Microsoft plans to open data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the first in the Middle East, as the software maker seeks to capitalise on the region’s growing demand for digitisation.
The cloud-computing sites are expected to be available by 2019, the Redmond, Washington-based company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. It will also open new sites in Switzerland and will add more locations in Germany.
“Driven by strong customer demand for cloud computing, local data centres were the logical next step given the enormous opportunity that the cloud presents,” said Sayed Hashish, regional general manager of Microsoft Gulf. “Our ambition is for the Microsoft Cloud to form a strategic part of the backbone for regional economic development.”
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Investments into the UAE data centres expand on Microsoft's presence in the region for more than 20 years. Its Azure cloud is currently in 42 regions globally. Microsoft is competing to expand into new areas against Amazon, who in September announced plans to open a cloud-data centre in Bahrain by early 2019.
Microsoft declined to provide the value of investment into the Middle East data centers, or any details on the potential number of jobs that may be created, when contacted by The National. The company also did not provide information about upcoming cloud sites in the region.
Microsoft, whose cloud infrastructures serve more than a billion customers globally, expects its number of cloud sites to grow 25 per cent over the "next few years," Mr Hashish said in an e-mailed response to questions. The regional expansion more than doubled in the last three years and the company has announced 50 areas worldwide.
Microsoft has helped create “hundreds of thousands” of jobs across the Middle East and Africa and is working to create “many more” through its platforms, he said.
The company has supported the launch and growth of more than 4,000 start-ups across the region through its various programmes.
According to Mckinsey, there is a strong relationship between a countries' GDP per capita and its digital adoption. A unified digital market across the Middle East, which is 160 million potential digital users by 2025, could contribute up to 3.8 per cent annually in GDP—amounting to approximately $95 billion, Mckinsey said in an October 2016 report.
Microsoft and Amazon's race to open new markets in the region is pegged to the biggest economies embracing digitisation.
There is an uptick in e-commerce and economic diversification agendas that look to decrease reliance on oil and build knowledge-based economies as set out in the UAE’s Vision 2021 plan and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.