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Mena Migally, the Senior Director for MENA at Riverbed, speaks about the scope for innovation in 2020

What’s shaping the IT industry in the region?
Over the last decade, the large majority of enterprises in the Middle East have gradually undergone digitization. With significant investments already in place, today, it isn’t just digital transformation that’s important anymore. Rather, businesses are looking at how they can rearchitect what they already have. Especially with initiatives such as Dubai Vision 2021, Saudi Vision 2030, and Egypt Vision 2030, businesses in the region are keen to put themselves on the digital transformation map.

They have shifted focus from just deploying the latest and best solutions, to instead revamping their operations and services across the board to deliver a truly exceptional digital experience. So, whereas previously, the trend was to deploy technology to support back-end processes, today, it is about optimizing front-end applications and services to enhance the experiences of end-users.

How are you and your company gearing up to explore the opportunities in 2020?
Through 2019, we have witnessed a turning of the tide for cloud as the technology has rapidly matured from a buzz word to being widely adopted. The region’s appetite for cloud computing has even prompted some of the largest cloud providers globally to establish locally based data centres this year.

However, the underlying networks that facilitate the consumption of cloud-based services are in desperate need of an overhaul as traditional WANs that are based on conventional routers are simply not cloud-ready. With businesses positioning themselves as cloud and mobile-first, SD-WAN is rapidly emerging as a must-have technology – evident in IDC’s prediction that the segment will mushroom to over USD8 billion by 2021.

With our established Riverbed SteelConnect platform, and having this year extended our SD-WAN capabilities through our OEM partnership with Versa Networks, Riverbed is ideally positioned to capitalize on the opportunities in this rapidly growing market segment.

What sort of challenges do you foresee for 2020?
2020 is set to be a milestone year for the region with several global events – most prominently, Expo 2020 and the G20 summit – taking place in the region. Increased global attention and the influx of tourists are set to create a flood of new business opportunities. The challenge for governments and businesses will be to successfully convert the enthusiasm and emphasis on the region into long-term opportunities.

With the focus of both events set firmly on positioning the UAE and Saudi Arabia as frontrunners in the global digital economy, IT innovation will be placed front and centre. As a result, in the coming year, CIOs will be under increasing pressure to leverage technologies such as AI, cloud, and mobility to enhance operational efficiency, drive innovation and enhance customer experiences.

However, my advice to CIOs is to ensure that sufficient emphasis is made on developing the platforms that are essential to supporting the long-term IT roadmap. SD-WAN is undoubtedly one of these and with the simplicity it delivers comes the ease of use, agility, and an enhanced ability to adapt to change and maximize investments.

Which markets will be your main targets for business and regional growth in the upcoming year?
In terms of focus geographies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt all remain high growth markets for Riverbed in the MENA region. Governments in each of these countries have placed a large emphasis on digital transformation in both the public and private sectors. As a vendor whose solutions serve to enable successful digital transformation, Riverbed has a tremendous opportunity to widen its penetration in these markets while also building on engagements with existing customers.

Is there a scope for innovation in the upcoming year? If yes, in which areas of application?
There is no doubt that countries in the Middle East will aim to lead the 5G revolution. The arrival of 5G will act as a catalyst for more “data-rich” applications to evolve, transforming the way humans and smart devices interact with each other and between themselves.

We can also expect that user experience will be central to technology innovation through 2020 and beyond. From Riverbed’s perspective, this means ongoing innovation and enhancement of our Digital Networking portfolio which delivers superior digital experiences, new levels of operational efficiency, and accelerated business outcomes.

Will emerging technologies prompt the sales channels reinvention in 2020?
Emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, as well as IoT, will drive the need for scaled and automated network management. The ability to deploy these technologies effectively requires a solid foundation of enabling IT services – LAN, WAN, branch and DC computing. Modernizing the network with next-generation software-defined network solutions and services will be key.

Organizations will need to make decisions on sourcing – in-house managed or through a managed service provider – in order to deliver and manage the solution set needed to keep up and stay ahead. Managed network services will gain momentum, taking on this responsibility and allowing enterprises to focus on introducing emerging technologies to enable greater innovation and a competitive edge.

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