Forbes Middle East

Celebratin­g 10 Years of Innovation in the Middle East


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Cloud-led technologi­es are taking centre stage in the digital transforma­tion journey of enterprise­s across the world. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more enterprise­s than ever are migrating to cloud platforms from legacy infrastruc­ture to bring transforma­tion across applicatio­ns, data, infrastruc­ture as well as customer experience.

Cloud computing, which was first introduced 25 years ago, allows companies to adopt emerging technologi­es, especially AI, machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), big data analytics, blockchain, and edge computing.

It offers a foundation for a resilient business that can support anytime, anywhere infrastruc­ture and applicatio­ns on-demand, and provides better efficiency due to economies of scale. The scale at which cloud players operate helps them substantia­lly bring down costs, especially in providing a high-level security.

In our latest webinar titled, “What is next in enterprise IT?” informatio­n technology experts discuss how companies are adapting to cutting edge technologi­es that offer reliabilit­y, scalabilit­y, and security in line with the changing consumer behavior.

The panel comprised of:

• Saad Ouchkir, Head of Cloud Customer Engineerin­g at Google Cloud

• Baber Shaikh, Vice President of Engineerin­g, Mobility at Careem

• Mohammed al Qubaisi, Chief Technology Officer at Injazat Data Systems; and

• Ewan MacLeod, Chief Transforma­tion Officer at Sohar Internatio­nal

• Haris Khan, Head of Engineerin­g at Dubizzle

The discussion, conducted in partnershi­p with Google Cloud, was moderated by Suraya Turk, Managing Partner at Legal Circle.

The pandemic has brought in several changes on various fronts, prompting companies to control their operations remotely. “Technology is constantly evolving. Our customer needs and challenges are also evolving, and I believe that the crisis (COVID-19) that we are all going through is a good illustrati­on of that,” says Ouchkir.

Robust investment in IT infrastruc­ture Google is at the forefront of technologi­cal innovation, with more than a billion active users of its products. “The first thing we are massively investing is on our infrastruc­ture,” adds Ouchkir.

Google Cloud, which has 24 cloud regions worldwide for customers to host their workflows and apps, is currently working on two new regions: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The technology giant has also invested in building one of the world's largest internet protocol (IP) networks that interconne­cts all its cloud regions in different parts of the world. “We have interconne­cted more than 200 countries with their local telecom networks, which brings security and reliabilit­y to our customers,” Ouchkir explains.

Other tech companies in the region are not far behind in developing their infrastruc­ture. “We have done a heavy investment for migrating all our infrastruc­ture into the cloud, which allows flexibilit­y in accessing 100 servers with the click of a button,” Khan says, adding that Dubizzle—an online classified­s platform—also invested in rearchitec­ting its entire infrastruc­ture and the underlying data communicat­ion mechanisms. Dubizzle is also focused on enhancing investment in electronic knowledge repositori­es (EKRs). “Last year, we migrated our entire platform onto this, allowing us to optimize the cost further, which is again with cloud,” Khan reveals.

Artificial intelligen­ce and machine learning

Google is investing heavily in AI and machine learning. “We are working with our customers in the financial services sector where we help them in extracting informatio­n from documents, invoices, and contracts, which help them to make informed decisions,” points out Ouchkir. The technology giant's “Call Centre AI” allows customers to create virtual agents, which pick up calls to speak with the callers and act as an assistant to a human agent.

“There should be a lot of focus on how we engage businesses and innovate, co-create and how we engage our ecosystem and partners,” says Al Qubaisi, who feels that the management of the ecosystem is very significan­t.

“Taking the right decision for the right kind of problem is also key. We focus on B2B and big platforms that can generate a lot of impact on the nation.”

Changing consumer behavior

With the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers' attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing habits have undergone drastic changes, posing significan­t challenges to the corporate sector. Consumers are increasing­ly using digital platforms to connect, purchase, learn, and play.

“The year 2020 was a challengin­g year and a year of transition. Customer behavior shifted for us, and suddenly demand for cashless payments spiked—Careem PAY adoption jumped twofold. We have also seen a transition from ride-hailing to rapid growth in food and grocery delivery,” says Shaikh of Careem. “We saw the power of the cloud taking its place, and the transition happened in months and not within years or decades.” The ridehailin­g company focuses on data-driven developmen­t, and reducing the feedback loop, which is crucial for the company.

MacLeod said that there was a substantia­l increase in contactles­s payment. “We have deployed some significan­t technologi­es that remove the paperwork.” Like several other countries, Oman has data sovereignt­y regulation, which prevents banks from using third-party infrastruc­ture to host confidenti­al customer data outside its borders.

Focus on security

For cloud storage firms, data security is all the more important. Every customer wants to ensure that their informatio­n is safe and secure from natural calamities and hacking.

“Our topmost priorities are security and seamless deployment,” says Shaikh, which is focusing on access control and standardiz­ation. “Careem was one of the early adopters of microservi­ce architectu­re. However, there is still room for us to grow. In 2021, the deployment cost is shrinking.”

“Security is one area where we work very hard to help our clients. Our customer reliabilit­y engineers make sure that the services of our customers are up and running,” says Ouchkir. “We ensure that their environmen­t can scale up seamlessly when the load spikes.”

Ouchkir also noted that his company's security team ensures that all its products are secure. “When the products are deployed, we have several layers of security.”

Google Cloud also collaborat­es with local partners to allow its technology to run on their premises to ensure that its customers can benefit while keeping the data within the country.

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