12 Feb Alibaba Cloud – An Introduction
What is Alibaba Cloud?
Alibaba Cloud is the 4th largest cloud provider after AWS, Azure, and Google, notable for its wide range of services. It is a globally available product of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. As a leading online marketplace in Asia, it was natural for Alibaba to step into the public cloud computing realm.
Alibaba joined the world of cloud in 2009 as Aliyun, three years after Amazon established the Amazon Web Services (AWS). It was rebranded to ‘Alibaba Cloud’ in 2015.
Alibaba Cloud has an annual run rate of $2.2 billion, far behind Amazon, Azure, or Google. In 2017, AC had a 104% year-over-year increase in its earnings. According to the Chief Research Officer of CERG, Alibaba Cloud is China’s fastest-growing public cloud. Alibaba’s Cloud revenue has grown 59% over the years, according to the latest report.
Alibaba Cloud currently operates out of 21 data centers and 63 global availability areas. Along with two regions in the U.S. and two in the European Union, their primary focus is mainland China.
But, What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud Computing means “using remote internet servers to store, manage, and process data instead of using a local server or a personal computer”. Cloud Computing Companies provide cloud services enabling the users to store information and applications on remote servers and then access all the data via the Internet. Implying that the user has access to the servers, from around the globe!
Such cloud-based companies provide Information Technology as a service over the Internet, charging according to the usage and delivering the demanded products. Cloud computing offers a wide range of products; from complete applications, development platforms, software to servers, networking, storage, and virtual desktops.
“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I tell them that, simply put,
cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”
-Marc Benioff, Founder of Salesforce
Cloud Companies make it simpler to access and analyze data, for business intelligence purposes. Through cloud orchestration and cloud logging services, it becomes easier for businesses to monitor the process of log files.
Characteristics of AC
Cloud-based services usually have a variety of features. Some such characteristics of Alibaba Cloud are listed below:
- Virtualization – allows the running of different OS simultaneously on the same hardware and helps the allocation of resources
- Multi-tenancy – single software instance can serve multiple user groups optimizing the maintenance and the utilization
- Network-access – resources can be accessed using a variety of networked devices (computer, tablet, smartphone)
- On-demand – resources are provided on-demand only while the payment is charged as one goes
- Elastic – the system automatically adapts to the workload by providing resources
Similarly, Alibaba Cloud offers a variety of cloud infrastructure and application development. They follow the standard usage-based, pay-as-you-go pricing model that the majority of providers have adopted.
Cloud Services have revolutionized computing through services like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, developing and delivering virtual IT structures and software through the cloud.
Alibaba Cloud offers a broad range of products for databases, networking, security, analytics & big data, domains & website management, applications, and more. Some are listed below:
They provide the platform’s core feature of IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), offering measurable computation capacity.
They deploy virtual servers called instances within the Alibaba Cloud environment. In return, the virtual servers deliver essential computing requirements like CPU, memory, network bandwidth. These help with the running and managing of applications and platforms. Alibaba Cloud delivers the resiliency and scalability of a virtual machine and the performance of a physical machine.
Alibaba Cloud enables virtual isolation for applications with a shared operating system, by providing container services like Container Registry and Elastic Container Instance. Containers contain the files, libraries, and environment variables necessary to run the desired software.
Due to it being a serverless platform, Alibaba Cloud allows IT teams to focus more on code development. It supports different API calls like synchronous or asynchronous to trigger functions. However, there are some limitations with function computation; one single service cannot have more than 50 functions under it and one function cannot be triggered more than 10 times.
Enterprises can store huge amounts of data, due to the storage Alibaba Cloud offers. It remains encrypted, protected, and highly available. Allowing the user to store data, such as image, audio, or video files for applications and websites.
Collectively, Alibaba Cloud offers four different classes for storage; standard, infrequent access, archive, or cold archive. Standard is the most reliable one for frequent access while the others are low-cost for the files that require less access. The wide variety of storage products encrypt the user data, get it backed up, and replicate it if needed! The user data also remains sharable!
Alibaba Cloud provides database services compatible with MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle syntaxes. Their features allow disaster recovery, backup, data replication, and on-premises management.
One of their services is a document database with automatic scalability and monitoring. This service, the ApsaraDB for MongoDB, includes a variety of virtual servers like standalone instances, replica set instances and, sharded cluster instances.
Alibaba’s database services are of use in keeping records and executing data tracing tasks. One of such services, LedgerDB, can perform 300,000 transactions/second on a single ledger for a single client.
Alibaba Cloud offers various services related to networks. They support private, isolated networks on the cloud through Virtual Private Cloud. As a result, the developers can customize the VPCs according to the requirements. This increases availability and enables quick responses to traffic spikes through IP addresses, virtualizing ECS instances to back-end servers.
Alibaba Cloud lets its clients have private domain name systems based on their VPCs. Their domain name system translates names into machine-readable IP addresses, can manage millions of queries in seconds, and comes with security to protect against DNS attacks.
Alibaba Cloud vs Azure vs AWS
Here we will compare Alibaba Cloud to its competitors based on the market share, pricing, and products provided.
A report by Synergy Research Group states that Amazon Web Services has the highest market share in the cloud service market, sitting at around 30%. Over the last four quarters, however, AWS has only seen half a percent growth in its market share.
Contrarily, Alibaba Cloud has grown considerably with a 1% gain in market share. Azure, on the other hand, has seen a growth of 3%, which does not compare to Alibaba’s 1% growth but definitely makes Alibaba one of the top five cloud providing services.
Completeness of Products
According to Gartner’s Comparison website, Alibaba’s products are rated very high- almost at the same level as AWS- but there are still some aspects of Alibaba Cloud that ask for improvements, such as security, developer services, and management tools. Interestingly, Alibaba Cloud’s services in compute, scaling, and networks are on par with Azure and AWS.
Interestingly, if we were to compare Alibaba Cloud’s rates with Azure and AWS for two different instances in the same setting, we’ll find that; in the smaller instance, with 1 CPU and 1 GB RAM, AC’s prices are similar to AWS’s while in the bigger instance, with 2 CPU and 4GB RAM, AC’s prices match up to Azure’s. This is interesting because even though their services are new in the market, compared to the competitors, their pricing is very much the same.
Alibaba Cloud offers four different price plans for their clients; the basic plan, the developer plan, the business plan, and the enterprise plan. Basic Plan is the least expensive one, it’s free. After that, the prices go up and the most expensive plan, the Enterprise Plan, starts from US$8,000.
According to the study of market shares, AC is mainly used in the Computer Software industry in the United States. Alibaba Cloud is most often used by companies with more than 10000 employees and about 1000M dollars in revenue. Some major companies that use AC are Venturi, Infolab Solutions, Qualys Inc., and Cohn and Wolfe Inc.
Overall, Alibaba Cloud’s journey has been nothing less than brilliant, as it continues to grow and expand its services. They are now redesigning their strategies learning to reach and serve the markets outside of Mainland China. For example, they are now providing billing support across 168 different regions!