C-level executives and business leaders in the GCC and Egypt overwhelmingly agree on cloud computing’s positive and transformative impact, according to new findings released on Monday.
Commissioned by security and cloud experts F5 Networks, and conducted by research agency Think Positive, the study is one of the most in-depth of its kind to involve board-level decision-makers.
The results are the most up-to-date gauge on current regional attitudes to the cloud, drawing on the views of 250 C-level executives and business owners from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Egypt.
“Cloud computing has significant potential to radically alter how businesses and organisations run in the GCC,” said Diego Arrabal, VP – Middle East, Turkey & Africa, F5 Networks.
“This new study shows that, while the region still has plenty of room to ramp up cloud deployment projects, the overall recognition of the technology’s possibilities is at an all-time high. Decision-makers in the region see the cloud as a business priority. Firms that continually innovate and build a sustainable cloud strategy will increasingly stand out from their competitors, meet intensifying compliance targets, and be better able to substantively contribute to major government-backed transformation projects.”
Powering the future
Although the GCC is relatively early in its multi-cloud embrace compared to mature markets, such as the USA and parts of EMEA, there is widespread and enthusiastic receptivity for the technology’s potential.
Almost all GCC businesses (99%) believe the cloud can have a positive impact on market share and help to displace competitors. 90% also stated that it can improve brand perception, and 89% praised its capacity to improve innovation. A clear consensus was also reached on the cloud’s potential to enhance the overall customer experience (90%).
Similarly, 96% of decision-makers were keen to highlight the cloud’s likely starring role in driving major government-led transformation initiatives. 97% believed that the cloud would be integral to the ongoing rollout of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and 91% believed the same for the UAE’s Vision 2021.
Most respondents also flagged the importance of local regulations as a constructive cloud conduit, with 68% stating they had a favourable influence. Kuwait was the most positive in this respect (78%) followed by the UAE (77%), and Saudi Arabia (64%).
Cloud computing’s most commonly cited benefits included greater business efficiency (64% of surveyed businesses), followed by cost savings (52%), operational flexibility (48%) and time-to-market (46%). As many as 35% estimate that cloud migration unlocks business growth of between 25-50%. 25% predict it drives 51-75% growth, and 18% went as far as 76-99%.
The most critical apps currently used in the cloud were related to operations (57%), services (47%), marketing (43%), business (40%) and HR (28%). By 2025, 39% of GCC businesses said 25-50% of apps would be in the cloud; 23% said the total would be between 51-75%; and 20% as much as 76-99%.
Almost half of respondents currently use one cloud provider (45%) but, as awareness and enthusiasm levels rise, multi-cloud realities are fast entering the picture. 20% currently use 2-6 providers and 3% use 7-10. Google is the most commonly used vendor (43%), followed by Microsoft (25%). 23% of respondents use other global providers but were not specific.
Challenges and barriers
The biggest cloud concern for GCC businesses is data security (78% of all respondents). Saudi Arabia is particularly wary (92%), closely tailed by Bahrain (83%), and the UAE (80%).
Other major concerns include consistency of policy (44%) and data integrity (31%). Finding the right staff to manage the technology is also a burning issue, with 83% of decision-makers citing it as a key challenge. The countries with the biggest perceived skill-gap are Saudi Arabia (89%), and Oman (89%).
Think Positive’s findings align with F5’s recent State of Application Delivery (SOAD) report, which reported that applying consistent security policies for applications is the “most challenging or frustrating” aspect of managing multi-cloud environments (42% of F5’s surveyed EMEA customers).
“The GCC is ideally placed to reap the benefits of the cloud in all its incarnations. Governments have ambitious, world-class plans in place to change the way people live and work, and there is a huge base of tech-savvy youngsters about to enter the workforce. As the findings show, there is also a strong appetite among key decision-makers to use the cloud as a conduit to move fast and innovate,” said Tabrez Surve, MEA Security Head, F5 Networks.
“The key to make the cloud work is to rigorously focus on return on investment. An effective cloud architecture strategy should increase business agility and provide flexibility to scale based on shifting hardware, software and on-demand requirements. Meanwhile, application control, access and security must ensure optimal service performance, availability and security. Ultimately, the right approach is a comprehensive multi-cloud solution that drives innovation and continually adds customer value.”