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Introducing Mario Foster, CIO of Al Naboodah Group Enterprises LLC

CloudEntTech caught up with Mario Foster, Group Chief Information Officer of Al Naboodah Group Enterprises LLC ahead of Cloud World MENA, 1-2 May 2017, Dubai.

Cloud MENA Mario FosterLet's discuss cloud generally first as an option for businesses. Why is cloud not always the best option for every business? 

In some cases, Cloud is not the right option for every business, which is due to several reasons such as unstable internet connectivity due to country or city infrastructure, or if the business users are all located in one physical location/one building, in this case it is less attractive to have your applications hosted on the Cloud rather than in-house. We will also have to look at the type of IT applications and services business needs, where having one or two services on the Cloud might make sense, but not all IT services.

What is your opinion on hybrid cloud? Is it still the preferred option for CIOs in the MENA region? If so, why, or why not?

Hybrid Cloud has proven to be the preferred option for most CIOs in the MENA region, as it gives the flexibility we need due to different obstacles that are out of our control.  Hybrid Cloud gives CIOs the option to pick the best of breed out of both Cloud and on-premise solutions by mix and matching based on our business needs.

What is the infrastructure like in the MENA region in terms of the readiness for the public cloud?

In my opinion, the infrastructure is good but not good enough “yet” to fully depend on it to run IT for business from the Cloud, especially when it comes to Internet connectivity and if you are depending on one single Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Having a failover ISP will definitely help at cost, but it also gets IT into other technical issues to address when a business has their own IP addresses range.

Why should companies be considering the MENA region as a focal region for 2017?

I think it should be a focus in 2017 due to the fact that Cloud spending in the region has been increasing. And it can even increase further when customers find cloud vendors listening more to customers’ needs and expectations.

I see the interest is rising for big data solutions and analytics, but I do not see enough interest for any major rising.  I expect this to increase more over the coming years though.

Are there any trends you can identify for business cloud adoption in MENA?

I see a trend for multinational Cloud vendors to host their Cloud services in the MENA region, especially in the UAE and this is giving a lot of comfort for many organisations who are still hesitant to host their data outside their countries or outside the MENA region.

How have cloud services changed the role of the CIO in your experience?

CIO used to look at business technology needs and find ways to empower and enable business by introducing new technology in house within the period that is suitable for IT.  Nowadays, CIOs need to deliver much faster and be able to scale up and down as business needs changes and need to also observe the cash for business investment and look at IT more from an OPEX rather than CAPEX model.

CIOs now need to keep an eye on what is out there on the Cloud because if business needs a specific IT tool and IT can’t deliver it on time, business might go out there and get it on the cloud on their own if they have to.

What are the greatest issues for CIOs when it comes to applications in the cloud?

Maybe most CIOs will say security, but in my opinion security on the Cloud might be better than the on-premise security offered by most of the MENA region companies. My greatest issue with the Cloud is the very limited flexibility in configuring and customising Cloud applications to fit business.

What are the challenges of operating in the MENA region?

For me I see two major challenges for CIOs, finding the right skill sets and extensive experience we would like to have onboard, and the second challenge is the less than expected quality of service provided by local Infrastructure services suppliers.

What are you most looking forward to with regards to speaking and participating at the 7th Cloud MENA next year in Dubai?

I look forward to meeting with Cloud services providers to see what has changed in their offering and seeing if MENA-based Cloud hosting is increasing or not.  I also look forward to meeting with my colleagues CIOs to share our own experience with the Cloud adoption.  What has proven to be good and bad experience, etc.

What are Al Naboodah Group Enterprises’ plans for 2017 and beyond?

We have just completed building our Tier III Data Center with our private Enterprise Cloud utilizing Hyper-Converged technology from Nutanix, and 2017 will be the year where we start upgrading multiple applications and build on top of our Data Center investment while further exploring the public cloud option in parallel, which goes in line with our Cloud Strategy to have a hybrid cloud with a mix and match that fits our diversified business needs.

If you'd like to hear more from Mario Foster, you can catch his Panel Session: 'What Does It Really Mean to Run a Business in the Cloud in MENA on an Operational Level?' at Cloud World MENA on Monday, May 1st 2017, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, in Dubai.

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