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Microsoft Partner Virtual Vision, based in Saudi Arabia, has built its business providing hybrid cloud/on-premise solutions based on Office 365, Active Directory, System Center, Hyper-V and Windows Azure. During a recent trip to the region, I spoke with the company’s general manager, Hazem Sandouka. Here are excerpts:

Josh Waldo: Tell me about the cloud services market in the Middle East.

 
Hazem Sandouka: It’s definitely a different market environment than Europe, or the US. Here, public cloud services are still new. Potential customers aren’t as familiar with the technology, and don’t have the same level of confidence in it. We also have the issue of meeting compliance requirements, since the public cloud services are being hosted outside the region.
 
JW: How do you sell into that type of market?
 
HS: We focus on hybrid solutions. They give our customers the comfort of slowly migrating batches of users and testing constantly to insure that there is no degradation in services. A partial migration through a hybrid cloud solution lets us earn our customers’ confidence and demonstrate the benefits of the public cloud. And the hybrid solution still gives executives the option to roll back to a 100 percent private cloud solution if they wish to do so later on. The hybrid solution also helps meet compliance requirements, because sensitive information can continue to be hosted on-premise or elsewhere in-country.
 
JW: What benefits appeal to your customers the most?
 
HS: Most of our customers are in the oil and gas industry and have about half of their workforces in the field. The size of a customer’s staff can vary by 20 to 30 percent, based on the number of projects it has at any given time. Our customers like that they can use our hybrid solutions to quickly provide new staff with IT services at minimal overhead, and that they can discontinue those services quickly and easily when a project is completed. Also, their employees are often in relatively distant and isolated locations, making it difficult for them to connect directly to a corporate network. With the hybrid solution, all they need is an Internet connection and they can access authorized resources on the network without any issues.
 
JW: What has offering Microsoft cloud services done for you?
 
HS: It’s really put us on the map. We went from being a small partner that was called in when needed to being the primary IT provider for our customers. Through our hybrid solution offerings, we can influence the IT vision of our customers. We’re consulted on virtually every aspect of their IT environments—networking, ERP, hardware, and so on—and asked if they’re suitable for the hybrid solution. Offering hybrid solutions has also given us the opportunity to expand rapidly into SharePoint development, since it complements those solutions.
 
JW: Can you share any numbers with us?
 
HS: When we added information about Microsoft cloud solutions to our website, traffic rose by 2,217 percent in a month. We’ve doubled our revenues and profits over the past year, and we expect our services business to grow 500 percent over the next three years.
 
–Josh​