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AWS picks Bahrain for first datacentres in the Middle East

Government support, clean energy, work in favour of the GCC country, analysts say

AWS picks Bahrain for first datacentres in the Middle East
Key Bahrain Government agencies are utilising AWS cloud services, delivering to the cloud giant key public partners in the country.

The recent announcement by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that it will invest in datacentre infrastructure in the region was welcome news for many of AWS customers in the region.

If there was any surprise, it was the choice of country to host AWS first datacentres in the region.

On the 25th of last month, AWS announced that it plans to set up what it refers to as an infrastructure region in the Middle East by early 2019. The new region, with its base in Bahrain, will consist of three availability zones.

By picking Bahrain, AWS seemed to overlook Dubai, a traditional regional destination for global IT giants and Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the region.

Not necessarily, experts say.    

For cloud services particularly, being close to customers is the overriding factor, less so the specific host country. The size of the host market matters little in such deployments, says Megha Kumar, research director, software & cloud, IDC Middle East, Turkey & Africa.

Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst, Gartner says an AWS data centre anywhere in the Middle East will address the infrastructure requirements of the local small and medium-sized business market and startup ecosystems, most of whom currently leverage AWS’s data centre in Europe.

In fact, the choice of Bahrain is a strategic one considering that AWS had earlier in the year announced Bahrain as one of the sites of its two offices in the region, the other one being Dubai, Kumar observes. 

Additionally, a number of Bahrain Government agencies are utilising AWS cloud services, Kumar observes, delivering to the cloud giant key public partners in the country. The Kingdom of Bahrain Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA), the body in charge of moving all government services online and responsible for ICT governance and procurement for the Bahrain government earlier this year launched a cloud-first policy, requiring all new government ICT procurement to evaluate cloud-based services first. iGA is itself a major AWS customer. Its chief executive, Mohamed Al Qaed says AWS forms the backbone of Bahrain’s digital government initiatives.  The Bahrain Institute of Public Administration has also adopted AWS services, moving its Learning Management System to the cloud platform.

Bahrain also fulfils AWS’ stated goals of operating environmentally sustainable datacentres.  AWS chose Bahrain in part due to the country's focus on executing renewable energy goals and its proposal to construct a new solar power facility to meet AWS’s power needs, said Teresa Carlson, VP of worldwide public sector at AWS. The Bahrain Electricity and Water Authority expects to bring the 100 MW solar farm online in 2019, making it the country’s first utility-scale renewable energy project.

Observers also raised concerns over data protection, a major concern in the region. 

The Bahraini Government seems to be ahead of this issue as well. At the tail end of this announcement, Bahrain announced new legislation around data sovereignty and privacy, Kumar observes. “You are looking an entire country trying to address cloud adoption putting in the legislation in place even before the datacentre construction can even start. The Government is putting in place all the different elements needed to ensure that this will be a very compliant datacentre when it comes into the country.”

Whatever its base, AWS has always supported the startup ecosystem in the region, notes Kumar. Some of the biggest startups in the region began, and are still running on, AWS, such as Souq.com, Careem, Dubizzle, Fetchr and others. Further, AWS has committed itself to setting up an edge location in Dubai, which will support the e-commerce firms and startups type of customers they are focused on, says Kumar.

“AWS has attracted a lot of startups who appreciate the agility and pay-per-use nature of the cloud,” notes Rao.

Overall, the AWS entry is great news for all manner of cloud players. Rao says this will also create a new ecosystem of local managed service providers who will deliver and manage infrastructure and software services on AWS.

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