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Cloud in the Middle East: Dark skies ahead?

Tom Paye | Sept. 4, 2013
With the controversy surrounding PRISM continuing to rage, coming up with a good cloud strategy just got that much harder.

And it was all going so well. As vendors began to build more comprehensive cloud-based product roadmaps, Middle Eastern users were beginning to see just how cloud services can streamline their businesses. According to a Gartner report from earlier in the year, cloud adoption was due to grow monumentally in the region up to 2016. This was largely due to issues surrounding security and compliance being ironed out.

It'd be easy to say that the rest is history, but earlier this year, an NSA contractor called Edward Snowden leaked documents suggesting the existence of a blanket digital surveillance programme known as PRISM. The documents inferred that the US government had access to any file hosted by the country's big tech vendors — including the ones that provide cloud services to millions around the globe. Suddenly, vendors' assertions that your cloud data will always be secure seemed much less sincere.

According to Natalya Kaspersky, CEO, InfoWatch, businesses need to take these news developments seriously, even if they're not even adopting a cloud strategy.

"If we talk about Google Docs, for example, now we clearly understand that Google shares information of its clients with the USA National Security Agency. This causes concerns, so if you don't use Google Cloud, you'd probably use Google Search or maybe Facebook, Microsoft Office or other computer tools developed in the USA. That means, one way or another, you will be under Big Brother's eye. This is the reality that companies need to understand," she says.

For those looking to adopt a cloud strategy, the allegations over NSA spying are much more pertinent. It speaks volumes that, when we contacted the big American vendors about this article, the question on whether regional customers are now wary of US-based cloud services was dodged in more than one case.

But according to Jatin Sahni, Vice President, Large Enterprise and Business Solutions Marketing, du, Middle Eastern businesses definitely are wary about US-sourced cloud services. "It is a key question that is driving a lot of the decisions to adopt cloud services from American companies or cloud services storing data in American data centres," he says.

This is good news for a local telco such as du, as regional operators have begun to offer world-class cloud services to rival the American ones. Now that the PRISM news has broken, the likes of du and Etisalat have enticed users with assertions that data is hosted locally — not in the US where the NSA might have access to it.

"More advanced services, such as hybrid clouds, PaaS and niche applications platforms, are being developed and offered locally, and would put local providers on par with international offerings," Sahni says.


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