Cloud computing traffic is set to grow faster in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world, as rapid broadband and smartphone adoption fuels demand, according to a report from Cisco.
Cloud traffic will grow at 54 per cent a year in the region, from 31 exabytes in 2013 to 262 exabytes in 2018, the report predicts. One exabyte is equivalent to a billion gigabytes.
“Connected daily lives and businesses are becoming a reality across the Middle East, with services including virtual offices, connected education and medicine on virtual decides all supported by cloud-based applications,” said Scott Manson, Middle East data center lead at Cisco.
Global cloud traffic will grow from 3.1 zettabytes to 8.6 zettabytes by the end of 2018, Cisco predicts. One zettabyte is equivalent to 1,000 exabytes.
Cloud computing allows individuals to rent hardware, applications and virtual IT systems from cloud providers, who offer large-scale hardware capabilities on a pay-per-use or subscription basis.
This means that the technical capabilities available to a user are vastly increased, while economies of scale cut costs for providers and consumers.
“Cloud computing, the long-held dream of computing as a utility, has the potential to transform a large part of the IT industry,” academics at Berkeley’s computer science department wrote in a research paper.
Cloud computing gives consumers the option of renting ostensibly infinite computing resources on demand, the authors said.
This saves companies from being forced to make making upfront commitments to buying and using hardware, and allows them to rent computer power on a short-term basis, the authors said.
In short, cloud computing turns information technology infrastructure from a fixed cost into a variable cost for firms.
Growth in cloud computing allows firms to perform more and better data analytics, which is becoming increasingly important to businesses.
“Data [can be] a raw material of business, a vital economic input, used to create a new form of economic value,” wrote Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier in Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform how we Live, Work and Think.
“In fact, with the right mindset, data can be reused to become a fountain of innovation and new services,” they wrote.
Individual consumers can also benefit from cloud computing through online data storage programs like Google Drive and Dropbox.
Widespread adoption of mobile broadband and high smartphone sales are leading to increased demand for cloud services among consumers.
Smartphone vendors sold 64 million handsets in the Middle East and Africa in the three months to July, according to the research firm IDC. Smartphone penetration in the UAE stands at around 80 per cent, according to Peter Lyons, a director at the GSM association.
But some have worried that cloud computing faces security problems, after hackers stole a cache of celebrity photos from Apple’s iCloud storage service – which automatically stores iPhone users’ data.
The Apple chief executive Tim Cook said that the accounts were hacked by individuals who correctly guessed the answers to users’ security questions. The company introduced new security measures in September to notify users when their accounts were accessed via a web browser.
Revelations about the extent of spying by the National Security Agency – and the alleged complicity of US tech firms – have not helped either.
Concerns about “security, data integrity, and business continuity” are slowing adoption of more complex cloud computing products, Cisco’s report concedes. But the company believes that cloud services will grow in popularity as consumers learn to trust in the technology.
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