Heading towards the cloud

eHosting DataFort CEO Yasser Zeineldin says customers are increasingly turning to its hosting and managed IT services as the region embraces cloud computing.

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Heading towards the cloud Key regional customers want their cloud infrastructure providers to be based in the region, according to eHDF’s Yasser Zeineldin.
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 24, 2012

eHosting DataFort CEO Yasser Zeineldin says customers are increasingly turning to its hosting and managed IT services as the region embraces cloud computing.

As the cloud computing business gradually begins to take shape in the Middle East, it looks like the early leaders in the sector will be the companies that are already in the business of taking care of other people’s IT. As an established hosting and managed services provider, eHosting DataFort (eHDF), a fully-owned subsidiary of TECOM Investments, already has customers that trust it to manage their data, and CEO Yasser Zeineldin says that the company is now ready to push out cloud services. eHDF plans to launch its cloud services fully for the region by the second half of this year, Zeineldin says, and its experience with enterprises and services in the region will shape the solutions it brings to market.

The company will kick off with two flavours of cloud, managed private clouds, mainly for enterprise customers, and light public cloud, which will extend eHDF’s focus to the SME.

“By studying the UAE market, we found that major enterprise clients do not like the concept of a cloud that is foreign, because of the data security issues, service level issues with a foreign provider, and some of the legal requirements, says Zeineldin.

“They prefer to have a local cloud environment; and they don’t want to share with other people, but they want to get the benefits of scalability, without the disadvantages or compromises on security and data integrity and so forth.”

The company has a small number of clients at the design stage for managed private cloud, and is already offering hosted virtualised hardware, but these deployments require a close design process, to balance delivering the benefits of the cloud with the reluctance to share infrastructure.

“There is a trade off, between how much privacy you would like to have and your unique set up, and how much you want to share with others,” says Zeineldin. “If the customer wants a very elastic demand, that can scale ten times, and wants a private cloud, then who pays for that infrastructure? We have the benefit in engaging with the customer in designing a solution that doesn’t compromise their requirements, but also that is at a good price point.”

Typically some elements of the managed cloud will be kept for the sole use of the client, while other elements of infrastructure can be shared, such as SAN storage or additional computing resources can be provisioned as required.

For the public cloud offering, eHDF will also need to tailor the service to meet legal and regulatory requirements of the UAE. The service is intended to be similar to large international public cloud providers such as Amazon, with hourly billing, easy scalability and rapid provisioning.

Zeineldin says the service should appeal to any company that has an elastic demand for computing power, across a range of industries, and he believes that will also offer companies a convenient way to test out cloud computing.

“There is a misconception that a business needs to go full swing either to cloud computing or inhouse, but the reality is that as the CIO or manager of a line of business, you might have a new workload that you want to automate. You can take a different approach for each workload, and because of either time or financial constraints, you can go for a cloud model for it, as opposed to having set it up internally. That is a good way for many companies to test the concept before making major decisions in cloud computing,” he says.

eHDF is actually already providing cloud services for government users in the UAE, through its partnership with Emirates eGovernment. The company manages the shared e-government platform which delivers services to federal government entities. The platform operates as a community cloud, with a wide menu of services available to help government groups to easily provision new services.

In many ways, promoting the value of the cloud is an extension of what Zeineldin set out to achieve since taking the lead at eHDF in May 2009, in terms of steering customer perception and creating confidence in the company as a local operator.

“I wanted to make sure that the value perception in the minds of customers was pretty clear, so one of the things we have done in that respect is articulate our vision in helping customers, which basically stands on three areas - the strategic benefit of managed hosting or managed services, demonstrating that to clients, how they can focus on their core business, how they can have a faster time to market, to be more agile and so forth. The second part is the financial benefit, which is basically lowering the TCO, and converting CAPEX-based model to OPEX-based model, and the third is the operational part, which is basically about service excellence, 24x7 support, by [eHDF] having the skills sets and capabilities available.”

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