With 2011 shaping up to be the year of cloud computing, EMC is preparing to step into the limelight as one of IT’s top-tier firms.

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E=MCloud Mohammed Amin.
By  Ben Furfie Published  January 11, 2011

With 2011 shaping up to be the year of cloud computing, EMC is preparing to step into the limelight as one of IT’s top-tier firms. But with the various issues cloud computing faces in the Middle East, including confusion, scepticism and a lack of infrastructure, can the vendor really find the magic formula to make cloud click in the region?

MC is a company that stands on the precipice of global domination. With 2011 increasingly looking like the year when widespread use of cloud computing technology is realised, the IT services vendor is ideally placed to be catapulted to the very forefront of the IT industry, alongside the likes of HP and Microsoft.

For years, the company has always found itself as the bridesmaid of success, but never the bride. The one who did all the hard work, but doesn’t get the attention. However, as the self-professed leader in the three major components of cloud computing – storage, security and virtualisation – the Massachusetts-based company’s day in the white dress may finally be upon it.

Indeed, the company’s plans for 2011 reflect the belief it has placed in this year being the one in which cloud technology finally matures. “At the end of last year, we launched our certifications in cloud computing,” reveals the recently promoted vice president and general manager for EMC Turkey, Emerging Africa and the Middle East, Mohammed Amin. “We’re going to have a real programme to help the customer raise their knowledge of cloud computing. We’re doing this for the good of the community; I mean, we’re not sure if it will necessarily convert to purchases of EMC hardware, but that’s not point. We just feel it is the right thing to do for the community.”

As Amin explains, the company’s programme of educating the market goes right the way back to the very beginning of cloud computing. And that sustained programme of education is beginning to pay dividends for the company, he adds. “From my experience in the Middle East, there was a lot of resistance to the concept of cloud computing even as late as early 2010 when we were presenting our offerings to customers in the region. I would say that the percentage of those who we spoke to last year that are still sceptical about cloud computing is less than a third. It has been reduced by around 70% in my opinion. It’s getting less and less everyday. In fact, what it reminds me of is how people approached the internet at the turn of the millennium. Ten years later, and everyone uses it without even thinking about it.”

Despite that, Amin is quick to stress that the company recognises the main stumbling block to cloud adoption is cost. “What I’m hearing from customers is that they recognise the safest way to enter the cloud is through a private cloud, but that the cost of building one is often too much. That’s the main reason that they believe the concept won’t take off.” So how does EMC combat that viewpoint? The answer is that they don’t. “Rightly, many of those dissenting voices have recognised that to get the best return from a private cloud infrastructure, they will need to share their resources. Now that’s not ideal for us either, because in an ideal world we’d be able to sell the hardware and solutions to each customer, but we recognised that that simply isn’t going to be possible. That’s why when I meet customers, I reassure them that the concept has been around for a long time. What has changed is that the security ID technology has matured to a point that sharing information on the cloud is safe,” he adds.

The other approach the company is using to help people feel more confident about cloud technology is raising awareness of where they are already using it. “When we encounter resistance, we ask if they are using Google’s services other than search or marketing – more often than not, they’ll reply yes. When they do, we inform that in that case, they’re already using cloud technology. It’s about taking what is still very much an abstract concept and relating it to the existing technology in enterprises to make it easier for CIOs to understand.”

Another area that EMC is keen to push is the cost savings that come with the adoption of cloud computing. “We’re not saying that cloud computing will save a CIO $1m or $100m, because those are arbitrary figures,” stresses Amin. “What we are saying to customers is that our research has shown that the average enterprise currently spends 72% of their IT budget for the year just maintaining their existing infrastructure. So that’s operating expenses, such as maintenance, service retainers and the biggest, which is of course staff costs. That means only 28% of their IT budget is left for new initiatives. What we’ve found though is by implementing a private cloud, the cost of infrastructure actually goes down to about 55%. That means a CIO could suddenly find 45% of their budget being made available for innovation. That’s a huge number considering the average size of an enterprises’ IT budget. An increased budget will not only allow you to invest more in new technologies, but it will also allow a quicker time to market, as well as giving them a advantage over rivals.”

Amin says that there is a secondary benefit; one that could come in useful if as some economists predict, the world slips back into recession. “Even if the economy does go back into negative growth, and IT budgets are cut further, because your OPEX is still lower, and so you may be left with more money to innovate anyway. Any company that hasn’t adopted cloud will be worse off for sure.”

Another area that Amin is pleased about is that the company has managed to supply many of its existing customers with a cloud-ready infrastructure – even though some of them don’t realise it. “I believe that cloud computing isn’t just important for EMC, it’s important for the entire IT community and its future in the Middle East. The truth is that most of our products and services are already cloud ready. That means some our recent customers that have bought our products have bought a cloud-ready infrastructure – even if they don’t know they have, the fact is that they have. If they come back to us and say they are ready for the cloud, we’ll be able to make their day by helping to realise they’re already there,” adds Amin.

EMC isn’t planning to rest on its laurels either. “It’s very important for us to continue investing in our research and development. It’s going to be even more important going forward as we look to raise awareness of cloud computing,” says Amin. “Our plans to hire not just account managers, but also service professionals is a reflection of that commitment to our customers in the Middle East.”

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