Despite strong projected growth, cloud services uptake in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could be hampered by the speed at which local cloud service providers adopt new security controls, Emirates Investment Authority (EIA) IT head Furqan Ahmed Hashmi tells BCN.
The EIA, the sovereign wealth fund of the federal government of the United Arab Emirates set up in 2007 with the intention of investing in businesses and encouraging economic diversity.
Hashmi said that the organisation recently moved its disaster recovery site into a private cloud after it virtualised the majority of its production environment, which is hosted on-premise.
“We moved from bare-metal to virtualised workloads to save on opex and capex; we saved lots of money in hardware, power and cooling costs, and it definitely gives you better admin and control,” he says. “It also makes DR easier.”
The organisation moved over some of the physical hardware it saved by virtualising its production estate to its DR site to support the private cloud implementation, which is hosted by one of the local telcos.
“We have our own infrastructure, our own network links – but of course security is still the main concern,” he says.
Hashmi explains that the organisation may see a role for the cloud when it comes to non-critical applications currently in production, but he says it would be limited at best.
“There are some limitations and security capabilities need to be built up. If we look at major cyber attacks that have happened over the last couple of years, and the solutions that can be used to combat these attacks, most cloud providers in the Middle East are still implementing these controls. Many say that they are abiding by ISO 270001, but in practical terms they aren’t.”
Analysts have found reason to be more optimistic. Gartner this week said the public cloud services market in the MENA region is likely to grow 17.1 per cent in 2015 to reach $851m, up from an estimated $727m in 2014.
Software as a service revenue alone is expected to grow 25 per cent in 2015 to $205.7m, and the firm estimates that by 2018, total public cloud services spending in MENA region will rise to $1.5bn, with SaaS accounting for 28.3 per cent of the total market and infrastructure as a service accounting for 10.7 per cent.
Still, Hashmi is bullish, and suggests that while Middle Eastern cloud providers are starting to catch up to European and American providers in terms of security sophistication, it will take much longer until we see the kind of growth rates witnessed in either Europe or the US.
“If we’re talking about public cloud, the two main challenges are security and the SLA,” he says. “If someone has a production environment in the public cloud, they need to check the network and the availability of a telco line, whether an MPLS or other kind, plus the infrastructure and underlying storage – will it be sufficient? Will the OS performance be up to scratch? The app performance? Will the underlying storage be sufficient? These are all really important features of that agreement.”
“It’s going to take more time for consumers to build confidence in locally provisioned cloud services,” he adds.