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Microsoft opens first data centre region in Qatar

Microsoft will now be able to do far more business with the Qatari government, as well as the region's oil and gas and financial giants

Microsoft has launched its first data centre region in Qatar, which will help the company do more business in the country.

The tech giant said that the new data centres are open for business with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, starting yesterday.

The investment is in response to Qatar’s growing demand for high performance computing and fast and reliable access to the company’s services, said Microsoft. The new data centre region is expected to play an important role in providing customers with access to scalable, highly available, and resilient cloud services to accelerate digital transformation.

Microsoft also hopes the data centre will drive growth and scale for its partners in the country. It already counts on customers like the Ministry of Communication and Information technology and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. Its partners in Qatar include Vodafone, PwC, Intel, Starlink, and Veeam.

“The launch of the data centre today is considered an important milestone in the process of transforming the state of Qatar into an advanced and pioneering digital centre in the Middle East and the world,” said Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai, minister of Communications and Information Technology. “This journey was inspired by the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to establish a diversified and competitive national economy.”

Earlier this year, the tech giant also announced a partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in which it launched the National Skilling Programme. Its goal is to upskill over 50,000 people in the country by providing digital skills programmes over the next four years. So far, it has benefited over 14,000 people.

Why has Microsoft chosen Qatar specifically?

Many cloud companies have opened data centres in the Middle East as the countries in the region have big issues with data residency and need to keep the data within their country, said Tiny Haynes, senior director analyst at Gartner, speaking to IT Pro.

In addition, cloud companies need to have a data centre in a particular country to do business there. Microsoft, for example, currently lacks a data centre in Saudi Arabia, which limits the amount of business it can do the government or critical national infrastructure there. With the data centre in Qatar, on the other hand, it will allow the tech giant to do a lot more business with the Qatari government, and oil and gas or financial firms.

The Microsoft data centre opening up this week allows the Qatari government to host a lot of their infrastructure on the public cloud, but Haynes stated it will have to understand how to use the cloud properly through trial and error, which will take time.

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Haynes underlined that part of the push to get Microsoft to establish itself in the country is for geopolitical reasons. Qatar was kicked out of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2017, which saw bans on flights to the country from many of its neighbours, and Saudi Arabia closed the nation’s only land crossing. 

“I think they felt that quite sensitively,” said Haynes, explaining that this may have pushed the nation to bring in Microsoft and Google, essentially ensuring the cloud infrastructure Qatar can rely on is located within the country.

Additionally, the three big industries in Qatar are the government, oil and gas, and financial sectors. Haynes said that the data in these industries will be very, very sensitive. This includes, for example, geological survey information or oil and gas deals, as this will show exactly how much of these resources the nation has left which is a state secret. “They’re not going to be putting that in the public cloud,” he added.

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