Léon Rodenburg is a software development consultant for Xebia in The Netherlands. He is also an Alibaba Cloud MVP. With his expertise on software engineering and Chinese linguistics, working with Alibaba Cloud was a way to finally combine his knowledge. He helped Xebia to become an official Alibaba Cloud partner and is now helping clients to deploy their applications in China, all from their European offices.
During my Computer Science studies, I was given the opportunity to do an internship at a Chinese company in Xiamen, Fujian province. While working there for six months, I experienced how challenging it can be to break the language barrier and really work together on software products with developers from a different country. The technical knowledge on both sides was there, but it was really difficult to get it across. I tried to pick up Mandarin in the process but it was extremely time-consuming to study it. So I decided to get a second university degree and focus on Chinese full-time.
After graduating from his CS curriculum, I went on to study Chinese Studies at the only Dutch university that offered a bachelor's program at that time. During that time, I could focus on Chinese linguistics, history and culture all day every day, so my language skills improved a lot. I was awarded a scholarship to study in Beijing for one year, which I did. And I travelled to China a lot for both leisure and studies.
When I started working at Xebia, the first thing I said was that I wanted to do something with China. They agreed, although they had no clue what it could be. So we looked for opportunities, and came in contact with Alibaba and Alibaba Cloud soon after. I saw my big opportunity there and started learning about all the products and services Alibaba Cloud offers. With experience in other cloud providers and the fact that I could read and watch Alibaba Cloud documentation and courses in Chinese, I picked up a lot. As no one really knew about Alibaba Cloud in The Netherlands, I set up a meetup group and starting writing articles. I also presented at several occasions. Finally, in June 2019, I was elected as an Alibaba Cloud MVP.
To me, the biggest opportunity Alibaba Cloud offers for my clients is actually the opportunity it gives me: connecting to China. Through several of the services, like Cloud Enterprise Network, you can solve some of the issues that challenge you when you want to deploy your applications in China. From your office in The Netherlands or any part of Europe, you can administer container clusters, databases and complete software stacks in mainland China. By utilizing the cloud provider that most Chinese companies also use, you get an edge when it comes to deploying in China. And you don't even need to be able to read Chinese to do it!
The Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN) is the best example of what working with Alibaba Cloud can bring to the table. With it, you can mesh your VPCs in mainland China, Europe and the US, so they can all interconnect with a single hop and latency of around 150ms. If you compare that to how long it takes to connect over the public internet from within China, that is a huge improvement. I have used CEN to expose on-premise ERP endpoints in Germany to applications running on a Kubernetes cluster in Shanghai. After that, users were no longer complaining about broken connections or slow responses, they were finally able to just work with the platform.
Some links for China Gateway products:
Throughout my projects I have really started to appreciate the technology that is driving Alibaba Cloud. They have been early adopters of the Kubernetes ecosystem and that really shows when you run your clusters there. I am especially a fan of the Serverless Kubernetes offering, where you don't have to manage any master or worker nodes but just get an endpoint to 'talk Kubernetes to'. By combining a Serverless Kubernetes cluster with OSS and CDN, I was able to get a full microservices architecture including a single-page application up and running in Shanghai, fully configured with Terraform and deployed in a CI/CD pipeline.
Talking about serverless, I also really like Function Compute and the ways it can automate smaller tasks based on triggers. An example is a Slackbot I wrote, that automatically notifies the developers in a Slack channel if certain events are logged in the Log Service. But you could go all the way and set up a full serverless API using API Gateway, Function Compute and Table Store. The choices are endless.
Services to look out for:
To me, being elected as an Alibaba Cloud MVP was a great way of combining my knowledge areas. It has opened a lot of opportunities for me both here in The Netherlands as well as in China. For example, I got to speak at the yearly Apsara Conference in 2019, in front of all the Chinese and international MVPs. It was great being in Hangzhou with thousands of other tech enthusiasts and see the newest developments with my own eyes. I also go to meet the other MVPs. The fun thing is that everyone has their own view on what the big impact is that Alibaba Cloud can make. But we all agree on the same thing: Alibaba Cloud is a force to be reckoned with!
Join us in our upcoming MVP Tech Talk webinar to learn more about Alibaba Cloud MVP with Léon Rodenburg from Xebia and our Evangelist Edwin Polycarpe!
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