The Middle East’s business leaders will put IT at the heart of their business strategies more than ever before in 2014, according to one of the region’s leading data storage and protection companies.

Outlining his predictions for the coming year, Andrew Calthorpe, CEO, Condo Protego, described how business-leaders in the region need to keep pace with the relentless rise of big data and cloud computing, whereas disaster recovery technologies are likely to have their widest appeal yet. Calthorpe also noted how collaboration among system integrators will be on the rise and that the challenges of bridging the region’s industry skill-gaps will remain a concern.

Big Data is bigger than ever
Leading IT market research and advisory firm IDC predicts that the global big data market will grow 40% per year, which is around seven times as fast as the rest of the IT industry. Most of that cost will come from infrastructure-investment-calibre storage projects that are set to drive spending in the storage market to growth rates above 61% through 2015. Business research specialists Aberdeen Group suggest that many companies will have to double the volume of their data storage every 2.5 years just to keep up.

“The burning questions for businesses now necessarily revolve around variations of ‘sink or swim?’ or ‘succumb or harness,” said Calthorpe. “Driven by customer and market demands moving at breakneck speed, businesses need to engage with, capture, manage and transpose data into intelligent action to stay relevant. Data unlocks routes to accelerated business processes, innovative business models and clarity of vision that enables smart planning ahead of the curve – irrespective of industry. A meticulously planned, cutting-edge and scalable IT architecture that can collate and store enormous amounts of unstructured data is now a must,” Calthorpe added.

Cloudy outlook ahead
Gartner predicts the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is projected to experience one of the highest global growth rates for public cloud services, increasing from 2012 to 2013 by 24.5% to $462.3m. The UAE’s cloud market in particular is primed for annual compound growth of 43.7% until 2016, according to a recent report from technology-focused market intelligence firm IDC.

“The region’s relatively slow cloud uptake may have afforded a certain degree of breathing space, but even the briefest glance at the horizon suggests it is going to get very cloudy, very quickly in the coming years,” said Calthorpe. “Cloud computing in MENA will take on a number of forms be they public, private or hybrid applications. Adoption must be carefully planned and implemented. Cloud computing can be powerfully augmented with existing infrastructure and embraced as appropriate. It shouldn’t be seen as a drastic, scary change – it should be a gradual and seamless evolution to greater efficiency, flexibility and cost-savings,” Calthorpe added.

Disaster recovery for all
“In 2013, we saw increasing numbers of Middle Eastern SMEs start to take on serious disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) solutions. Expect 2014 to continue this trend in a much bigger way,” said Calthorpe. “The essential component of any worthwhile DR/BC plan is a clearly defined strategy. The first step is to understand what you are dealing with, what are you trying to protect against, and how your business will cope in the event of a disaster. Then you can start to focus on the IT side. A DR/BC plan should always be implemented as soon as possible. The more you let your data build up, the more expensive it will be. By establishing a reference architecture early on, you can plan and scale in the most efficient manner possible,” Calthorpe added.

System integration integrators to collaborate
“Collaboration will become the name of the game for system integrators in the coming years. Clients are no longer happy with generalists and are increasingly looking for specialist input. Across the industry, this will require a step-change away from working in silos to establishing precise, tightly configured system integration teams to suit specific projects,” said Calthorpe.

Mind the skill gap
“Skill shortage is a pressing problem for everyone in the industry.Businesses need to invest in training, they need to invest in people and they need to understand they are building future industries and laying the groundwork for the Middle East to flourish. The industry also needs to be better at retaining talent – both for long-term project execution and knowledge transfer. Awareness needs to be raised that some of the most challenging, rewarding work the IT industry has to offer is taking place here, and the best is yet to come,” said Calthorpe.

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