Cloud-First in the Middle East: Transforming Local Networking with Global SD-WAN


2020 has seen a significant acceleration of digital transformation programs and has further highlighted the necessity to move workloads into the cloud. In the Middle East region, lockdowns and quarantines have driven enterprises to adapt quickly and move to adopt cloud-first strategies.

Cloud adoption in the region has been slow and conservative largely due to limited cloud infrastructure, however that is now all changing.  With many of the large public cloud providers now establishing infrastructure in the region, there’s a greater appetite for new networking models and digital transformation than there was 12 months ago. Applications are becoming centralised within cloud infrastructure and enterprises are quickly recognising that a traditional approach to WAN is no longer compatible with a cloud-first approach.

Research firm IDC estimates that public cloud spending in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) region will increase to $2.8 billion this year, and $6.5 billion in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24%. This is up from IDC’s pre-COVID prediction of 22% CAGR. Even before COVID-19, a YouGov survey of more than 500 IT decision-makers in the UAE showed that 88% decided to increase their cloud spend in 2019.

The drivers are simple. Enterprises need greater flexibility, scalability and cost-efficiency. Legacy IT systems and processes no longer match the needs of users in 2020 and beyond. For the Middle East, this represents a step change where it is no longer good enough to build a traditional ICT business case and wait months or even years to execute on it. Enterprises want to take action now to adopt a cloud-first architecture that is creating both exciting opportunities for transformation, but also presenting many challenges. 

Building a Foundation for Transformation

The traditional MPLS networks that have underpinned enterprise IT ecosystems put limits on the flexibility and agility of operations. At the same time, they have a high cost base that is no longer tolerable for most enterprise budgets. Across the Middle East, MPLS has been the go-to choice for enterprise networking, but as organisations prioritise cloud, they are looking for a better fit for their long-term growth.  

The challenge is to make the move from a legacy MPLS network to a dynamic and scalable software-defined infrastructure. Enterprises often understand the value of SD-WAN but need help to transition from one network architecture to another. The networking skills gap in the Middle East means they need a partner that can accelerate their digital journey by helping them to deploy SD-WAN and create a foundation for their continual transformation.

Choosing the right SD-WAN provider can enable enterprises to provide a high-quality application experience with a networking model that is software driven, automated, programmable, predictive and with business intent in the Middle East region and around the world.  They no longer need to worry about networking that is hardware-centric, manual, closed and reactive, which provides poor performance and sub-par customer service. 

While most enterprises have adopted some cloud-based services, it is the commitment to going cloud-first that really demands a rethink of network infrastructure. In an increasingly complex ICT environment, SD-WAN enables an enterprise to connect, secure, optimise and control applications and services no matter where they’re hosted, and move quickly to serve new demand.    

A Software-Defined Future

CIOs across the Middle East should be looking at their path forward now that most businesses see remote working, cloud-based applications and services, and flexible business models as the new norm. The first step is to build a business case for migrating to SD-WAN. Cost is a massive driver but definitely not the only reason to make the move.     

Dell Technologies and Gartner estimate that enterprises can achieve a cost reduction of up to 75% by transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN. CIOs can reinvest their savings into other transformation projects while gaining new agility and scalability.

At the same time, they have greater visibility and control over their network. Enterprises can order, activate and manage connectivity with real time visibility into application performance via their own dedicated online portal. They no longer need to rely on the MPLS provider to deliver reporting, but instead can turn-up virtual services in real time to optimise and secure applications, as well as deliver a high-quality customer experience. They can orchestrate services using simple interfaces and templates to rapidly deploy new services with standard configurations.

To put their plans into action, enterprises should look for a partner that understands local challenges in the Middle East and has the experience to deliver global networking. No matter where the enterprise is on its digital journey, it can benefit from expert advice as well as an end-to-end managed service. This takes the complexity out of the hands of enterprises and enables them to benefit from new skills and experiences without needing to invest in new networking teams.

A local partner can help to accelerate network transformation and maximise the value of SD-WAN for the enterprise. The result is a seamless transition to SD-WAN and a foundation for cloud-first strategies.

When an enterprise deploys SD-WAN, it is able to change, adapt and pivot its networking to match changing user demand. Whilst our world may have been shaped by the unexpected events of 2020, it has forced a permanent change in the way we will work, play and collaborate in the future. SD-WAN provides a flexible approach to networking that supports cloud-first strategies and is ready for whatever opportunities or disruptions lay ahead for an enterprise. The organisations that take action now will be ready for the future and have a foundation for long-term growth and transformation.

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