Decrypting Alibaba Cloud's top-level design and underlying logic

On the Future of Cloud Computing

Q: What kind of changes have you noticed in the focus of cloud computing competition? It seems that everyone is still more concerned about prices?

Price is the primary competition, and it will eventually return to the core value. The value should be reflected from two ends, one is the technical end and the other is the application end. At the beginning, the cloud was all about infrastructure, but from the first day of Alibaba’s cloud development, it not only did the current cloud, but also built a data processing platform, which was also related to the disconnection between data processing capabilities and business at that time. Relationship, because ten years ago, very few companies were based on intelligence and data, and most of them were based on processes.

After working on it for a while, I found that it was not enough to just do this. In order to succeed in China, we must have infrastructure.

Of course, the process we did was quite tortuous. At the beginning, we wanted to do data processing on an open source system, but later found that it was wrong. We had to develop it ourselves. Alibaba not only built a cloud infrastructure system, but also a data processing system. (Note: It is called MaxCompute now, and it was called ODPS at the time). This is unique, including domestic and foreign.

Of course, this process is a bit far away, so we must do a good job at the IaaS layer in retrospect. The competition at the bottom must be about the maturity, stability and price of infrastructure, but the competition at the top must be about artificial intelligence and so on.

Q: You just talked about data processing, why not open source?

In fact, all open source software companies have never faced such a large amount of data. Hadoop and Spark are a big step forward compared to the processing capabilities of databases. They use distributed and MapReduce methods, but their data volume is comparable to that of Alibaba data. The quantity ratio is still very far away.

The second is that the stability requirements of open source cannot meet our requirements. So at that time, we built a 5K cluster for the first time. It was impossible to open source with more than 5,000 machines at that time. For the first time, we broke through the limitation of machines and could use larger-scale clusters for processing. Thirdly, we consider the cost, because the data volume is small and we don’t care about the cost. When the data size is large, we will consider the cost more. Now our Alibaba business volume is increasing by more than 50% every year, but our cost cannot increase linearly.

We started large-scale mixing last year (Note: A new technology makes online processing and offline processing no longer have dedicated machines, but runs on the same cluster of machines, which can greatly save resources. For scheduling deployment capacity requirements are extremely high), we do not have dedicated offline machines to process big data, and we use online machines for large-scale mixing. Double 11 is here, and the data analysis is not processed for the first hour, all of which are used to run applications. After the peak, all machines are dispatched to do data analysis. It is impossible to do this with open source.

I think it is difficult to design a flexible, cost-effective, and stable processing platform if there is no application in the big data field.

Q: Cloud computing in foreign countries now talks more about hybrid cloud. How do you see the impact of hybrid cloud on cloud computing in the future?

Hybrid cloud is still a very important development direction in the future. Many customers still have very rigid requirements for hybrid cloud, including some government and bank customers. They think that it is very important to control their applications or to physically isolate them. . Judging from the current situation today, we use hardware for isolation on the public cloud. For example, we have Shenlong servers, which used to be isolation of virtual machines, but now the level of isolation is increasing year by year. However, the demand for hybrid cloud is not entirely due to technical reasons, but also due to ideological reasons, so hybrid cloud will still exist widely for a long time.

Q: What do you think of the background trend of cloud computing? You mentioned this morning that Alibaba Cloud does not do SaaS. In fact, SaaS is a very important connection with cloud computing customers. If this is the case, will cloud computing vendors in the future become forgotten, just like the current power plants and tap water? factory.

Being forgotten and irreplaceable is also something worth looking forward to, just like air, I think it is a very good state, and it is not necessarily necessary to go to the front to contact customers. Because the real 2B must be involved in the customer's business process, otherwise it cannot be called 2B, at most it can only be called to customer. But the needs of this industry are too scattered. Like SAP, they have released a lot of ERP, and they still have more than 100,000 engineers, including their own partners. Of course, there are also relatively concentrated ones, such as Microsoft, because the needs of everyone in the office are relatively consistent, and other business fields are very different.

We position cloud as a platform, not as a software system, so there is no big difference between cloud and e-commerce in terms of positioning. E-commerce is where countless brands and merchants sell their products on the platform, and they don't need to care about payment and transactions. Cloud will definitely become more professional in the future. Specialized division of labor is an important cornerstone of modern civilization. We must also solve this problem in order to build an ecology. What exactly is our specialty? We are good at making large-scale systems and technological innovation, and have some views on the future evolution of technology.

Of course, we have rich business scenarios, let us do the above things better than others, this is our advantage. However, the business of a large number of industries still needs professional people in the industry to do it. They also need innovation, not simply using the cloud as an IaaS, but how to develop based on data and intelligence, so we need to complete the transformation with our partners.

Another one is that China's IT development is very unbalanced. Some companies have not yet achieved informatization, so they need to focus on dataization and intelligence. Some companies have weak IT capabilities and need our partners to provide some personal services, including implementation, Consulting and counseling, but Alibaba Cloud can't do these things.

Q: Just now you talked about the staff size of SAP. Do you have an expectation for the scale of Alibaba Cloud in your heart?

yes. I think a platform company with 10,000 people is a very large platform company. It is as big as Taobao, with only a few thousand people. If the number of people in a company is linearly related to the business, it may be doing too many things that you are not good at.

Q: I just talked about some artificial intelligence. Now I am doing two things, artificial intelligence and open source, and it is very fast. What impact do you think will have on cloud computing in the future?

Open source makes the cloud more and more standardized. No matter from the above, some technical components of the Internet, including some main modules of the cloud, such as containers, will become more and more standardized, which is beneficial to the development of the cloud. The first is because open source is used by some well-developed large companies, and their technology will be more stable. The most important point is that a large number of development technology systems on the cloud will be more consistent, and a large number of engineers will be familiar with this system, making it easier to turn their applications into a part of the cloud. It is still very difficult for a single company to formulate standards.

Q: You just mentioned that business technology is pulling each other. Who do you think Ali is pulling whom?

At first, business ran faster than technology, and technology has been chasing business, because business growth is too fast. In the past two years, I think it was technology that drove the business, especially after the rise of artificial intelligence, including our programmatic transactions, advertising platforms, thousands of people, recommendation, search, a large number of algorithms and AI, including customer service, etc. drive business.

The same is true for the cloud. The cloud is a breakthrough in technology that can bring about cost reduction and efficiency improvement. The cloud is relatively typical. Most of the dividends of the original e-commerce business in the past two years have been brought about by technological breakthroughs. Because it is very difficult to break through the business model, everyone is smart today, and the threshold of competition in the future will be raised, and many of these thresholds are technical thresholds.

Alibaba’s practice in the past few years, especially after the proposal of Zhongtai, has allowed us to accumulate core capabilities faster and with less waste. Then after our data center proposed it, all the data was opened up, which is also very efficient. This is a very important part of the company's success in Taiwan. Of course, it has something to do with organizational ability, not to say that having an idea will definitely be implemented. Some companies may not be able to push forward, and it took us about two years to gradually integrate. As a middle station, you have to prove yourself that you are better than others. This is not such a quick and easy thing.

About Alibaba's Zhongtai
Q: What do you think is the relationship between Zhongtai and the organizational structure?

This is still very, very related, including organizational capabilities, trust relationships, and some assessments. There are many relationships here.

If you are a middle-level platform, if you don’t do well, it will become an original commune. The commune is actually a middle-Taiwan system. You specialize in growing corn and you specialize in rice, but why can’t everyone manage it later? The middle office does not organize all departments. You are allowed to do this, and you are not allowed to do that. If the technical ability and organizational ability cannot keep up, it is still inefficient. I am quite special. I work in the middle office, and I have done it in the original department, and I can still influence many people.

Second, we are still very down-to-earth, acknowledging what is good and what is not, and not all of them are used to do it.

Third, Ali has made some innovations in the system. We have a technical committee, and many people are learning it now, but I don’t think they understand how we operate.

There is a technical group under our technical committee, because we have many experts in voice, video, and vision. If there are three departments to do it, then the three departments will form a group, and you will first solve the unification problem and the development problem. . If they can't solve it, I will come forward to solve it. Therefore, we advocate that engineers use technical means to resolve technical differences and development.

Zhongtai is not only an organization, but also a concept. Therefore, if the technology of Zhongtai is most suitable for AutoNavi, it should be placed in AutoNavi. However, for AutoNavi, this technology must have a positioning. Be responsible for all, not just for yourself. So some technologies are in the middle stage, but not necessarily in the middle stage, such as intelligent robot technology, that is in the customer service department, because he is closest to the scene. However, some core business technologies are either in the Bodhidharma Academy or in the middle and Taiwan departments.

About being integrated

Q: After the concept of integration is put forward, how will the entire ecology be built in the future.

To put it simply, if you can sign a contract with a partner, you can sign it. If Alibaba Cloud has to sign, we will sign together.

Q: What changes will there be in the creation of the future ecology? Now after being integrated, this relationship is a bit confusing.

Ecology must still be a division of labor and collaboration. The traditional ecology is not as integrated as imagined, they are also division of labor and cooperation. For example, in the ERP system of a traditional enterprise, they also divide and cooperate. For example, Deloitte does consulting, SAP does software, and Accenture implements it. We do not destroy everyone's division of labor and cooperation, but our product technology becomes a part of this system, which is such a logic.

Q: The original traditional 2B ecology is still a relatively balanced ecology, because basically all of them are big companies. But in the Internet ecology, it is basically a big platform, and then a bunch of small companies.

I personally think that large companies will definitely make more general-purpose systems, but if the general-purpose systems are cloudified, some large companies may be replaced. But the professional service capability is personalization, c2m. What does personalization mean? It means that for big brands, it needs to be fragmented. I think the cloud service will be the same in the future. There must be many subdivided professional service providers, rather than a large professional service provider serving many industries. I think it's a trend. Just like cosmetics, Dabao is not applied every day. It is very segmented and has many brands.

Q: The way of building this kind of ecology in the future will be different. What policies should be relied on to attract everyone?

It turns out that the simple ecology is a reseller model, but today I think that we hope that our partners understand this industry and have a co-creation with the technology we have mastered. For example, we have a very good voice technology, but we don't know what industries can use it. Partners master this technology and know how customers should use it. For example, people can use it for attendance, or for access control.

Therefore, the ecological partners I am more interested in today are companies with the ability to define and innovate the future of this industry, and they are our priority to cooperate with. The real concept of the head is whether the company is professional enough and whether it has insight into the future of the industry.

KPMG has two sentences that are very good. They summed up this year's strategy into two sentences, one is discovery and the other is realization. We hope to be able to discover and have the ability to realize it just like our partners.

Q: How do you see the shortcomings of Alibaba Cloud now?

I think the shortcomings of Alibaba Cloud are obvious. Although we are in the cloud, we are relatively lacking in 2B service capabilities, so we need to make up for it through rapid ecological development. The second is from the accumulation of core technologies. After so many years of accumulation, we originally had a platform-based and product-based structure. It works very well, and we can also use it internally, because the developer is inside the company, you can ask him directly, so he built a very complex platform, but this complex platform is not a single product, but very structured Composition of commercialization, so we are also stepping up productization today. Productization includes rich documentation and manuals. In fact, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Q: Is there any indicator for being integrated? how do you measure

We have thousands of partners. We hope that the number of partners who have business must have very strict indicators, including their size. For our large top partners, no one is an indicator of income, including Deloitte and Accenture. We still hope to create a top benchmark case, a case that is truly defined from the future of the industry. These are some of our common goals.

Q: I said this morning that I will not do SaaS, and there will be very few consultation meetings, but consultation is very important, which means that you have close communication with customers. How will Alibaba Cloud maintain communication with customers in the future and how to understand customer needs in the future? ?

Today, we not only simply provide products to our partners, but most of the time, we still do model markets with our partners. That’s why I just said why people with the ability to define the market together, including Deloitte, Accenture, It is also defining this market with us, and it is just part of our product capabilities into their solutions today.

Q: In fact, including the integration of the whole thing in the future, there is also pressure on Alibaba Cloud, such as the packaging of technical capabilities.

In fact, being integrated is a higher requirement. It's not just that I have less contact with customers, but also the partners are in contact. Why did the partner choose Alibaba Cloud, and why not choose other cloud vendors? They have higher requirements on me. To provide good service, the products must be competitive.

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