Alibaba spins out a biz to productize home-grown data tools

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Chinese tech giant Alibaba has spun out a business called Lingyang Intelligent Service Company that aims to deliver "data-as-a-service."

Lingyang starts its life with assets adapted from tools developed for Alibaba’s own extensive operations, which span e-commerce, a public cloud, logistics, web portals, payments, and plenty more besides.

The Chinese company has over 1.3 billion annual active customers – more than a billion in China. Serving all those customers – and their many transactions – has necessitated development of some pretty slick tools.

Now those tools have been productized for Lingyang to sell.

At a launch event, Alibaba execs talked up Lingyang's prospects as a provider of enterprise data services to Chinese companies.

Execs also tried to position Lingyang as a "data-as-a-service" outfit, not another SaaS player.

The new company's offerings span a cloudy analytics service, a marketing cloud, a production and sales cloud, a customer service cloud and a business development cloud.

That combination makes Lingyang a potential competitor to the likes of Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and perhaps even Microsoft's Dynamics outfit. Plenty of BI and analytics vendors also appear to have a new player to worry about.

Lingyang has reportedly been capitalized with a modest ¥50 million ($7.5M) and staffed by employees from the Alibaba units that contributed code and expertise to the spinoff.

Investors have of late begun to worry if Alibaba's best days are behind it, as the combination of a saturated home market, Beijing's restrictions on its web giants, vigorous local competition, and overseas buyers cooling on China have all given the company trouble and seen its growth slow.

Merely launching a major new line of business in enterprise software suggests the company still has a trick or two up its sleeve and has found a niche to which Beijing might not object.

But as if to punctuate yesterday's launch, two of Alibaba's rivals – e-tailer JD.com and Tencent – today announced further collaboration. Tencent will continue to ensure JD's content features prominently across its massively popular social media services. Doing so means Tencent avoids being labelled a monopolist – a practice Beijing abhors – and JD gets a wider audience. ®

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