to holding data outside their specific country and region. External data hosting was also perceived as slow, but these major facilities will ensure speedy access and will deliver a level of security that will surpass anything provided by an on-premise data center,” explained Alimohamed.
Microsoft's UAE investment, said Alimohamed, will pay dividends for businesses small and large. “As well as servicing major corporates, the new centers will allow SMEs to host their simple applications locally. This is where digital transformation comes in at a faster pace because businesses can leverage the hosting power of state-of-the-art data centers and move onto modernizing applications and focusing on customer engagement strategies,” he said.
“This is all pushing forward the competitiveness of the region which is now waking up to the tremendous opportunities digital transformation can afford in keeping the Gulf relevant on an increasing competitive global market.”
The Microsoft Cloud, comprises the increasing popular Office 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as Azure - the comprehensive cloud services set that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy and manage applications through its data centers.
“Azure is an unprecedented enabler,” explained Alimohamed. “Its integrated tools, DevOps and marketplace support users in efficiently building anything from simple mobile apps to Internet-scale solutions. It can enable all organizations, big or small, offering enterprise-grade reliability and performance, combined with data residency from Microsoft datacenters. The new Abu Dhabi and Dubai facilities puts Microsoft’s deep expertise in data protection, security and privacy, including the industry’s broadest set of compliance certifications within easy reach of regional customers accelerating their digital transformation potential with the peace of mind of knowing they have a trusted partner.”
The new Abu Dhabi and Dubai datacenters will adhere to Microsoft’s trusted cloud principles and be part of one of the world’s largest cloud infrastructures which is already serving more than a billion customers and 20 million businesses.
Samer Abu-Ltaif, President of Microsoft Middle East Africa said the company sees enormous opportunity in the Middle East and Africa for cloud technology to be the key driver of economic development while providing sustainable solutions to pressing issues such as youth employability, education and healthcare.
“We will continue to work with governments and organizations across the region to accelerate their digital transformation, and I am excited about the role that our new datacentres will play in this transformation, he said.
Digital transformation is gaining momentum throughout the Gulf with a recent survey by Cobweb Solutions UAE showing a majority (81%) of 120 C-suite executives in the UAE planning to boost their digital capabilities this year.
This is encouraging in itself with another boost being that the remaining 19% saying they too are considering embarking on a digital transformation journey with almost all respondents being convinced that the effort will improve their competitiveness,” said Alimohamed.
The survey did, however, throw up some digital transformation curve balls for the region – most specifically the lack of workforce connectivity and solid customer success experience strategies. Just over a third (34%) or respondents said their workforce were digitally connected but then only “somewhat;” over half (53%) admitted staff connectivity “could be better” while alarmingly 13% said their staff were not digitally connected at all.
The lack of digital connectivity was further compounded by less than half the respondents (48%) having a customer success experience strategy in place. Just over a quarter (26%) admitted to having no such strategy while a further 26% said while one was in place, it was “disjointed” due to a lack of end-to-end systems.
The reality is that while the digital economy is obviously expanding throughout the Gulf, more needs to be done to ensure its many advantages are seized to ensure sustainable success – with the Microsoft datacenter expansion in the region via the two UAE facilities, Gulf organizations have an opportunity backed by outstanding support, to seize the opportunities,” said Alimohamed.