Cloud analysts often refer to the “big three” public cloud providers when referring to the big players in the cloud market. What many of us in the United States haven’t heard much about is Alibaba Cloud, a rapidly-growing public cloud provider with a strong International presence that is quickly approaching that of its chief rivals.
Alibaba Cloud is the public cloud service from Chinese e-commerce and Internet service powerhouse Alibaba Group. In many ways, down to the color and presence of a smile on the company logo, it resembles its American competitor, Amazon.
Alibaba Cloud originally launched in 2009, however, it wasn’t until 2015 that Alibaba invested serious resources to its growth, including a billion-dollar investment into Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud computing division.
Gaining Ground on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
Alibaba Cloud has a strong foothold in the Chinese market, a place that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are accelerating their efforts to capture. Worldwide, Alibaba Cloud ranked third among Iaas Public Cloud services in 2016 according to a report from Gartner.
Synergy Research Group listed Alibaba as the fifth-largest cloud provider in terms of market share in a category that included IaaS, PaaS, and hosted private cloud providers.
Alibaba Cloud reported a 104% growth year-over-year in its year-end financial report for 2017.
Simplicity as a Benefit
While the big three American cloud providers are packing new features into their services for virtually every market they can capture, Alibaba Cloud has maintained a comparatively simple product line.
Alibaba provides core IaaS services. This includes compute, storage, networking, and other essentials that companies look for in a cloud service. There is also support for container options like Docker and database management. It’s no slouch in the areas of features, but it doesn’t overwhelm customers with platform services the way AWS does.
This streamlined approach enables Alibaba to provide a cost-efficient service to businesses that run on a budget. Monthly subscriptions are an alternative to the typical pay-as-you-go strategy that services like AWS and Google Cloud offer. A recent cost analysis from CloudBerry Lab revealed a small advantage in terms of costs for service.
Looking to the Future
Alibaba is investing a lot in its growth. At the end of 2017, Alibaba opened its first data center in Malaysia in an effort to grow its reach in the APAC region.
Alibaba is currently conducting a pre-sale for cloud resources in its new Indonesian data center opening this year.
“We will provide more Chinese technologies for countries like Malaysia and Indonesia,” Xiaoming Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud Computing told reporters at a press conference. “There will be bigger things coming up.”
For companies interested in quantum computing services, Alibaba Cloud just opened public access to its new quantum platform. The new 11-qubit system enables cloud users to test quantum codes and access the results. By comparison, IBM offers a 20 qubit quantum system through its cloud services.
Alibaba may not have the biggest quantum cloud solution on the market, but it is leading the way in other areas of quantum computing. In a coordinated effort between Alibaba and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the two entities created the first quantum computing laboratory in Asia, as well as collaborating on what Alibaba says is the first photon quantum computer in the world.