In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Fred Crehan, Area Vice President for Emerging Markets at Confluent, delves into the transformative role of real-time data in the Middle East region. Crehan provides insights into the unique challenges and opportunities facing Confluent in this dynamic market, the impact of their real-time AI initiative, and the strategic partnerships that are poised to reshape the technological landscape. He also discusses Confluent's role in empowering Middle Eastern businesses with the data management and analytics capabilities required for modern AI applications and highlights emerging trends in the AI domain. He reiterates the importance of data streaming as a “prerequisite to the success of AI endeavours.” With its data streaming for AI initiative, Confluent aims to help organisations quickly build and scale next-generation AI applications “with a shared source of real-time truth for all operational and analytical data, no matter where it lives.” Excerpts:Can you tell us about your role as the Area Vice President for Emerging Markets at Confluent and how it pertains to the Middle East region?As the Area Vice President, Emerging Markets, I lead Confluent’s business and strategy across the Middle East, and Israel. My role has direct responsibility for sales and I also oversee key field-facing functions like solution engineering, professional services, customer success, and channel teams in the region.As I look to grow Confluent’s regional footprint, I am focused on helping organisations recognise that unlocking the full potential of real-time data will empower them to pioneer compelling digital services for the discerning modern consumer. This is especially relevant in the context of the Middle East. As businesses in the region compete in the digital era, gains in efficiency are made possible by data-backed decision-making. The insight unlocked by the analysis of real-time data from across the enterprise will also help deliver a differentiating edge to businesses, which will be essential to their competitiveness. This calls for enterprises to create a central nervous system that sets their data in motion. The continuous collection and delivery of data across the digital enterprise underpins all digital initiatives, be it the modernisation of IT, adoption of AI, utilization of analytics, or migration to the cloud. For this reason, event streaming platforms are rapidly becoming a must-have component in the IT infrastructures of modern enterprises, and this is a trend that is only set to accelerate in the year ahead.What are the unique challenges and opportunities you've encountered while leading Confluent's efforts in the Middle East market?I helped establish Confluent’s local presence in the Middle East with the opening of our regional headquarters in Dubai in May 2022. While It’s fair to say that the last 16+ months have been challenging for the software industry in general, Confluent has been at the heart of emerging trends like AI, ML and digital transformation. As a result, a lot of data is being generated and utilized. There is also increasing pressure on businesses given the macroeconomic environment to be more efficient, and those factors combined really drives the need for more solutions based on real-time data streaming.Confluent has announced an initiative to accelerate the development of real-time AI applications. How do you see this initiative impacting the tech landscape in the Middle East?Data streaming is a prerequisite to the success of AI endeavours. Continuously enriched, trustworthy data streams are vital when creating next-gen AI applications, because in order to be accurate and effective, these need to be fed with rich, real-time data. With our data streaming for AI initiative, we aim to help organisations quickly build and scale next-generation AI applications with a shared source of real-time truth for all operational and analytical data, no matter where it lives.This has tremendous potential to positively impact the region as AI is set to drive the bottom-line of both regional governments and businesses. A recent PwC report predicts that the Middle East will accrue 2% of the total global benefits of AI in 2030, equivalent to US$320 billion. In Saudi Arabia alone, AI is expected to contribute over US$135.2 billion in 2030 to the economy, equivalent to 12.4% of the country’s GDP.Can you elaborate on the partnerships with MongoDB, Pinecone, Rockset, Weaviate, and Zilliz. How these partnerships might benefit businesses in the Middle East region?As revealed in our recently announced news on data streaming for AI, we are expanding our partnerships with leading companies in the AI and vector database space, including MongoDB, Pinecone, Rockset, Weaviate, and Zilliz. These partnerships will allow companies to unlock the full potential of AI with the freshest contextual data from across their business.Could you share specific examples or use cases where Confluent's partnerships with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure have made a tangible impact on businesses in the Middle East?Through our partnership with Microsoft, Confluent Cloud, our fully managed, cloud-native service for connecting and processing data, wherever it is needed, is now available to our customers in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar through MicrosoftAzure and AWS data centers. With Confluent Cloud being locally hosted, we bring peerless, reliable data streaming to our regional customers and empower them in their digital transformation initiatives in an increasingly hybrid and multi-cloud world.What role do you see AI assistants, like Confluent's AI Assistant, playing in enhancing business processes and decision-making for companies in the Middle East?Our data streaming for AI initiative is demonstrating product innovations that incorporate the latest advances in AI into the platform, with capabilities like a generative AI-powered assistant that helps generate code and answer questions about the data streaming environment.For example, the Confluent AI Assistant turns natural language inputs—like “What was my most expensive environment last month?” or “Give me an API request to produce messages to my orders topic”— into suggestions and accurate code that’s specific to their deployment.With the growth of real-time data and AI applications, how does Confluent plan to support businesses in the Middle East in terms of data management and analytics?We recently announced data streaming for AI, an initiative to empower organisations’ development of real-time AI applications. Real-time, trustworthy data streams are key to building next-gen AI applications and Confluent wants to make it easier for businesses. Modern AI applications require multiple technologies and data from numerous domains to seamlessly come together. We want to help organisations quickly build and scale next-generation AI applications with a shared source of real-time truth for all operational and analytical data, no matter where it lives.Can you provide insights into the specific strategies Confluent is employing to help organisations in the Middle East build a real-time data foundation for modern AI applications? And what are the emerging trends in the AI domain?For businesses to succeed in the new era of AI, they have to avoid the challenges that legacy data-at-rest architectures impose and build the modern AI stack on a foundation of data in motion. We are expanding our ecosystem to include critical AI technologies to help organisations build AI apps faster. This includes plans for fully managed connectors for the modern AI stack, GenAI API calls built into Apache Flink, and an AI Assistant to help companies build faster on Confluent.