Alibaba's lights are on in Australia, but hardly anyone is home

Cloud launched, but support, services, channel etc coming real soon, promise

Alibaba's Aliyun cloud may have switched on in Australia, but hardly anyone is home: the company has hired only a modest support team and is yet to hire the consultants, evangelists and other staff to help it achieve its stated aim of encouraging organisations to take their on-premises apps into the cloud.

At a press event in Sydney today group veep Sicheng Yu explained that the Australia plank of last week's launch in Europe, Dubai and Japan is a bit wobbly: he declined to say where the company's servers are located, but did suggest it is operating in just one bit barn albeit a facility offering between seven and nine nines availability. A second availability zone is planned, eventually, and will be more than 30km distant from the first. The company's representatives offered no detail on when the new availability zone will come online.

Yu also said that Alibaba's aim is migrating on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, rather than courting developers of cloud-native applications. That plan, Yu said, means Alibaba expects smaller businesses to be its early adopters in Australia, allowing it to avoid going head to head with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft or Google.

The Register pointed out that cloud migrations aren't a press-button operation and therefore asked if Alibaba has the feet on the street to help businesses make the move. Yu named onlyAccenture as a partner with an Australian presence to help small businesses plot a move to the cloud.

Yu did not offer a timeframe for recruitment of Alibaba's own consultants or channel, saying only that the company intends to both. The scale of either operation was not discussed, but Yu said the company's Hong Kong effort, in which “hundreds” of channel partners have recently attained certifications on the Alibaba cloud, will serve as a template for local operations.

The company feels it will be attractive to organisations that need a cloud with a strong Chinese presence. But with Amazon already offering a Beijing-based bit barn and Azure soon to switch on two regions in mainland china that edge won't last long.

Readers may, at this point, have reached the conclusion that your correspondent was a little underwhelmed by the company's launch, as it lacked detail and seemed not to understand the burgeoning cloud ecosystems rival clouds have already erected. Throw in the fact that the company's local plan targets small businesses that likely won't need Alibaba's strongest feature - the massive scale it's achieved handling Chinese shopping sprees – and the company appears to have made an odd entry into the antipodes.

OVH flicks the switch on its Australian bit barns later this week: let's see if the French cloud company is more coherent. ®

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