Senior writer

Microsoft to build out UAE’s sovereign cloud

Sep 05, 20233 mins
Cloud Computing

The latest in a series of deals with Middle Eastern governments will see Microsoft deploy cloud resources to the UAE.

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Microsoft will partner with G42, a technology holding company owned by a top security official in the United Arab Emirates, to build out that company’s sovereign cloud capabilities and jump-start its AI capabilities.

Microsoft will work on a number of different individual projects on behalf of G42, whose ties to the country’s government include being owned by Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of the UAE’s founder and the country’s national security advisor. Microsoft’s sovereign cloud technology will provide a platform for the UAE’s public sector and its closely regulated industries, according to a Microsoft  statement, allowing users to secure sensitive information, have access to “the latest cloud and AI features available on Azure public cloud,” and help compliance with the country’s data sovereignty laws.

The deal will also see Microsoft expand its data center presence in the UAE, specifically via a further partnership with Khazna Data Centers, a government-backed hosting provider.

Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft, said that the deal will help the country’s private and public sectors take advantage of the latest technology to solve societal problems.

“With data privacy, security, and compliance as our core priorities, we have a unique opportunity to help organizations responsibly innovate for the benefit of citizens and residents across the UAE,” he said in the statement.

The announcement also noted that details about further collaboration between G42 and Microsoft will be released in the forthcoming months, although Microsoft did not respond to requests for further details as of this writing.

Microsoft’s work in the UAE is far from its first involvement with public sector work in the Middle East. Just this year, the company announced plans to build out new Azure cloud regions in Saudi Arabia, and provides several services, including some based on Azure and OpenAI, to the government of Qatar.

Microsoft’s rivals also have been building hyperscale data centers in the region at an increasing pace to meet demand spurred by cloud adoption as Middle Eastern businesses modernize applications such as ERP, and in the wake of the pandemic loosen up on remote work. In August Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened a Tel Aviv cloud region and said it would invest $7.2 billion in Israel by 2037. In February, Oracle said it would invest $1.5 billion in Saudi Arabia to expand cloud capacity.

Some of these deals have drawn criticism from human rights advocacy groups, given concerns about human rights abuses in the region. For example, Human Rights Watch, in April, warned that Microsoft’s planned cloud deployments in Saudi Arabia run the risk of worsening privacy conditions in that nation, where anticybercrime and data protection laws offer authorities easy access to personally identifiable information and provides numerous opportunities for abuse.