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Amazon Web Services, the online retail giant’s cloud computing services division, has set its sights on the Middle East region, by opening a hub in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
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There was clearly a need for an AWS region in the Middle East, said Teresa Carlson, senior vice-president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“It became clear that [Bahrain] is a really great location for us,” added Carlson.
The company has 16 regions around the world, including Australia, Brazil and China, with France and Sweden due to come online over the course of this year.
“Many more are coming online in 2017 and 2018,” said Carlson. Some 300,000 servers will be built to cater to the Middle East region, which will be online by 2019.
The move was prompted by the Bahraini government, keen to establish a digital economy.
“We see the region as ripe for digital transformation,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board. “We wanted [AWS] to look at the Middle East now, not in three to four years.”
Bahrain has one of the more open mobile and internet infrastructures in the region, with a progressive regulatory framework that encourages competition.
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Since the opening up of the telecoms sector, Bahrain has seen a 70% growth in the internet sector, with broadband prices dropping and a 40% drop in mobile prices.
“We are determined to establish a regulatory framework, data privacy laws and data sovereignty laws,” said Al Rumaihi. “We believe this digital economy will unleash innovation and the move to cloud will reduce costs of inefficiency.”
He added that data is as important and valuable as oil to the region.
“We have to manage data in the same way we manage oil refineries,” said Al Rumaihi. “This will give an opportunity to the Middle East to enter the digital era with cloud computing.”
Research from Gartner suggests public cloud services in the Middle East and North Africa will reach $1.2bn this year, up by more than 22% from 2016. The sector is projected to grow to $1.4bn in 2018, with much of that growth from platform as a service.
In addition to the infrastructure in Bahrain, AWS will also launch an Edge Network Location in the UAE in the first quarter of 2018. This will bring services such as Amazon CloudFront and AWS Shield. Carlson is expecting to open more regional offices in the Middle East.
AWS counts Flydubai, MBC group and Souq.com among its customers in the Middle East.
Ride hailing app Careem runs all of its operations on AWS, serving 12 million commuters across 80 cities in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Turkey and Pakistan. “We have been all-in on AWS since we launched in 2012, and using the scalability of the cloud has helped us to cope with rapid growth,” said Magnus Olsson, co-founder of Careem.
The public sector in the Middle East has been just as eager to embrace cloud computing as the private sector.
“It makes a huge difference for our economy – not just ours, but across the region,” said Al Rumaihi.