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Digital transformation missions gather momentum in the UAE

Fadia Abi-Ayad, Regional Director for the UAE & Gulf at F5.

IT decision-makers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are doubling down on their digital transformation efforts, according to new research by market insight specialists YouGov.

Commissioned by F5 ahead of next week’s GITEX conference in Dubai, the findings highlight encouraging progress and awareness for emerging technologies set to underpin the nations’ future transformation plans.

“Businesses in the UAE are clearly ramping up their abilities to provide fast, seamless digital experiences”, said Fadia Abi-Ayad, Regional Director for the UAE & Gulf at F5.

“We’re now seeing that organisations are starting to anticipate greater automation as IT and operational technology convergence. In addition, they are also embracing the promise of AI to adapt to conditions that change faster than ever. At the heart of all this are applications, and their safe deployment across multiple clouds”.

Driven by consumer demand and expanding app portfolios, most decision-makers ranked 5G top of their trends chart (62%), followed by multi-cloud networking (42%). The integration of IT systems with operational technology (OT) claimed third place (38%). Thirty-six per cent also flagged the importance of Web Application and API protection (WAAP) services, which encompass WAF, DDoS protection, bot management, and API protection, and 34% are keeping an eye on AIOps platforms (combining big data and machine learning functionality to support all primary IT operations functions).

Digital transformation gains (customer-centric) teeth

The focus of all respondents’ digital transformation missions centred on customer-centricity and operational efficiencies.

Moreover, 44% are employing AI and machine learning to automate and optimise business processes for efficiency and/or effectiveness (e.g., fixing workflow bottlenecks in customer service). Forty-four per cent are also automating business processes by integrating applications (e.g., multi-channel communications between chat and website, a seamless experience between mobile app and desktop for a digital banking or e-health solution).

In other future-seeking moves, 40% are using AI and machine learning to augment operations and 36% are employing APIs to create new or participate in third-party ecosystems (e.g., open banking or social media logins).

In terms of specific digital transformation benefits, 46% hailed employee productivity improvements (improved collaboration and decision-making), followed by increased revenue (42%), operational IT efficiency (40%) and new business/market penetration opportunities (38%).

Modernising app portfolios and services

YouGov noted both growth and increased distribution of app portfolios; 31% of respondents work for organisations with between 100 and 500 applications in play. Nineteen per cent juggled portfolios of between 500 and 1000 apps.

Zooming in further, application services are increasingly deployed in a variety of different environments, with a high percentage of organisations using a mix of models. Forty-four per cent use public cloud, 40% leverage managed services and 36% use on-premises solutions. The popularity of edge (32%), co-location (27%) and Software-as-a-Service (22%) deployments further underline a shift towards app heterogeneity.

Notably, half of all UAE decision-makers are now deploying modern apps (mobile, cloud-native and microservices).

Navigating multi-clouds

Seventy-one per cent of UAE respondents indicated that cloud services spend was up in the past year. In related projections, 36% expect more than 50% of their app portfolio to be hosted in the cloud within the next three years.

The most prominent emerging strategic cloud trends over the next three years include Security-as-a-Service (34%), SaaS (31%) and private cloud services (31%).

When asked about app deployment challenges across multiple clouds, 36% said they struggled to manage the complexity of management tools and APIs. In addition, 35% highlighted the difficulty in applying consistent security policies across all apps. Other enduring headaches include complying with regulations (32%), migrating apps between clouds/data centres (32%), and gaining visibility into application health (31%).

Security also remains a perennial challenge, with 84% reporting that they would benefit from additional cybersecurity expertise in their organisation. Skill gaps were flagged for network security (24%), multi-cloud (21%) and public cloud (20%).

“The deployment locations for applications and the security and delivery technologies that support them are diverging, and as SaaS adoption and edge deployments generally increase, the balance will continue to shift toward greater dispersal”, added Abi-Ayad.

“Today, UAE organisations enjoy new levels of freedom to choose the ideal deployment and consumption model for each app security and delivery technology, depending on priorities and what they want to achieve. That is why, more than ever, making the best decision for each supporting technology—and thus for the application itself—requires focused attention as well as vendors whose solutions can work both effectively and consistently across a large variety of deployment models”.

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