Community Blog 10 Years of Cloud Intelligence: How Will Alibaba Change the Future of Cloud Computing?

10 Years of Cloud Intelligence: How Will Alibaba Change the Future of Cloud Computing?

At the recent Cloud Summit Beijing, Zhang Jianfeng, President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, discusses the brand's 10-year transformation and its vision for the future.

Why Alibaba Cloud Intelligence? In this article, we look at Alibaba Cloud's President Zhang Jianfeng's discussion in a speech given at a recent Beijing summit. In it, Zhang discusses the reasons for the push behind Alibaba Cloud's rebranding as Alibaba Cloud Intelligence throughout its 10-year journey. He also described the journey that took Alibaba Group and Alibaba Cloud, being at the core of the Group's IT infrastructure and internet technologies, to its current place in the market. Next, we look at where Zhang sees the brand standing in the cloud computing space. And last, with this rebranding marking the tenth anniversary of Alibaba Cloud, this article outlines what Zhang sees as the future goals for the brand over the next ten years, specifically pushing forward the concepts of intelligence and an integrated cloud ecosystem.

How Did Alibaba Cloud Get to Where It Is Today? Growth and Technology.

To understand Alibaba Cloud and the rebranding to Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, you need to know a bit more about the journey that Alibaba Cloud took over the past ten years to get to its current place in the market.

Ten years ago, Alibaba Cloud was pretty small, and e-commerce wasn't that big of a thing either. At the time, Alibaba had no idea what sort of things would be in store for the e-commerce industry. Zhang said that he especially felt that way in 2005, during his second year on the Taobao project. But he also distinctly remembered Jack Ma, showing the foresight that lead Alibaba to where the brand is today, saying that they ought to make the payment system that would become Alipay—a technology that now makes carrying cash in China almost a thing of the past. Zhang, in his speech, also recalled Jack reiterating that the future is cloud. Bit by bit, Alibaba Cloud got to where they are today, and now being in the tenth year of Alibaba Cloud—being one of the largest cloud service providers in the world.

In the ten years of its existence, Alibaba Group has become the first cloud provider in China, officially opening for business in 2009. Before this time, no other company in China had ever considered making cloud services as their main form of doing business and as a technological future. Before 2009, Alibaba Group was focused on the e-commerce platform of Taobao, but Alibaba was in the red for the first six years working on this project. Everyone at Alibaba didn't really know what the exact business model was. But, despite all of this, the penetration rate of e-commerce in the market was increasing year on year, with Alibaba's market penetration slowly reaching 10%, before reaching 40% after 10 years of hard work.

Alibaba has also developed China's first cloud operating system as well as the City Brain platform. Alibaba Cloud is different to other cloud providers because, as part of the larger Alibaba community, Alibaba Cloud has developed several of its own in-house technologies and proprietary solutions, which have powered Alibaba's e-commerce and mobile payment platforms. It is this practical experience and innovation that distinguishes Alibaba Cloud from its competitors. On top of that, consider this. In 2017, Alibaba Cloud's main operating system, developed in house, Apsara Distributed Operating System, won the China Institute of Electronics (CIE)'s Technology Progress Award (Special Class), which was the first time in fifteen years for CIE to award a special class award.

Last, Alibaba Cloud has quickly come to have millions of customers today. Several industries have found new ways to innovate with the rise of cloud, many of whom are ecosystem partners of Alibaba Cloud. Many more industries and services, typically not connected to the web and cloud, have grown closer ties with the services and solutions in the cloud. And amid of all of this, there's been all sorts of ripple effects in the infrastructure of everything, including us, with there now being the projects Industry Brain and Agriculture Brain, to name just two. All of these things have been grown through close ties between several traditional industries and the data intelligence capabilities of Alibaba Cloud.

What Puts "Intelligence" into Alibaba Cloud? Infrastructure and Technology.

Alibaba Cloud understands how cloud, data, and intelligence at important things that will fundamentally change everything that we do, and will also transform how Alibaba does cloud. In fact, cloud and AI technologies can be the impetus to set off another industrial revolution, just as electricity was and did in the past. Today electricity is infrastructure: companies don't make their own power plants; they buy electricity from the grid. With an increasing number of industries connected to the cloud, there are several new opportunities for innovation and change in the space.

So, with Alibaba Cloud's rebranding to Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, you may ask, what is all entailed by the transition? And what is different about Alibaba's version of cloud compared with our competitors? Does Alibaba Cloud have any unique advantages?

The first answer to this question is that Alibaba's bringing the whole of its IT infrastructure to the cloud. Alibaba as of now is making the transition to move all in on its IT infrastructure, deciding to move off of the infrastructure provided by IBM, Oracle, and EMC. Behind this move is the hope to expand the overall capacity and scope of the services offered at Alibaba in a cost- and time-efficient manner. Next is the idea of creating a new IT system that utilizes cost-efficient hardware along with a large-scale distributed system of scheduling, which are both more optimized than traditional systems.

Alibaba hopes that, through migrating all of its IT infrastructure to the cloud and allowing it to be transformed by Internet-related technologies, Alibaba can use the core technologies of the Internet to construct a complete IT system. Also, with this change, all of Alibaba's technology will become one system shared with Alibaba Cloud. That is, the technology behind Alibaba will be the same as the products and services you can find on Alibaba Cloud, and all of Alibaba Cloud's customers will for the first time be using the same underlying infrastructure that Alibaba uses internally.

The second answer, and the more important of the two, is that Alibaba Cloud is built on a cloud infrastructure that ultimately centers on data and intelligence, allowing Alibaba Cloud to firmly enter the machine learning, AI, and data intelligence space, going well beyond the Infrastructure-as-a-Service layer of cloud. Involved in this is a transition from IT infrastructure to middleware and a constant movement towards innovating with data and intelligence applications.

Currently, all of Alibaba's retail platforms and electronic payment systems use internet-based technology to function, built on a system with Internet-centric and on-cloud technologies. This will only increase in the future. Through having big data along with machine learning, AI, and other intelligent technologies being at their core, Alibaba Cloud can retrieve data and process data in a more natural way, having designs that are both future proof and advanced. For Alibaba, "data" is not merely a raw resource, but is more like the lifeblood of the company. Fully realizing the capacity of "data," changing a company into an intelligent one.

What Are Alibaba Cloud's Advantages? Data and Intelligence.

When it comes to intelligent companies, just consider Alibaba for a second. There's are two billion products on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, and 11 million sellers, and there's roughly three-hundred million visitors every day. All of this adds up to a lot of data.

So what is Alibaba able to do with all of this data? Well, in today's Taobao Mobile App, all users using this app see pages that are specifically designed to their personal tastes and shopping experience, with every click leading to pages that are generated in real time. Involved in all of this is the fact that Alibaba processes massive amounts of data and does all of this in real time—being two crucial capabilities behind building a better user experience on the App. Doing all of this in real time is extremely difficult because real time doesn't mean in minutes; it means in seconds and milliseconds. With these kinds of speeds, the user is unware of what is going on, and pages load fluidly, being at a speed that doesn't affect the user's overall browsing experience. At the same time, the data of each user is processed separately, which adds up to an incredibly massive the sum of data being pushed through the system continuously.

For all of these corresponding systems to work, Alibaba needs to be able to create an infrastructure that can wholly support big data and the corresponding algorithms, having the technological prowess to go through the entire process of collecting, processing, and storing data quickly.

Now let's talk about intelligence. Today, the vast majority of the time, data processing is not purely dependent on computing power, but rather also it involves intelligent algorithms. In many ways, computing power is just the infrastructure layer. But, algorithms, on the other hand, are something beyond that. In fact, now algorithms are closely tied with the business operations of several different industries across the globe. Alibaba, given its unique position in China, has been able to create a complete intelligence platform through creating algorithms in the process of collaborating with our ecosystem partners across various industries. At Alibaba Cloud, we think that, through bringing the IT infrastructure to the cloud and core technologies online, as well as through engineering our platforms and capabilities in big data and intelligence, we are able to create a framework that is worthy of being called Alibaba Cloud Intelligence. It's not just infrastructure—it's the data and intelligent algorithms that exist on top of this infrastructure as well. This is what is at our core at Alibaba Group.

What Is the Focus at Alibaba Cloud Now? Research and Involvement.

Today Alibaba Cloud is investing through increased research into new-generation technologies and further partnerships in an increasing number of industries to enrich and empower these industries. Both of these moves reflect Alibaba Cloud's goals for the future. Alibaba Cloud has been working on its core capabilities, hoping to increasingly to bring its underlying infrastructure to the cloud, reinforce and strengthen its internet technologies, and create a data- and intelligence-focused platform. As a part of these goals is increased involvement in several industries, as already seen in the past several years. The applications for the data intelligence are endless, and Alibaba Cloud hope both now and in the future to create firm and deep relationships with ecosystem partners across various industries.

Three years ago, Alibaba established the Alibaba DAMO Academy, dedicated to promoting industry-leading computer science and related research for practical industry scenarios. Moreover, Alibaba Cloud have continually increased investment into the program, with widespread investments in the fields of machine intelligence, embedded chips, and database systems. On the chip end, the development of IoT end embedded chips has been moving along steadily, with two-hundred million chips sold last year, and the first Alibaba networking processing unit (NPU) model, which was developed internally, to be officially released in the second half of this year. The capabilities of this chip is much more advanced than equivalent chips, being a difference of not one or two times better, but rather ten times better.

Next, Alibaba offers several products that can enrich and empower several strategic industries. One of these is retail. In this industry, Alibaba has continually invested and explored the concept of new retail, offering several products, which can be used by a variety of our clients. Another industry is finance. Alibaba's Ant Financial Services integrates financial services with advanced internet technology and data intelligence capabilities to provide innovative internet and mobile financial services, with services such as Yu'ebao, an investment management service, and Zhima Credit, a private credit scoring and loyalty program, all of which have gained great popularity in China already. And a third example is digital government. Starting in Zhejiang, and then to several other places in China, government entities have started to use internet technologies and data intelligence, changing the underlying system from one based on departments to one based on users and data.

What Are Alibaba Cloud's Future Plans? An Integrated Cloud.

Alibaba Cloud hopes to create an integrated cloud, one build with its many ecosystem partners and companies across several industries. The hope is that Alibaba Cloud's services and technological solutions can become "integrated" in the solutions adopted by our ecosystem partners.

That is, Alibaba Cloud is interested in creating Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions—which can serve as the layers for the core technologies and internet capabilities on the cloud—with ecosystem partners and companies further developing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions on top of these underlying technological and intelligence solutions. By collaboration, Alibaba Cloud hopes that ecosystem partners can make data and intelligence part of their service solutions, with their core products and solutions using Alibaba's core capabilities.

Alibaba Cloud hopes that, in the next ten years, ecosystem partners across several industries will upgrade and transform their existing systems through migration to the cloud and the development data intelligence capabilities and internet technologies. Cloud and data intelligence are the future, and Alibaba Cloud hopes to expand its involvement with more industries, bringing the power of cloud to more spaces of commerce and industry.


To summarize, Alibaba Cloud considers the following four aspects to be what makes Alibaba Cloud "Intelligent" both now and in the future:

  • Alibaba's technology. With the research of Alibaba DAMO academy to support the future technologies and capabilities of the cloud. Advanced technological innovation can serve as a fundamental part of cloud intelligence.

    • Alibaba's products and services alongside big data and intelligent technologies. Our services and products are powered by big data and intelligent technologies, and are both stable and reliable.
    • Alibaba's commerce and business practice experience. Unlike other cloud providers, we have built our cloud services through our experiences and expertise building the world's largest e-commerce platform, mobile and internet payment system, and through the development of several in-house technologies, along with several proprietary services and solutions.
    • Alibaba's ecosystem, partners and the fact that we are an integrated cloud. We are part of a much larger ecosystem of several industry partners. Our cloud services, technology and capabilities are revealed through our partnerships and the successes of our partners and their customers.

Learn more about Alibaba Cloud's journey in the past 10 years by visiting https://www.alibabacloud.com/campaign/10-year-anniversary

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