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Why cloud became a de-facto technology in the Mideast and Africa during Covid-19

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Cloud played a critical role in enabling digital transformation and ensuring business continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic and has become a de-facto technology, an industry expert said.

Manish Ranjan, Program Manager for Software and Cloud at research firm IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa(Meta), told TechRadar Pro Middle East, organisations that were not digital-ready were challenged the most by the subsequent lockdown and shutting down of offices while many of those already using digital solutions were able to keep their businesses alive by going virtual.

“Only way this could be achieved was to transform their business models into the digital space by leveraging cloud technology,” he said.

The pandemic has impacted several industries such as transportation, hospitality, manufacturing and resourced have all been adversely affected, not only by the pandemic but also by the crash in oil prices.

Amid the crisis, certain sectors like education, media and communication, government, healthcare, and retail aggressively accelerated their adoption of cloud.

Since the start of the crisis, Ranjan said that higher adoption of cloud has been witnessed in certain industries like education, healthcare, and government; however, several other sectors—such as transportation and hospitality—have not been operational at all.

“In a market situation where spending on on-premises software is set to contract 10% year on year in 2020 in the Meta region, public cloud services (PCS)  growing at a rate of 27% is a clear sign of the region's undoubted appetite for cloud services,” he said.

Manish Ranjan, Program Manager for Software and Cloud at research firm IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa(

Manish Ranjan, Program Manager for Software and Cloud at IDC, said that silver lining from the current crisis is the realisation among organisations that cloud is capable of not only supporting their digital transformation journeys but also of enabling business continuity during a crisis by minimising the severity of the fallout. (Image credit: IDC)

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South Africa and UAE show fastest growth

In the pre-Covid-19 scenario, IDC had projected year-on-year growth of 29.7% for 2020.

Within the region, Ranjan said that South Africa and the UAE are showing the fastest growth in cloud adoption.

Andrew Brinded, Vice-President and Sales Chief Operating Officer at Nutanix, said that cloud computing is the biggest IT shift since client/server but, despite its manifest advantages and soaring popularity, the cloud has far from dominated the way that firms deploy IT resources.

“There’s no such thing as an overnight hit in IT, but look out for cloud-related opportunities for both short-term benefits and future strategic importance. Cloud is already big, but it’s about to get bigger,” he said.

However, he said that most established companies still maintain on-premises applications, data and other resources and the trend is very much to hybrid environments where enterprises spread the load across traditional on-premises IT, private cloud, public cloud, co-location facilities and classic outsourcing.

“Some watchers suspect that the journey to enterprise cloud is only 20 per cent completed,” he said.

According to IDC, spending on PCS in the UAE is expected to grow 27.4% year on year in 2020 to reach over $400 million.

In terms of cloud deployment models, Ranjan said that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) has seen significant growth during the crisis, with spending to increase 30% year on year in 2020.

This compares to the combined growth of both SaaS and PaaS at 26.1% over the same period.

Microsoft and AWS facilitate the shift

Moreover, Ranjan said that the data centre investments made in these countries by global hyperscalers like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have helped facilitate the shift in business mindset towards the cloud.

 “The growth in IaaS is primarily being driven by the surge in adoption of collaboration tools and applications, the need to support remote work environments, and the rise in demand for cloud-based business continuity tools. All these factors are forcing organisations to invest in their current IT infrastructures, which is easily fulfilled with the deployment of additional compute and storage capacity via IaaS cloud,” Ranjan said.

However, he said that organisations that were least prepared to deal with the fallout from the pandemic were those that had no prior digital transformation strategy in place.

As the situation continues to evolve, he said that organisations will start to re-evaluate their business continuity strategies by focusing on modernising their critical IT infrastructure to be able to counter any unforeseen crises in future.

“Any educational institutions or universities, for example, which never previously embraced online learning or distant learning options, are facing an "adapt-or-perish" situation. In this context, having robust online collaboration tools, strong and scalable cloud-based platforms, and highly secure remote access in place will be central to organisations' digital transformation strategies as they strive to improve their infrastructure resiliency and disaster recovery capabilities,” he said.

However, he said that the silver lining from the current crisis is the realisation among organisations that cloud is capable of not only supporting their digital transformation journeys but also of enabling business continuity during a crisis by minimising the severity of the fallout.

“This realisation will serve to instil greater trust and confidence in cloud technology, which is why we expect to see accelerated adoption of cloud both during and after the pandemic,” Ranjan said.