FYI: Alibaba Cloud says it has robot sysadmins that swap faulty disks in four minutes

Plus liquid cooling to hit 580k orders/second on record $75bn 11.11 shopping bonanza day


Video Alibaba claims its online marketplace coped with a peak load of 583,000 orders per second on this year's Singles Day, China’s internet shopping frenzy event akin to Cyber Monday.

The web giant's traffic hit that high watermark 26 seconds after sales opened at midnight on November 11, we're told. The biz also claimed its “optimal elasticity and scheduling capacity led to an 80 per cent reduction of computing resources for every 10,000 transactions conducted.”

Alibaba hasn’t revealed exactly how it did that, though its cloud operation tweeted a video that reveals at least some of its servers used on 11.11 were immersed in what looks like non-conductive liquid coolant to improve performance and system density. Also revealed was the fact the Chinese cloud super-platform has robots capable of finding and replacing faulty disks in four minutes:

At the 25-second mark of the video you’ll see a Seagate Constellation ES.3 disk drive, a 3.5-inch unit [PDF] that packs both SAS and SATA interfaces and rotates at a modest 7200 RPM. The Register can’t quite read the capacity on the label, though Seagate’s spiel says it comes in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB variants. We’re looking at bulk storage here, folks.

Other clouds may have the similar; if so, show us a video of them in action and we'll compare them.

Bezos? Pah, a lightweight

Alibaba said this year’s 11.11 sales holiday generated $74.1bn in gross merchandise volume through its online mall, handily beating the $38.4bn splashed at 2019’s event. To put that into context, Amazon.com’s Prime Day shopping spree generated an estimated $10bn this year – $3.5bn by third-party sellers and about $7bn by Amazon itself – and Cyber Monday last year did about $10bn, too. And JD.com apparently did $41bn during this year's 11.11.

Alibaba attributed its colossal total to allowing Western brands onto its platform to sell into China. Other analysts have suggested that Chinese shoppers denied the chance to travel during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic took the opportunity to buy Western goods they’d usually buy while on vacation.

Live-streams hosted by celebs – essentially infomercials – were a big part of this year’s event. Alibaba even enabled real-time translation so that presenters, such as basketball royalty Earvin “Magic” Johnson, could communicate the benefits of Uncle Bud's hemp products to a global audience.

What a time to be alive.

Alibaba says its Cainiao logistics arm chartered more than 700 cargo flights to fulfill orders, and also claims this year’s event tried to go greener by using less tape on packing material to make it easier to recycle. “Consumers were encouraged to recycle their own packaging, with Cainiao setting up around 80,000 recycling stations in China,” Alibaba’s summary of the event stated. ®


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