Role of cloud in Middle Eastern Data Center market

Santhosh Rao, Senior Research Director, Analyst, Gartner talks to DC POST MEA about the latest trends evolving the data center market in the Middle East and how rapid cloud adoption since COVID-19 is driving the data center market in the region.

Santhosh Rao, Senior Research Director, Analyst, Gartner

How do you describe the data center landscape at this point? Where is it headed to?
There are 3 distinct categories in the data center landscape: colocation market, hosting market and the cloud market. We may also consider enterprises owning their own data centers as the fourth. Enterprises opt for one of these models based on budget, technology flexibility and propensity to outsource. With the arrival of cloud providers in the middle east region, enterprises are eager to leverage the pay-as-you-go and agile nature of the cloud. Therefore, we see widespread adoption of public cloud in the last two years, which has accelerated further due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we also see the hosting market steadily growing as data center hosting providers are beginning to offer comprehensive managed infrastructure services that are attractive to many enterprise clients. The colocation market remains flat.

What are the current Data Center trends in the region?
The data center of today is increasingly distributed – some applications will be hosted on-premises, some in the cloud and a few applications at the edge; we are increasingly moving towards hybrid IT. Location decisions are based on application scalability, availability, performance, and pricing requirements. In general, we see servers and storage systems becoming denser so more number applications and data can be deployed per rack unit. These systems are designed to consume less power, and so there is a move towards lower energy consumption overall. On OS and middleware layer, applications are increasingly being containerized. Containerization provides more modularity and makes applications portable to the cloud and reduces hosting costs.

With cloud gaining a lot of popularity and traction, cloud-first strategy is currently becoming a norm in many industries. But how secure is the cloud? 
The number of engineers that are working to build a secure cloud, and the skillsets that they possess is significantly superior to those in traditional enterprises. While a typical enterprise has a small team of three or four security engineers, public cloud companies have hundreds of engineers worldwide who are continuously improving the platform and looking for security gaps.

Hosting in the cloud is relatively safe but it is a shared responsibility. This means the customer still has some ownership from a security standpoint. Hosting an application in the cloud and assuming everything will be secure is wrong. Cloud application environments become vulnerable when best practices for security are not followed properly. Although the cloud is inherently secure, the skills required to ensure there are no gaps in the security architecture is still nascent at this point. Enterprises must ensure their cloud environment is secured end-end – from an application, OS, network, and endpoint.

As the skills to secure the cloud are nascent, how much awareness is there today on secure cloud storage?
There is relatively less awareness. Most enterprises assume that once the data is in the cloud, it becomes the cloud vendor’s responsibility, at least on the infrastructure side. If it is not architected well and the vulnerabilities are not addressed, it might potentially become an attack vector. In enterprises, the maturity of those aspects is relatively nascent. My recommendation would be to either ramp up internally or do thorough assessments of security aspects when the application is being moved into the cloud.

How to ensure that the Data Center stays relevant?
The data center will continue to be the foundation for hosting compute infrastructure. The question is – should the enterprise continue to own its data center or move all its applications to the public cloud (which is yet another data center) or take a hybrid approach. Enterprises must take a top-down approach – first identify the list of applications in the enterprise, categorize them based on criticality, and ascertain the pros and cons of moving these applications to the cloud, and understand the true total cost of ownership of running these applications in the cloud. After this process is complete, they should commence executing the migration strategy. Remember that the job is not done once apps move to the cloud, optimizing the application environment in the cloud is the next step.

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