Cloud Computing in the Middle East
Over the last few months, I have written about cloud computing and associated events across the world. While most of the articles have understandably concentrated on the US, the largest market in the world, Europe, Australia and Asia have also been covered
(For a list of these articles, see below)
However, one part of the world, a very important part, has escaped coverage. Today, by covering some cloud computing developments in the Middle East, I aim to rectify that oversight.
The Middle East had made its wealth through the sale of oil. However, the rulers know that oil, like all good things, will ultimately come to an end. That is why they have taken steps to ensure that the region has the best of everything in terms of people and infrastructure. This has resulted in the development of a mature economic society incorporating finance, education and technology, ably supported by a highly-skilled expatriate population.
Recently, a Middle East CIO Summit was organized in Doha, Qatar, to explore opportunities in cloud computing. Around 30 of the 50 CIOs of top organizations who attended the summit affirmed that cloud computing featured in their long-term planning horizons. While 25% of the participants said they had considered or had already adopted public cloud services such as Salesforce.com or Google Apps, another 20% rated on-premise private cloud options as their first step to adoption.
“CIOs fully appreciate the advantages cloud technologies can provide, such as speed to deployment and elasticity in use,” said Kevin White, Research and Consulting Director for Ovum Middle East, the company which organized the summit. “They seem to agree that public cloud does promise new levels of agility in the delivery and use of business applications. But the range on offer is still very limited. There are also some well-founded concerns among CIOs about the resilience of local connectivity.”
Bandwidth is not the only concern with public clouds; security, too, is an issue. “Cloud security rightly appears to be the number one priority among the CIOs in attendance. CIOs point to a lack of regulation in the arena, and governance is a perceived concern for some,” White added. It would seem that public clouds, as in India, do not enjoy the same level of confidence as their private counterparts
More recently, a Cloud Computing Roundtable hosted by Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) has been organized at Doha. The participants discussed the possibilities of the technology in the region, as well as some of its limitations. Unlike the previous event, this one was more focused on research than industry.
“Cloud computing encourages the entrepreneur,” remarked Simon Ponsford, a senior scientist at QCRI and co-chair of the roundtable. “The pay-as-you-go model allows the user to experiment with product offerings and marketing without investing a huge amount of money in computing hardware. If the user finds a successful model, the cloud computing infrastructure is in place to scale up with the increased business activity.”
According to Dr. Mohamed Hefeeda, another senior scientist with QCRI and co-chair of the event, “There are holes in cloud computing architecture. The various cloud computing providers have solved problems in different ways, so there is no standard protocol. As a result, the clouds cannot talk to each other, and migrating from one cloud to another is not feasible.”
However, he considered these drawbacks as guidance for further research. “These limitations in the cloud infrastructure create opportunities for QCRI researchers to create technologies that meet the challenges. The cloud computing roundtable panelists are here to help QCRI identify where the gaps are so we can focus our research efforts,” he added.
Participants at the round table included representatives from Imperial College London, Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue University, University of Arizona, University of Washington, Rutgers University, Texas A&M Qatar, Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Maryland, Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan, Google, Microsoft Research, In-Pocket Development, Object Environments, Aljazeera and QCRI.
By Sourya Biswas