Alibaba Cloud eyes regional opportunities
International firms can now leverage global cloud services for local operations
The exciting regional cloud market welcomes the latest major entrant, in the form of Alibaba Cloud.
If the name sounds familiar, it is because Alibaba Cloud is the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, one of the largest online and mobile commerce companies in the world.
Indeed, Alibaba Cloud provides the underlying infrastructure serving the other Alibaba businesses such as the e-commerce business and its affiliate payment platform, Alipay, explains Yiping Gong, general manager, Alibaba Cloud, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and India.
The Alibaba e-commerce business began in 1999 and Alibaba Cloud was founded in 2009, with an initial focus on the domestic Chinese market. After finding success there, Alibaba Cloud has become the largest cloud provider in China, and global expansion was a logical next step.
In the last year, Alibaba Cloud has established dedicated teams in Hong Kong, USA, South East Asia, Europe and now Dubai.
This expansion is driven by a cash injection of 1B dollars from the parent group to invest in the cloud business, announced in 2015. With the investment, Alibaba Cloud can grow very fast, notes Gong.
Today, Alibaba Cloud offers a range of cloud services across data storage, relational databases, big-data processing, and content delivery networks. The solutions are offered through a variety of flexible billing options including monthly payments as well as various pay-as-you-go models.
For customers, Alibaba Cloud’s value proposition for customers is the ability to expand their IT infrastructure to new regions while accessing their cloud infrastructure and global data with a single global account.
For its UAE operations, Alibaba has partnered with regional conglomerate Meraas to form a joint-venture cloud computing services company called Yvolv, covering the Middle East region. The initial foray of the partnership will involve opening a data centre in Dubai in the second half of 2016.
“This will be our first step into the market to leverage local partners who understand the market much better,” says Gong. Alibaba Cloud has also set up a local office and built up a team in Dubai to serve customers locally. Alibaba Cloud also maintains a channel programme globally and the same partner programme will be availed here, reveals Gong.
“Alibaba Cloud’s strategy is to serve global customers who have local operations,” explains Gong. “The timing for the company’s entry into ME is ideal.” Although other global cloud giants like AWS and Azure have operations in the region, they lack dedicated data centres in the region.
Alibaba Cloud is already offering services in the region through its other international data centres. Thanks to UAE strong internet connections with the rest of the world, the data centre in Singapore for example, will adequately serve the local market with very low latency, Gong observes. “With global data centres around the world, Alibaba Cloud services are designed to offer scalability, high availability and cost efficiency,” she adds.
Today, Alibaba Cloud has over 10 data centres in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.S., with Middle East data centre in the pipeline.
"We have seen great need from customers in the region. As a global player who has local expertise with comprehensive cloud solutions, we are confident to suit their business needs,” Gong says. “Alibaba Cloud’s offering is comprehensive, providing not just IaaS, but also other services such as datacentre analytics and cloud security. ”
With Dubai driving Smart City initiatives, Alibaba’s technology and expertise in such areas such as big data, analytics and IoT in China and elsewhere should be able to suit this market requirement as well, says Gong.