First established in 2009, Alibaba Cloud is one of the longest running public cloud providers and has come to dominate the market in China. While lagging against the global market leaders, their expansion last year into US and European datacenter locations shows their broader ambitions to secure a larger presence in the global public cloud market. It should also be highlighted that, like AWS, Alibaba has had the opportunity to hone their cloud offering based on their experience of running their own massive e-commerce businesses.

In terms of addressing the market, Alibaba have differentiated themselves by their approach. They adopted a targeted focus on SME’s and offer prepackaged solution bundles to address those clients’ requirements. While cloud currently accounts for only about 5% of their total revenues, the approach is working. In June of this year Alibaba’s cloud organization posted revenue growth of 96% year-on-year.  Recently there have been signs that as Alibaba grows they are expanding their focus to larger-scale businesses.

Example of Alibaba cloud’s retail approach in offering time limited “deals”

In terms of technology and innovation, Alibaba is often seen as “following” the major public cloud providers. We wanted to put this to the test and see how their base IAAS offering stacked up against the competition in our evaluation.

Head over to our Public Cloud Comparison to see how they performed

The WhatMatrix comparison is focused on the technical capabilities of the platforms. However, pricing tends to be another key area of interest. At this stage most of the leading cloud providers, Alibaba Cloud included, provide competitive pricing on their core offerings. The final costs will really come down to the functional requirements of your cloud-based solution. There are various online calculators to help determine which would provide the best commercial fit for your needs. To have a practical operational control of costs many clients are turning to a multi-cloud strategy supported by Cloud Management Platforms (CMP) to manage their cloud workloads. Head over to our evaluation of CMP platforms to see how the leading offerings compare.

Alibaba has many of the same capabilities of the cloud leaders, including:

  • a variety of instance types and sizes
  • both Windows and Linux
  • GPU support
  • service monitoring and logging
  • a range of storage types

Global and performance-sensitive customers, however, may find the currently-available features and locations limiting.

Where Alibaba Cloud really shines is in its support for the Asia market in general, and China, in particular. With the recent addition of Kuala Lumpur, fully 12 of Alibaba’s 16 regions are based in AsiaPac. These include seven in mainland China as well as one in Hong Kong. Alibaba’s ChinaConnect offering targets users looking for guided access to the China market.

Alibaba China connect offering

Clearly Alibaba has some way to go to catch the global leaders in public cloud, but they are growing rapidly and their geographic expansion points to broader ambitions. Some enterprise customers may have concerns over security or compliance requirements associated with relying on a Chinese company, however these will always be balanced with other commercials priorities. It’s clear that Alibaba cloud will be a candidate for any client wanting to establish an online presence in China. How much they appeal to a broader market will be interesting to see.


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Ephraim Baron

I've been a technologist for a long, long time. My IT experience spans many areas including servers, networks, storage, data centers, virtualization, and cloud computing. The rapid pace of change is what I love about IT - it's not just a job, it's an obsession.

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