Scaling globally with the new AWS Middle East (UAE) Region

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If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few years, you’ll see that I have regularly written about the opportunity to use cloud technologies to solve a range of issues in space. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is doing just that. Last year, MBRSC successfully launched its Hope Probe, the first interplanetary mission for the UAE and the first spacecraft that aimed to capture a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. MBRSC relies on AWS analytics capabilities to process and analyze data from the Hope Probe and provide results to the general scientific community in under 20 minutes, compared to 48 hours for other missions not being operated on the cloud.

This level of innovation is a powerful example of what AWS can make possible for a new generation of engineers, scientists, and technologists who have access to cloud technologies. It’s why I’m excited to share the launch of the AWS Middle East (UAE) Region. Starting today, developers, startups, entrepreneurs, and enterprises as well as government, education, and nonprofit organizations will have even greater choice for running their applications and serving end users from data centers located in the UAE.

The new region is the second in the Middle East – joining the AWS Middle East (Bahrain) Region – giving customers more choice and flexibility to take advantage of the most advanced cloud technologies, and enabling customers with data residency requirements to store their data in the UAE. Importantly, our investment in the UAE Region – an estimated $5.47 billion over the next 15 years to expand related infrastructure and operations supporting the projected growth in demand for AWS services – also advances the country’s strategic priorities, including our provision of training for highly sought-after technology skills and empowerment of organizations to innovate across all industries.

The launch of this new region brings our global infrastructure footprint to 87 Availability Zones across 27 geographic regions. We continue to invest in our global infrastructure to bring AWS technologies even closer to our customers and their users. This way, customers can run workloads on the cloud that deliver the best support for the broadest set of applications, even those with the highest throughput and lowest latency requirements.

Majid Al Futtaim is a great example of how organizations in the UAE are already using AWS to improve application performance and innovate, learning more about their customers at the same time. Majid Al Futtaim is the leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure company across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. As such, having a lot of retail customers means having a lot of retail data. Majid Al Futtaim needed a single source of truth for data across their businesses, so they used AWS to build a data management solution that would allow them to understand more about their customers. This enabled them to answer questions about their customers that they previously couldn't do before. Is a customer that buys groceries at Carrefour more likely to buy from a particular retailer in one of their malls? How effective will a free popcorn voucher be at getting customers into VOX Cinemas? As it turns out, giving away free popcorn to your customers is a data problem.

Getting to the insights from their data required Majid Al Futtaim to build a single point of entry for all the data coming from all of their businesses. To do this, they created a scalable microservice running on Amazon EKS to act as an ingestion endpoint. Incoming data is indexed in Elasticsearch and moved to a data lake in Amazon S3 that is 60 terabytes and growing. Their data analysts are able to use that data to build predictive models that give them valuable insights, and they now have a 360-degree view of their customers across all their business lines. Because they treat infrastructure as code, they're able to spin up their infrastructure in a test environment and validate changes on the entire stack before deploying to production. Treating infrastructure as code is also what makes today's announcement important to companies like Majid Al Futtaim. They can rapidly expand into new regions as AWS opens them.

Our services are not only driving efficiencies for one of the largest retail conglomerates in the Middle East, but providing companies of all sizes with the ability to solve complex problems and deliver innovative solutions. If you’ve watched me talk to founders and entrepreneurs around the world in Now Go Build, you’ll know education is very important to me. Abu Dhabi-based Alef Education is helping schools overcome challenges in the industry such as a lack of teachers, growing student numbers, a need for digital skills, and more efficiencies in remote learning. They found a key to engaging students was not building a one-size-fits-all approach, but creating a learning experience tailored to each student.

To build a personalized course recommendation engine for students, Alef Education collects hundreds of millions of data points on how students learn on their platform and how they perform in assessments. They use Spark streaming jobs to transform this data, moving it from S3 and loading it into Amazon Redshift. Then, Alef Education uses Amazon SageMaker’s automatic model tuning to run multiple training jobs against the dataset to find the model that offers the best recommendations to students. Models are bundled in Docker containers and used inside inference clusters running on Amazon EKS. Using autoscaling on the clusters to add or remove capacity as demands require, Alef Education can ensure that educators and students get personalized recommendations with predictable performance.

With the new AWS Region in the UAE, an even larger number of customers in the Middle East gain access to AWS services to run their mission-critical workloads to drive cost savings, accelerate innovation, and speed time-to-market. I can’t wait to see what our customers do next. Now go build!