Microsoft datacentres in the UAE: two years of inspiring innovation, growth, and change
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Microsoft datacentres in the UAE: two years of inspiring innovation, growth, and change

Microsoft datacentres in the UAE: two years of inspiring innovation, growth, and change

Microsoft Cloud which brings together Azure and Microsoft 365 is now available locally


Microsoft marked a major milestone when it opened two cloud region datacentres in the UAE in 2019 to deliver the Microsoft Cloud to governments, organisations, and startups in the Middle East. Connecting the country to the world, the UAE region joined a network of more than 60 datacentre regions, to provide local presence and global reach, connected by more than 170 global network POPs and 130,000 miles of lit fibre optic and undersea cable systems.

With the cloud datacentres, Microsoft aims to spur regional entrepreneurship, accelerate innovation, fuel growth for businesses and aid government organisations to better serve their customers and citizens. Organisations can take advantage of Azure, an intelligent and rapidly growing cloud computing platform, and Microsoft 365, the world’s leading cloud-based productivity platform, which together form the Microsoft Cloud.

Crucially, the availability of local datacentres allows governments, financial services institutions, the healthcare sector as well as other regulated industries to address local data residency and governance requirements. Entities from sectors such as government, aviation, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare are among those that are already benefiting from the cloud regions, including iconic brands such as Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, Dubai Tourism, Mashreq and CBD.

Also, many organisations of all sizes have already taken advantage of the local datacentres and the flexibility and connectivity they offer to scale their businesses within and beyond the UAE. For example, Dubai-based start-up Digiteam offers its sales digitisation and gamification mobile solution on the cloud and scales to new customers across different markets. Similarly, Norbloc, a Microsoft Partner, runs on Azure. It is the technology provider behind the UAE KYC (Know Your Customer) Blockchain Ecosystem, which facilitates faster and more secure onboarding and exchange of customer information, used by eight of the largest financial institutions in the country, as well as numerous government and licensing authorities.

Helping the UAE to reach new heights of innovation and digitisation
The cloud ecosystem is expected to propel the UAE economy upwards, creating jobs and driving investment in local economies, including in sustainable solutions which will see a reduction in atmospheric carbon.

The recently published IDC Info Snapshot, sponsored by Microsoft, The Microsoft Cloud Dividend Snapshot: United Arab Emirates,  reflects on the positive impact of Microsoft’s cloud regions in the UAE following its launch in June 2019. Now, more than ever, these investments will accelerate digital transformation journeys in the country, empowering organisations to recover faster and reimagine their industries. The research also forecasts that Microsoft’s cloud ecosystem, which includes its partners and cloud-using customers, will add 69,000 new jobs to the UAE economy by 2024 with 16,000 created for skilled IT professionals.

The IDC research also reveals that Microsoft and its partner ecosystem, in support of growing their local businesses, will spend about $2.3bn in the datacentre region for services and products in local economies. The new datacentre region will help to eliminate some of the barriers to cloud adoption within the region and account for 21.1 per cent of the new revenue total ($27bn) through to 2024.

“The arrival of Microsoft UAE datacentres in 2019 solidified the role of the cloud as an enabler of digital transformation supporting data residency, security and agility needs of the region,” said Sayed Hashish, general manager, Microsoft UAE. “In 2020, the cloud accelerated our role to become the first responders in the digital world to empower organisations to adapt to challenges. And in 2021 and beyond, the cloud is set to reinvent industries and drive more resilience while building capabilities, bolstering job creation, driving sustainability and advancing economic growth.”

IDC’s research also sheds light on downstream revenues generated by Microsoft’s partner ecosystem. The findings reveal that for every $1 of Microsoft cloud-generated revenue, the partner ecosystem is expected to generate $7.76 by 2024, up from $6.01 in 2020.

Keeping data secure and compliant
The cloud services available in the UAE adhere to Microsoft’s ‘trusted cloud’ principles of security, privacy, compliance, and transparency, helping organisations meet their customers’ cloud needs while still meeting data residency, security, and local certification requirements.

Microsoft is the first cloud service provider in the UAE to achieve Dubai Electronic Security Centre certification for its cloud services, enabling the company to offer its cloud services to Dubai government and semi-government entities.

That data is further protected by Microsoft’s adoption of ISO/IEC 27018, the world’s first code of practice for cloud privacy. Industry standards such as PCI and GDPR are supported.

Bridging the skills gap
A World Economic Forum report found that 54 per cent of organisations that are planning to adopt new technologies said that they must significantly reskill and upskill their workforce. In the Arab world, 40 per cent of employers cite skill shortage as a top constraint to company growth.

With a pool of Microsoft engineers, data scientists and experts contributing to the digital transformation journeys of Middle East customers and their migration to the cloud, the UAE datacentres will also contribute to bridging the skills gap amongst the IT community in the region and enhance their technical acumen in the cloud.

Microsoft Cloud Society, the company’s global initiative that has trained over 150,000 IT professionals in Middle East and Africa, will be a cornerstone of this effort enabling organisations to realize the business benefits of cloud, and upskill in building, migrating, and managing their cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft has also collaborated with One Million Arab Coders initiative to build a learning path for Arab youth through an intensive curriculum to prepare them to develop solutions on the cloud. This also includes young IT professionals trained under the Microsoft Tomoh programme, geared specifically to empower and skill Emirati talent.

Microsoft has added education-specific features to Teams including a ‘Together Mode’ which presents attendees sitting in a virtual auditorium setting as well as ‘Dynamic View’ to optimise what’s important.

Enhancing productivity
Microsoft 365 now includes Office productivity apps, OneDrive cloud storage and Teams, providing businesses with a comprehensive suite of productivity and collaboration tools all available from the cloud. Therefore, organisations such as DP World and Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, ADDA, have been able to easily introduce and scale remote working for their employees safely and securely.

Microsoft Teams stands out as a product that helped students, teachers, and public and private entities to continue their work and education during the pandemic: in the first weeks of the pandemic, over 600,000 students continued their education from home via Teams, with Microsoft able to scale rapidly because of its datacentres.

Continued demand for Microsoft’s intelligent cloud offerings is reflected in Microsoft’s commercial cloud revenue. Companies in increasing numbers turned to cloud computing from Azure and cloud-software offerings like Teams to keep employees connected while they work from home as reflected in Microsoft’s second-quarter earnings (Q4 2020). Azure revenues grew 50 per cent in the quarter, with earnings from the Intelligent Cloud segment growing to $14.6bn from $11.87bn a year ago.

Microsoft is just at the beginning of its UAE data region journey
Microsoft is not stopping there and continues to raise the value proposition for its cloud platform.

The company announced the availability of M and Mv2 Series Virtual Machines to provide SAP S4/HANA high performance, scalability, and security along with the addition of new Azure Services to the UAE Regions. RAK Ceramics, one of the largest ceramics brands in the world, is taking advantage of this offering, running their ERP system S/4HANA on Azure.

Azure also continues to support customers’ Application Modernisation journeys. Development teams can now run App Services, Functions, Azure Red Hat OpenShift, Azure Files Premium tier and Azure DevTest Labs in the Azure UAE regions.

Looking at what’s next, Microsoft pledged three years ago to invest $5bn in IoT and the intelligent edge. Since then, the number of devices supported by Microsoft’s IoT platform has grown nearly 150 per cent year-over-year and supports one of the largest and fastest-growing partner ecosystems with more than ten thousand IoT partners. IoT Hub is now available in the Azure UAE regions.

The new frontier is Azure AI, which allows customers to build mission-critical solutions that can analyse images, comprehend speech, make predictions using data, and imitate other intelligent human behaviours, with many AI services now available for organisations to explore in the UAE.

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