US technology firm Microsoft has announced plans to open its first Middle East data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The new locations come as part of a global expansion, which includes Switzerland, Germany and France.
Microsoft Gulf regional general manager Sayed Hashish declined to disclose the investment in the two data centres but said the firm had spent “billions of dollars” on expanding its cloud footprint globally.
“Definitely, it is a significant investment and we’ll definitely hire people because those data centres are resourced managed and operated by Microsoft,” he said.
The expansion comes in part due to expanding IT requirements from clients in the region, which include UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad, hotel group Jumeirah and malls operator Majid Al Futtaim.
It also responds to the “data residency” needs of some customers that can’t host sensitive services outside of the country due to privacy and data protection concerns.
The two locations will support users of Microsoft’s Azure, Office 365 and Dynamic 365 offerings and services will be offered as part of a partnership with local telecoms provider Etisalat.
Hashish said the company would use the two centres to serve neighbouring countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council and some international markets but did not rule out further expansion in the region.
“It’s a continuous journey and definitely with the continuous growth in our customer demands we’ll be always looking at where and when and how to expand,” he added, noting the company had expanded its global data centre footprint significantly over the last two years to 50 “regions”.
Other international technology firms including Oracle have expanded their presence in the Middle East region in recent years to capitalise on growing IT spending and government technology initiatives involving smart cities, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and blockchain.
Research firm Gartner said last month that IT investment in the Middle East and Africa would grow 3.4 per cent this year from $150.1bn in 2017 to $155.3bn in 2018.