Oracle likely to boost its cloud offering in the UAE and Saudi Arabia

High digital adoption rates and strong government push are attractive drivers for growth, company's top Emea executive says

Richard Smith, Oracle's executive vice president for technology in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at the company's CloudWorld conference in Las Vegas. Photo: Oracle
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Oracle has plans to add more cloud regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading contenders thanks to their high adoption rates of the technology, according to the company's top regional executive.

The Arab world's two biggest economies also stand out because their governments have been championing innovation, Richard Smith, executive vice president of technology for Oracle's Emea region, told The National in an interview.

"We have priorities across Emea. But [the UAE and Saudi Arabia] are certainly very high growth regions," he said on the sidelines of the Oracle CloudWorld conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

"One of the things that is very powerful in the region is that government agendas for digitisation are strong drivers for cloud adoption.

"And if you look at Saudi Arabia or the UAE, everyone talks about social and citizen services, which is driving the rapid adoption of the cloud and its deployment."

Texas-based Oracle continues to make "very, very big" investments to build its data centre capacity, while ensuring they are in line with social, government and security strategies in the markets they enter, said Mr Smith.

"One of the biggest challenges is not the opportunity itself, but making sure that the partnerships we are creating are synergistic with the national agendas that many of those countries have."

In the wider Middle East, the adoption of cloud technology is growing amid the rise of technology-focused young consumers and the evolving digital landscape.

This has given global cloud providers incentive to tap into the potential offered by the region, most notably in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The two countries are focusing heavily on technology and innovation as part of their economic diversification plans.

They will eventually have five Oracle cloud regions between them.

A cloud region is a geographic area that is the location of a cloud data centre, which is a physical building that houses IT infrastructure used for running applications and related services, and for managing and storing associated data.

The kingdom welcomed the first in Jeddah in 2020, also the Middle East's first, while another cloud region in Riyadh was announced at the Leap technology conference earlier this year. A third in the futuristic megacity of Neom will go live "soon", chief information officer Jae Evans told The National in May.

The Dubai and Abu Dhabi cloud regions started operations in September 2020 and November 2021, respectively.

The Middle East accounts for about a fifth of Oracle's 45 public cloud regions across 23 countries.

Apart from Oracle, global majors including Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Alibaba Cloud have all opened cloud and data centres in the Middle East.

The region is "certainly among some of the fastest in the globe, in terms of both adoption and desire", Mr Smith said.

Oracle maintains close relationships with governments in the region to ensure services match requirements.

For instance, in Saudi Arabia the company works "very closely" with the kingdom's cybersecurity agency ahead of new regulations that are to be issued.

"So we can understand what their thinking is and what they're looking to do," Mr Smith said.

"That kind of collaborative effort is a very powerful one. And I do see a strong willingness in the Middle East to adopt that kind of approach. Other countries can be a bit different."

Oracle's cloud computing services are also benefitting small and medium businesses, which comprise more than a quarter of the company's customers in Emea, said Cherian Varghese, senior vice president of technology for small and medium businesses in the region.

The company has about 315,000 SMB customers around the world.

Updated: September 21, 2023, 9:35 AM