Alibaba Cloud held its annual Gabfest last week, unveiling some tasty new cloud services and a multi-billion dollar “ecosystem upgrade” aimed at finding more customers outside of China.
The products include an upgrade to the Alibaba Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN), which in version 2.0 scales to enable 5,000 routes across a global network or 1,000+ virtual private cloud attachments per transit router. Alibaba Cloud claims that version 2.0 will enable networks 1,000 times larger than its predecessor, all powered by a cloud interface.
Networks can include on-prem rigs around the world or resources within Alibaba Cloud regions.
Those consuming cloud storage can now consider ESSD Auto PL — a block storage service that Alibaba Cloud claims can deliver up to one million IOPS per disk and hit 4GB/s. Alibaba Cloud has touted the service, which “allows for automatic scaling in seconds to handle… sudden spikes in traffic.” However, the product documentation states that “The on-demand performance configuration is primarily intended for scenarios with predictable periodic I/O traffic.”
So maybe not entirely without auto-scaling for every occasion.
At the heart of Alibaba Cloud’s launch was a “revised ecosystem strategy” that will spend $1 billion over three years “to support partners’ technological innovation and their market expansion.”
The billion dollars includes “both financial and non-financial incentives such as funding, rebates and go-to-market initiatives.”
Which sounds like a vanilla channel program.
But Alibaba Cloud is not a vanilla cloud. The company is rumored to have built infrastructure potentially more efficient than Google’s and innovated with a cloud desktop device, a Kubernetes-based cloud-native database, and a proprietary server architecture.
This effort is impressive and helps it stand out from other clouds that have developed other specialties.
The Alibaba Cloud also has its roots in China. As such, it is subject to laws that theoretically allow Beijing to demand access to information about its customers and control of its infrastructure for reasons of national security.
This possibility has been repeatedly cited by governments outside of China as an extraordinary risk to users. The United States, for example, took a “clean cloud” stance under the Trump administration. The Biden administration has continued this policy, which aims to “prevent the storage and processing of our companies’ most sensitive personal data of US citizens and our companies’ most valuable intellectual property, including COVID-19 vaccine research, on cloud-based systems built or operated by untrustworthy providers such as Alibaba, Baidu, China Mobile, China Telecom and Tencent.”
This is not language encouraging customers to buy from Alibaba Cloud!
That brings us to the billions of dollars Alibaba Cloud will spend on its “ecosystem upgrade.” It’s not clear if this is just new money and if it will flow to service and advice centers in Malaysia, Portugal and Mexico City.
However, much will be aimed at partners — a community typically drawn to technology providers that can either capture mass-market interest or address lucrative niches. While Alibaba Cloud is very strong in China and doing well in Southeast Asia, there’s little sign of huge customer enthusiasm in Europe or America.
Maybe a billion dollars can change that. But it could also be the ongoing trade tensions between China and the rest of the world. ®