Huawei signs off on Saudi data centre investment, set to finalise location





Dubai: Chinese tech giant Huawei will soon be taking a decision on where to locate a data centre in Saudi Arabia, its second in the Middle East. It was last year that it went operational in Abu Dhabi with the first data centre.

“We are in the final stages of the Saudi decision – the investment decision has already been made,” said Frank Dai, President of Huawei Cloud M.E. “All that’s left is where in Riyadh should the facility be built.”

“Saudi Arabia is one of the strategic markets we have to be in. With the date centre, our technical design team has to ensure the highest availability to our services.

“We will keep investing in the whole data and cloud computing space across the whole region. The Middle East remains central to our vision of how digital transformation can reshape economies, even change the world. This is only the beginning of what data-driven economies can achieve.”

Data centres and cloud are two of the buzzwords in the Gulf’s tech space, along with AI and Web3. Oracle, Amazon and Microsoft are all powering in, as are local entities such as Khazna Data Centres (a G42-e& enterprise) and Hussain Sajwani-owned Damac, which recently confirmed a $1 billion investment play on data centres.

“If you as a tenant puts 100 million objects of data at our facility, you have a chance to lose one object every 1,000 years. We want to raise the possibilities even higher – to 10,000 years.”

– Frank Dai

Cloud ambitions

For Huawei, being an integral part of the data economy means having cloud for company. “To reach the ultimate goal of a real ‘intelligent’ world, digital infrastructure is the foundation,” said Dai. “More precisely, cloud technology is the foundation for that.”

Surely, digital infrastructure comes before everything else? “I will agree, but partially,” said Dai, who took over as regional head in October last.

“Cloud itself is part of that infrastructure. It not only provides computing storage capability, but if you look carefully, all of the latest IT technology innovations come from cloud and not from traditional tech. Whether you are talking about the latest breakthroughs in database, AI, all of these are from cloud services.

“This requires changes not only to business models. Data volumes are such that there has to be coexistence between different systems and those require big storage and processing capabilities. That, ultimately, comes from the cloud.”

Frank Dai, President of Huawei Cloud M.E., talks about the company’s plans for the region.
Video by Ahmed Ramzan; Edited by Sonia Shah

3G-5G

Apart from the cloud, Huawei is closely associated with the Middle East telecom space’s transformation into full-fledged 5G networks. (And with an early eye on 6G possibilities.) “I tell everyone that it was in Abu Dhabi that we tested 3G a good two decades ago for the first time – even before we did so in China,” said Dai. “About the cloud, we have been doing so since 10 years ago – it’s only that our cloud operations never had the same brand awareness as the consumer devices division. Even with 5G, more people became aware that Huawei is market leader on 5G more recently.”

A ‘daily’ upgrade

With data centres and cloud computing, it’s not about building a property on sufficient land and then stacking up servers once the existing ones touch max utilisation.

“The cloud tech model is very different. On the software side, we have patches that we have to upgrade nearly every day,” said Dai. “A systematic plan requires us to upgrade every other quarter. The key to creating a cloud infrastructure is elasticity. When we reach a threshold we have to then make a whole expansion plan.”

Shared tasks on data securing

Dai says that the nature of the cloud business comes with overlaps – on the responsibility side. “Sure, the tenant will have his own security systems in place,” he added. “On Huawei’s part, we have to ensure reliability, availability and durability of the services we offer. The data security of our tenant is a shared responsibility.

“When it comes to service availability, we offer the possibility of 99.95 per cent availability. That means, in a whole year, there could be – theoretically – a downtime of only 26 minutes. And even if there is a component failure, there is still the redundancy to ensure the highest availability of our services.”




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