Soarsoft International Founder and Director, Chris Hathaway, recently returned from a trip through Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, having met with several of Soarsoft’s customers based in the area. During the course of his visit, he reported astounding levels of cloud adoption taking place throughout the region.

“Of the fifteen customers I visited (across government, property holdings, financial services, education, telecoms, eventing and conferencing industries), fourteen had already fully deployed into Microsoft Azure and were at least partially on Office 365 as well,” says Hathaway. “The single customer who had not yet deployed was planning their roadmap to the cloud the following week.”

While adoption is rising fast in South African, this level of adoption is not yet being achieved in Southern Africa. Hathaway does not, however, believe this is purely due to internet latency and high network costs.

“The UAE and Qatar are no better off when it comes to internet,” he explains. “In fact, their content is more restricted and they have similar bandwidth and expense issues to South Africa, and yet cloud adoption – and specifically Microsoft cloud adoption – is thriving.”

Even more surprising, perhaps, is the fact that it’s thriving in spite of the traditionally data privacy anti-American data privacy sentiments attributed to Middle Eastern countries. Judging from Hathaway’s experiences, the reality of the situation is that these political and religious perceptions have very little apparent influence on business relationships.

“If anything, trust in the Microsoft Cloud seems higher in the UAE than it is South Africa,” Hathaway notes. “There is definitely far less concern about data sovereignty and privacy standards being expressed by our Middle Eastern customers with several deploying in US data centres. In South Africa, we inevitably spend a good deal of time explaining how the MS Trust Centre works and how Microsoft complies with ISO 27001 as well as EU privacy regulations, and generally deploy in EU data centres for these reasons. In the UAE and Qatar, Microsoft’s security and privacy is almost taken for granted these days.”

While this kind of trust certainly encourages cloud adoption, it’s not enough to account for the massive push to the cloud Hathaway saw taking place. So what is actually behind the trend?

“A large factor seems to be the severe shortage of local onsite skills,” says Hathaway. “The expat community provides the majority of skilled resources at a premium, which is not only expensive for businesses, it also results in a high staff turnover as expats arrive, work for a while, and leave for home once again. That’s really not an ideal situation during long and complex deployments.”

With the inevitable lack of continuity and accountability resulting from the high turnover, Hathaway believes it’s no surprise that the faster and less complex cloud deployments have become an attractive option for consultants, project managers and customers alike.

“Another influence is the multi-national nature of many of the businesses in the area,” he continues. “A lot of them have US, UK or EU based offices or holdings in addition to their Middle Eastern presence. This makes data sovereignty less of an issue, while increasing the need for flexibility, collaboration and communication, once again making the cloud an attractive solution.”

Add to this the competitive pricing of cloud vs onsite licencing, and the exceptional calibre of sales people Hathaway reports meeting in the region, and it becomes even easier to understand the widespread adoption taking place.

“The general appetite and aptitude for technology in the area should also not be discounted,” he adds. “The latest mobile phones, devices, watches, etcetera are a frequent part of daily discussions and life. Technology is certainly not seen as something to fear – rather, it’s an area of exciting innovation to be embraced. Cloud technology is treated with similar enthusiasm, and with more migration success stories being told every day, it has simply become the accepted norm for modern business in the area.”

Here in South Africa, we are well on our way, but have not quite reached a similar comfort level, and adoption rate, while steadily increasing, is behind that of the Middle East. Our lethargy may be attributed to the better availability of skills and local facilities, or our wariness when it comes to relying on inter continental connectivity. Perhaps it’s because our government is still unclear on cloud strategy and viability. Whatever the reason, momentum is nonetheless building, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing our own mass cloud adoption taking place here at home. Who knows, but perhaps we will see a Microsoft Azure Data Centre in Southern Africa in the not too distant future!

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