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Alibaba pulls dust covers off its new London cloud presence

Can Chinese cloudy crowd check rise of AWS?

Alibaba Cloud has launched in the UK, the Chinese cloud purveyor has declared, as it prepares to take on dominant player AWS and the other also-rans.

Yeming Wang, GM of Alibaba Cloud’s EMEA outpost, who spoke to journalists at a briefing last week, noted that Britain’s “public cloud market is the largest in Europe.”

Alibaba’s London data centre supports all the usual cloudy features, something which prompted Freeform Dynamics analyst Tony Lock to say “nobody thinks one solution is going to fit everything”.

Building on Alibaba’s theme that the UK is a rich market for companies that can’t wait to offload their business-critical IT onto everyone else’s computers, Lock said that even firms which responded to surveys by stating they didn’t use the cloud at all were generally using some kind of software-as-a-service, at a minimum.

“Our expansion into the United Kingdom, and by extension into Europe, is in direct response to the rapidly increasing demands we have seen for local facilities within the region,” added Wang.

Alibaba’s cloud GM was at pains to repeat that his company’s target market for its London data centre consists of market verticals, something he broke down into five distinct areas, including, among others: Ebay/Amazon-style e-commerce; payments; AWS-style business cloud workloads; and “fun”, broadly meaning horsepower for mobile gaming apps.

In response to a question during the press briefing, Wang did not appear able to give details of precisely how Alibaba would be selling its cloud, in comparison to AWS’s model of selling EC2 compute in EC2 Compute Units, or ECUs.

“We want to position ourselves as vertical cloud experts,” he repeated.

Further questions revealed that Alibaba is hoping to eat into AWS’s share of the UK public cloud pie by targeting the public and financial sectors, particularly with its promises of data localisation to the UK, as well as the digital media sector more widely. ®

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