Amazon Web Services opens three data centres in Middle East

Facilities mark the cloud giant’s latest foray into the region

With new data centres, AWS’ global network has reached 69 across 22 locations. Reuters
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Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened three data centres in Bahrain - its first in the Middle East - to offer cloud storage to regional organisations amid growing demand, the company said on Tuesday.

“The cloud has the chance to unlock digital transformation in the Middle East,” said Andy Jassy, chief executive of AWS, adding that the company is witnessing a “strong demand in the Middle East” for technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.

AWS, the biggest cloud storage provider in the world, counts Al Tayyar Travel Group, flydubai, Union Insurance, Careem, StarzPlay, Anghami and Sarwa as customers. It declined to disclose the investment made in the data centres.

The public cloud services market in the Middle East and North Africa is projected to grow to $1.9 billion (Dh7.97bn) by 2020, double what it was in 2016, according to Statista.

For regional enterprises, moving to a cloud system hosted by a specialised company proves cheaper than creating their own infrastructure of servers, hardware and security networks. A growing number of enterprises - ranging from start-ups to government entities to family-owned conglomerates - are embracing cloud services.

For example, Bahrain’s Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) has managed to cut down its technology operational costs by up to 60 per cent using cloud technology, while Jordan-based start-up Mawdoo3 - an online Arabic content publisher - has successfully moved its artificial intelligence projects on to the cloud.

“By December of this year, we will have 30 per cent of all 72 government entities migrated to AWS ... [and] by June 2020, we expect to have most government data centres shut down, allowing us to focus resources on projects that benefit our citizens,” said Mohammed Ali AlQaed, chief executive of iGA, which is leading the Bahrain government’s migration to cloud services.

Without specifying the exact locations, AWS said its Bahrain data centres are based at separate geographic sites with enough distance between them to significantly reduce the risk of any single event impacting business continuity.

In April, AWS also added Arabic language support to Amazon Polly, a service that turns simple text into lifelike-sounding speech. Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest lender by assets, is using Amazon Polly in its automated call centre to improve customer interactions by delivering natural-voice banking services.

Several global players are establishing data centres in the Middle East. Germany's SAP is the front-runner in the region with three centres, in Dubai, Riyadh and Dammam, which house servers for local cloud computing clients. Last month, Microsoft opened its first two data centres in the UAE. Comparatively a smaller player, Alibaba Cloud - the cloud computing arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant - opened its first regional data centre in Dubai in 2016. Still, in the cloud market, AWS - a subsidiary of online retail giant Amazon – is the dominant player, maintaining a market share lead over its rivals.

Last week, AWS reported revenues of $8.38bn in the second quarter of this year - 37 per cent more than the previous year.