Evolution at the speed of data, by Du’s Andy Ward

The Middle East is accelerating its digital agenda to realise tangible business value across the region, writes Du’s head of NBI products and solutions Andy Ward.

All organisations across the UAE are adopting digital transformation (according to market intelligence firm IDC’s annual research, UAE Directions, published in January). As a result, digital innovation and customer experiences improve massively. Covid-19 has led the world into new ways of working and serving customers. Organisations across the UAE have significantly brought forward their digital roadmaps to automate, introduce new digital business models and deploy digital enablement of remote work. They generally want to ensure a higher level of digital resiliency and automation.

Migrating organisational workloads to the cloud is the norm, as the cloud is becoming the foundational platform enabling organisations to digitally transform. Nearly 80 per cent of organisations expect to have a multi-cloud strategy across public and private cloud environments. Private clouds are preferred for customer and personal data, ensuring a high level of security and control. However, public cloud environments provide robust solutions that are secure and cost-effective, support a variety of workloads and enable organisations to leverage cloud-native services.

The acceleration to the cloud brings cloud management skills and infrastructure challenges to the fore. With these transformation advancements, organisations across the UAE need to ensure they have the core competences to manage the ever-changing IT environment. Therefore it makes sense to collaborate with a trusted partner to help migrate, manage and monitor their entire cloud estate as a managed service that offers continuous improvement and development.   

In addition to adopting higher levels of cloud maturity, organisations need to ensure their multi-cloud is secure. Government and enterprise organisations across the UAE are continually looking to strengthen their security posture, ensuring their data is protected and privacy is assured. Many businesses today outsource their security operations to providers offering a remote security operations centre (SOC) for ultimate protection. The remote SOCs are run by experts who have a great depth of skill in the cybersecurity area and are dedicated to staying current in understanding how to prevent the latest threats and attacks.

Cybersecurity protection expands beyond the prevention of hackers to core data hosted on the cloud. Building a trustworthy organisation in today’s world covers four key digital trust pillars: vulnerability; identity; trust; and threat management.

Vulnerability management is proactive and constant assessment of the IT environment, integrating automation and orchestration tools to reduce risk. Identity management is management of digital identities within an environment by clearly assigning or revoking access rights to resources. Trust management is focused on improving governance, demonstrating compliance and ensuring confidentiality and integrity of end-user data. And threat management focuses on people, processes and technology supported by threat intelligence tools to detect, analyse, respond and recover from cybersecurity incidents. The sum of these four domains working together in a cohesive manner ensures an organisation has a robust security posture and ensures digital trust.

The internet of things (IoT) is another major contributor to digital transformation. About 60 per cent of organisations in the UAE today have either started or are about to deploy IoT to drive new business models and revenue streams. Organisations remain challenged in managing overall cost, complexity and security, and generally, there is a lack of skill and understanding. Most organisations look for a technology partner who can help them navigate the uncharted IoT waters.

5G technology will continue to evolve and emerge as the backbone connectivity layer that will accelerate and expand in the coming years, ensuring communications between the ‘core’ and the ‘edge’ become significantly faster and more intelligent. The core is the central cloud infrastructure; the edge is the numerous devices and touchpoints based at the fringe of the transaction. The core and the edge communicate to pass information back and forth to digitally transform the interaction. Think of an automated taxi service where you use an app on your mobile phone to hail a cab, or an internet banking app; these functions happen at the edge and communicate back to the core to source your information and complete the transaction.

5G will positively enable smart mobility and intelligent transport systems, aid hyperconnected sites such as stadiums and campuses, and better enable drone-based applications, augmented reality and virtual reality cloud-based applications. Consumer adoption of 5G is rapidly growing, while exciting future enterprise use cases are in the early stages, since they are reliant on future standards. 5G will be the power of the future.

As digital transformation continues to evolve, technologies such as 5G, cloud, digital trust, IoT, data analytics and artificial intelligence will become more paramount. Data will be key as organisations race to access it at super speeds and glean immediate insights as it moves between the core and the edge. Operational excellence
will always remain important, but customer experiences will be more critical as organisations across the globe will use digital transformation to drive greater competitive advantage with unique and outstanding digital customer experiences.