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03 December 2023

Gulf embraces global IT trends

By Paul Sherry

Virtualisation is an IT term that means little to the vast majority of people. But, for those working in the technology field, it is a buzzword that is creating much excitement. The reason being that it allows businesses to improve performance without incurring any extra costs.

Just one year ago, the number of chief information officers (CIOs) in the region saying they had implemented virtualisation projects was reported to be zero.

Figures from a recent survey of 80 CIOs based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia show that 33 per cent have virtualisation projects in progress, and five per cent have already completed projects, signalling a significant step had been made in the right direction.

The virtualisation trend is part of a global shift in IT management from providing day-to-day IT processes in-house, which is cumbersome and expensive, to adopting a more flexible approach. The underlying theme is the idea of 'utility computing', where computer processing power is used, and sold, in the same way as electricity and water, where clients pay for what they need, as and when they use it. The overall goal of virtualisation is to outsource administrative tasks, while improving scalability, and easing workloads.

The trend kicked off in the US in 2005 when new virtualisation software was launched and adopted faster than anyone had imagined, including the experts. So widespread was its impact that today, four years later, 75 per cent of US-based IT departments work with virtualised systems. What UAE and Saudi Arabia-based CIOs are now also realising is that by creating virtual versions of the normal every day working IT environment, including operating systems, servers, storage devices, and network resources, they can save money while improving efficiency.

Virtualisation allows IT departments to do things faster, cheaper, and more effectively, at a time when businesses are trying to do more with less as IT budgets shrink. The majority of responders in the CIO survey also revealed that their budget allocations had been cut by 25 to 30 per cent this year.

But the question on many regional CIOs lips is where to start? The survey reveals that 75 per cent of local IT teams are interested in virtualisation solutions, and 62 per cent have already mapped out potential virtualisation projects.

Taking a look at what has already taken place in other parts of the world may come as a useful steer. Data from an F5 survey of 321 businesses in the US and Emea shows that the majority (82 per cent) of responders implemented server virtualisation first, over any other kind of virtualisation, including storage virtualisation, network virtualisation, and service virtualisation – known as 'cloud computing' where the term cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet.

More than eight in 10 said the main business reason for installing server virtualisation technology was to achieve server consolidation. The need to reduce operating expenses was also cited as an important reason, with 63 per cent of responders saying they made the move to reduce power costs and increase space, while 59 per cent said the decision was based on the need for faster application and service provisioning. The survey also found that although server virtualisation was the most used, most responders were looking to implement other types of virtualisation. For the most part they were planning to deploy storage virtualisation, with 44 per cent saying they would be implementing it in the coming year, followed by network virtualisation that had been earmarked as the next project by 30 per cent respondents.

However, a forward thinking 17 per cent cited cloud computing as the focus of their next virtualisation initiative, a move that could prove prudent because it is now being touted as the next big virtualisation story. The reason is that it allows businesses to dramatically cut their capital expenditure on IT by allowing common business applications to be provided online.

- The author is the regional director for software firm F5 Middle East. The views expressed are his own


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