Is the Middle East falling out of love with innovation?

Clouded judgement – Middle East risks missing the most exciting tech innovation of our generation

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Is the Middle East falling out of love with innovation? The Middle East risks being left behind on cloud computing, says Job.
By  Peter Job Published  October 20, 2011

The ‘Spinning Jenny' revolutionised the production of cotton in 18th century England - and eventually the world - and is a great example of disruptive technology. Developments such as these represent leaps in technology and new possibilities and practices that advance whole industries, and even countries.

So, there is a certain irony that, as change sweeps across parts of the Middle East through the ‘Arab Spring', parts of the region seem to be determined to hold back change and innovation in the fast moving area of technology and ICT.

It seems strangely out of character that a region that has generally embraced and welcomed innovation, adopted and implemented it, is now seemingly fearful of a technology that will - and is - revolutionising the way ICT works around the world. In the process, the region risks being perceived as lagging behind more ‘forward thinking‘ regions, and worryingly risk averse.

I am of course talking about ‘Cloud Computing'.

For me personally, the issues were made very clear during a recent Cloud conference I attended in Dubai. There were some genuinely interesting speakers and examples of real ICT innovation from the presenters, particularly from the education/higher education sector - not necessarily renowned for its focus on ICT.

But the overall feeling after hearing negative speaker after negative speaker was that ‘Cloud computing is still risky for the enterprise'. Listening to the panel discussions, the speakers sounded like the people who advocated a man walking slowly with a red flag in front of the motorcar, at the dawn of the motor age. Well, this may have slowed down the car for a while but couldn't hold back this particular technology revolution. 

Frustratingly, at the Dubai conference, I didn't recognise any real cloud computing technologists or real innovators in their field, amongst the line-up of panellists and commentators.

Now, contrast this with developments at the other side of the world.

I have had the good fortune to have spent quite a lot of time in Silicon Valley over the last six months and there is such an obvious and stark difference in attitudes to cloud computing, when you compare the US to the Middle East. This is especially surprising when you remember how innovative and excited the Middle East generally is about new technology and how determined to take the opportunity to make the technology leap.

So, let's put Cloud computing in a very clear context.

Cloud computing is the most exciting and disruptive technology advance since the advent of the internet 20 years ago. Not only is it breaking down cost barriers and other boundaries, but it is also massively improving productivity.

My view is that Cloud computing is as revolutionary to technology, society and the global economy as the ‘Spinning Jenny' more than 300 years ago. But it's a different story in the region.

All the experts and consultants keep talking about the ROIs, the SLAs and the complexity of Cloud computing - especially the lawyers, who may see a once in a lifetime commercial opportunity here, of course.

Cloud computing has got nothing to do with ROI - but it has everything to do with increased productivity and innovation. 

These are not just hypothetical ideas.

At Intergence Systems, we have 70% of our applications in the Cloud and we have just launched a new software product in the Middle East, which Cloud helped us get to market in half the normal time and with a greater choice of applications.

In fact, the reality is that most people are probably using Cloud based applications already and just don't realise it. Cloud computing isn't all or nothing and there are incremental steps that can be taken. So, isn't it time for the Middle East to grasp the opportunity and show what it can do with Cloud computing?

Peter Job is Founder and CEO of Intergence Systems, an IT optimisation company operating in Cambridge (UK) and Dubai.

2674 days ago
Paras Tolani

I highly value your thought and at this point we have implemented CDP backup over cloud for past 4 years now. I can share the same thought with you 4 years back when it took me some months to convince for such a backup strategy. very efficient. with tape, achieving CDP was impossible.

we have seen certain recovery scenarios where recovery was done on the fly for files dating backup 3 years. conceptually the ROI can be calculated right here.

definitely it will pick up and it is boosting. soon the technology here will have rocket launchers and everyone will be using cloud on a much higher and greater level.

2705 days ago
Ramy Ghaly

I see lots of disappointment and frustration by convincing enterprises in the Meddle East to embrace the cloud. The concerns felt by you are widespread to introduce the cloud to the enterprise. According to Gartner's latest top 10 technology trends in 2012, surprisingly, cloud computing scored at 10th place. Gartner's take on cloud computing: Cloud is a disruptive force and has the potential for broad long-term impact in most industries. While the market remains in its early stages in 2011 and 2012, it will see the full range of large enterprise providers fully engaged in delivering a range of offerings to build cloud environments and deliver cloud services. Oracle, IBM and SAP all have major initiatives to deliver a broader range of cloud services over the next two years. As Microsoft continues to expand its cloud offering, and these traditional enterprise players expand offerings, users will see competition heat up and enterprise-level cloud services increase.

Enterprises are moving from trying to understand the cloud to making decisions on selected workloads to implement on cloud services and where they need to build out private clouds. Hybrid cloud computing which brings together external public cloud services and internal private cloud services, as well as the capabilities to secure, manage and govern the entire cloud spectrum will be a major focus for 2012. From a security perspective new certification programs including FedRAMP and CAMM will be ready for initial trial, setting the stage for more secure cloud computing. On the private cloud front, IT will be challenged to bring operations and development groups closer together using “DevOps” concepts in order to approach the speed and efficiencies of public cloud service providers.

The bottom line is - Don't give up on the cloud, it needs some time to be mainstream technology. It reminds me of semantic technology; both are the future to unfold in the next 5 years.

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