(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Spending for information technology in the Middle East, one of the fastest-growing IT markets in the world, is set to cross the 32-billion mark in 2014, with infrastructure, cloud computing and big-data capabilities among those that will see "significant" investments, according to the annual prediction released by the International Data Corporation, or IDC.
IT spending in the region will grow 7.3 per cent year-on-year, with consumers, communications, financial services and the public sector forecast to be the biggest contributors, seen to pitch in 74 per cent of the Middle East total.
Public sector investments for government services, education and healthcare will continue to be the key drivers in the GCC.
"Organisations in 2014 will be faced with a growing need to adapt as effects of the '3rd Platform' continue to disrupt and change industries in the region," said Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice-president and regional managing director for the IDC in the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.
The 3rd Platform for IT growth and innovation, according to the IDC, is built on mobile devices, cloud services, social technologies and big data.
"We anticipate that major players in the region will make significant investments to enhance their infrastructure to scale up cloud and big data capabilities. In this context, securing data will be more vital than ever before."
The IDC's report also said that the roll-out of Dubai Smart City will lead to an acceleration of other smart city initiatives in other GCC countries, which have gained momentum in recent years. Three countries in the GCC have announced plans for this: the UAE's Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Smart City; Qatar's Lusail City, Pearl-Qatar and Energy City Qatar; and six economic cities in Saudi Arabia.
The IDC expects the total spending on machine-to-machine connections in GCC countries to increase by 19 per cent in 2014 to reach 224 million.
Among others, governments will also focus on strengthening security for national information assets, as well as expanding agencies that monitor and protect the national frontline against cyber attacks. The IDC expects that in 2014, GCC governments will develop or strengthen national IT security policies and plans, and through national agencies, implement them, with these agencies assuming the coordination of activities among various authorities including the armed forces.
Furthermore, the acceptance of cloud computing will accelerate, with the private cloud and software as a service adoption dominating investment plans. In 2014, a number of organisations are expected to start realising that they can derive even greater benefits from a full-fledged private cloud implementation.
Research firm Gartner, in a separate report, estimated a 20.2 per cent growth in regional spending on cloud services through 2016, a figure that even exceeds the global average of 17.7 per cent.
The IDC's predictions reflect the ongoing factors that will set the trend for the region's ICT development. Experts anticipate that the trickle-down effect of these predictions will initiate a change within a variety of industries.
Data centre concerns
Meanwhile, data centre availability, driven by enterprise mobility and virtualisation trends, appears to be the leading IT concern for global businesses. This is one of the key findings of Brocade's annual Channel Survey 2013 Report, which aims to uncover the main trends, pain points and opportunities for organisations that deliver the IT solutions that drive the networks of some of the world's largest companies.
The survey was responded to by over 350 of the vendor's global channel players and includes inputs from a large number of resellers and systems integrators from the Middle East.
Of these, 60 per cent stated that end users view fabric technologies as the future of networks. And while organisations understand the capabilities and benefits of fabric-based networking, investment into new technologies falls short with a quarter of enterprises not making any significant upgrades to their data centre networks in the last three years.
Khaled Kamel, territory channel manager for the Mena at Brocade Communications, said: "Recent research points to the fact that enterprises in the Middle East only upgrade their networks when there is a breakdown or they want to introduce a new technology that their current network cannot support. This is a reactive approach and this mindset needs to change."
A Gartner report found that up to 65 per cent of IT budgets are currently being allocated to simply "keeping the network running". This investment, though significant, yields no commercial advantage and with 61 per cent of Brocade's respondents claiming that their customer networks are "not fit for purpose", the ability of these organisations to rapidly and flexibly deploy advanced data center networking solutions looks to be deeply hampered.
These shortcomings in networking investments may be the result of financial constraints; 62 per cent of the channel identified tight budgets as having a "significant impact" on customers' ability to invest in technology.
For vendors, this could be an opportunity to drive business by extending financial support to their partners - a measure that 63 per cent of respondents believe would become "vital" or "more important" over the next couple of years.
This support could prove to be the impetus for a new wave of IT spending allowing customers to address the survey's top five drivers of network investments - the desire to adopt virtualisation (41 per cent); demand for faster access to data and applications (41 per cent); demand for greater bandwidth (32 per cent); t