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Committed to Building a Better Internet

Arabian Reseller speaks to Bashar Bashaireh, the newly appointed Managing Director for the Middle East and Turkey at Cloudflare, about his strategies for the region

Give us an overview of your career in the technology industry?
I join Cloudflare with over two decades of experience, mostly in the cybersecurity and software industry, where over the past years I helped global technology providers establish and expand their presence and operation in the emerging markets, particularly in the Middle East and Turkey.

Prior to joining Cloudflare, I was the Managing Director and Head of Sales for Emerging Markets at CyberRes, the cybersecurity line of business at MicroFocus, managing the sales and business development across the Middle East, Africa, Brazil, Russia, CIS, and CEE. Before that I led StarLink Value-Added Distribution as their CEO across a 22-country operation, managing their annual business of close to $500M. In addition, I held several leadership positions at major technology vendors such as Symantec, BlueCoat, Fortinet, and CyberGuard.

What factors prompted you to join as regional head of Cloudflare?
Having worked in the domain of cyber security for more than two decades, I can see that Cloudflare is genuine in its mission of building a better Internet that is fast, safe, and reliable for everyone. Being part of this journey that touches everyone’s life is surely an exciting thing to do.

Having spoken to so many customers in the region, I understand that nowadays more than ever, they need to be able to grow their operations by focusing on their core mission without having to worry about their technology. Cloudflare appears to me as one of the most innovative customer-centric companies in the market. More than just technology, we are on a mission to help to build a fast, reliable, and secure Internet for a maximum number of people, businesses, and public organizations.

Cloudflare also has an exceptional company culture with key values such as diversity, principle, collaboration, innovation, and transparency. Finally, I enjoy the opportunity of launching operations from inception in the region. Building successful teams that can deliver future incremental growth and objectives and supporting our customers is an exciting challenge.

Is the opening of the new office in Dubai Cloudflare’s first foray into the Middle East region? And can you give us some details about your intended operations in this region?
Today, Cloudflare’s network currently spans over 75 cities in the EMEA region including 16 physical locations in the Middle East and Turkey. Cloudflare first invested in the Middle East in 2015. Now with data centres spanning more than 270 cities in more than 100 countries worldwide, the company continues to grow its presence to be even closer to Internet-connected users everywhere.

Cloudflare has about 30 team members from different functions covering the Middle East. We plan to have a team of approximately 20 people working in Dubai by the end of 2022 and are currently planning to grow that number to over 30 by the end of 2023. We are hiring!

What are the opportunities that you see for Cloudflare in the region?
Cloudflare has been associated with delivering fast content over the cloud in a most reliable and secure manner, accounting for at least 20% of the global Internet traffic. Cloudflare can cater to and support all types of organizations (businesses and public sector) including those with a social mission. The Middle East and Turkey as emerging markets are characterized by a relatively young population, with 70% of it being under the age of 30.

This dynamic youth segment has an insatiable demand for both content and knowledge. To that extent, there has been a rapid uptake in Internet use, and digital transformation initiatives have significantly accelerated over the past couple of years. This trend represents an opportunity for Cloudflare to add considerable value to regional enterprises and in doing so, increase its footprint and market share.

In addition, the region made up of 13 countries with fast-growing and innovation-driven economies presents a unique growth opportunity for Cloudflare to tap into. I can confidently say that this market is at the forefront of technology and early adopters of disruptive technologies such as the cloud on a global scale. This is being driven by many factors such as Digital Transformation where several countries have embraced ambitious programs transforming them into true digital economies.

Cloud uptake has accelerated over the past few years in the region and the necessary regulatory frameworks and related compliance policies are now in place to propel enterprises into the next phase of leveraging the benefits of the cloud. This transformation is further accelerated as earlier mentioned, by a mostly young and content demanding population-that content being gaming, entertainment, education, sports, or online retail.

The recent pandemic has for sure played a major role in building up this momentum and increasing the urgency in speeding up such a transition. The parallel increase of cyber threats and associated breaches put Cloudflare in an unparalleled and unique position to deliver the required content in a reliable, fast, and secure manner to individuals, businesses, and the public sector alike elevating the levels of productivity and performance in addition to reducing complexity for users.

To do that, Cloudflare has built a global network and infrastructure across 275 cities around the world with 27 in the MET region, delivering the same connectivity at 50ms performance for more than 95% of customers. The innovation path is stunning. Not only do we provide best-in-class cyber security solutions with Cloudflare’s SASE security platform, Cloudflare One, a Zero Trust network-as-a-service platform that dynamically connects users to enterprise resources, with identity-based security controls delivered close to users, wherever they are, but we also offer an open strong developer platform with Cloudflare Workers.

What are your immediate priorities as the regional head?
Over the last two years, Cloudflare has grown its EMEA team by more than 100 percent and counts approximately 700 employees. For the Middle East and Turkey, the initial functions prioritized for the region include launching new data centers, increasing market share by building partnerships, and expanding our customer base. One of my priorities is to build a successful team by empowering current team members and attracting future talents that would all contribute to this journey.

What have been your learnings from last year and how will you use them to tailor your strategies for 2022?
As a result of the pandemic, we have witnessed many companies accelerating their digital transformation initiatives by transitioning to the Cloud. As Cloud-based services are being more and more adopted by enterprises across all verticals, we are extending our partnerships with key managed service providers in the region to help with this transition.

The recent increase in cyber threats and associated breaches put Cloudflare in an unparalleled and unique position to deliver the required content in a reliable, fast, and secure manner to individuals, businesses, and the public sector alike, elevating the levels of productivity and performance in addition to reducing complexity for users.

To do that, Cloudflare has built a global network and infrastructure across 275 cities around the world with 27 in the MET region, delivering the same connectivity at 50ms performance for more than 95% of customers. The innovation path is stunning. Not only do we provide best-in-class cyber security solutions with Cloudflare’s SASE security platform, Cloudflare One, a Zero Trust network-as-a-service platform that dynamically connects users to enterprise resources, with identity-based security controls delivered close to users, wherever they are, but we also offer an open strong developer platform with Cloudflare Workers. We believe in constant innovation, and this I believe will help us take advantage of current and future opportunities, as we help organisations navigate their digital transformation roadmaps.

What sort of channel strategies are in the pipeline for the region?
At Cloudflare, we love our partners. Partners play a vital role in Cloudflare’s mission to help build a better Internet for customers worldwide. In line with our accelerated growth in the Middle East and Turkey (MET) region, we believe it is necessary to expand our channel network across all countries in the region. To better support our partners, we are in the process of hiring a regional channel manager, who will drive our strategy and execution with the intention of building a strong channel ecosystem of experts. Our regional channel program will be no different from the global one.

Cloudflare Channel Partners include services partners – well trained and certified to extend all kinds of professional services to our customers that guarantee better customer satisfaction; it also includes value-added resellers and system integrators who provide sales, consulting, and services, as well as the implementation of Cloudflare products. Cloudflare Alliance Partners embed Cloudflare innovations into their applications or solutions. From resellers of our pay-as-you-go plans to the most bespoke integration,

Cloudflare is committed to making it as straightforward as possible for our partners to build a profitable business with Cloudflare. Cloudflare has strong alliances with some of the renowned Global Systems Integrators (GSIs), and we intend to leverage such partnerships in the region. We plan to run annual partner events to have a better alignment with the channel and recognize those that have helped grow our business.

Does Cloudflare offer a channel partner/channel certification program?
The Cloudflare Partner Network is a rapidly growing global community, united by the mission and commitment to building a better internet. Once a partner joins the network, they enjoy a number of benefits that include access to innovative solutions, and generous programs starting from Year 1 and on each renewal. And lastly, a choice of flexible partner models with built-in pathways to grow their revenue. For example, as a reseller partner, by taking advantage of our accreditations and enablement specializations program, they qualify for higher Tier status and greater rewards.

They can also become a Managed Services Partner and offer value-added expert consultative services by helping customers with customised deployments and analytics. Similarly, our Cloudflare Alliances, OEM, and Platform partners gain access to tailored integration and go-to-market support to automatically provide Cloudflare security, performance, and reliability benefits, as an enhancement to their current offerings.

Regardless of the partner path they choose, channel partners are provided with the necessary training, through our accreditations and enablement programs – training, sales support, and marketing resources they need to accelerate their business with Cloudflare. We encourage our partners to get certified on our portfolio offering to be able to value position our products, pre, and post-sales.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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