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[Company news]AliCloud stands test of Singles’ Day with record-breaking speed

More Posted time:Dec 2, 2015 19:42 PM
AliCloud stands test of Singles’ Day with record-breaking speed, 2015-11-12 07:30

The payment system of Alibaba handled 140,000 transactions per second and 85,000 payments per second, setting a new world record during this year’s Singles' Day shopping spree. AliCloud, the behind-the-scenes hero that supports Tmall throughout the testing day, should certainly receive much credit, reported on Nov 12.

Alibaba turned the Singles' Day celebration, Nov 11, into an online shopping festival, copyrighting the "Double 11" term, the Chinese equivalent
of Cyber Monday. Every Double 11 has been a big trial for various logistic companies and the technical teams of online shopping websites, according to

Cloud computing is no longer a lofty and obscure technology for many. The biggest feature of cloud computing is the transmission and computing capabilities over the Internet. Enterprises deploy their IT systems on the cloud to accelerate operations and cut down O&M costs. In other words, cloud computing undertakes down-to-earth tasks in the Internet era such as collecting water and electricity charges.
“When I was at college, my tutor told me that China had no way to crack three technical bottlenecks: the operating system, the database and the chip. But now I can say proudly that Alibaba has, at least, cracked one of the three, the database, because it owns a fully independently controlled database,” said Liu Zhenfei, CRO of Alibaba Group and general technical director of the Alibaba Double 11 festival.
Liu holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Science and Technology Beijing and a master’s degree in computer science from Peking University.  
Unlike Alibaba, Tencent and a few other companies, most of the Internet or IT firms in China are not capable of establishing basic platforms for cloud computing.

pic: The IT unit modules of Alibaba’s Big Data Center located in Thousand Island Lake

“To be frank, you can never guess what “Black Swan” event can happen despite adequate preparations,” said Liu, recalling the tension. “Our eyes were focused on the transaction and payment curves and, on the whole, we withstood the pressure of the first 10 minutes,” Liu added.

Liu also admitted that the AliCloud transaction and payment systems were nearly stretched to their designed limits during the first 30 minutes. But after that, the traffic flow stabilized and Alibaba engineers also joined the shopping craze.
More than six times the processing capability of Visa
Liu described the new record AliCloud made during the Double 11 festival of 2015. Some may have no idea what the figure - 85,900 payments per second - means.  Visa, the largest credit card organization in the world, is capable of processing 14,000 payments per second. That is less than one sixth of AliPay’s
load this year, explained Liu.
Statistics show the latest laboratory data of Visa reached 56,000 payments per second, while that of MasterCard, another global payment and settlement platform, registered 40,000 payments per second.  
We can revive the historical data of Alibaba on previous Double 11 festivals. In 2009, Alibaba only saw 400 new orders per second, while this year the same index reached 140,000, 350 times that in 2009. In 2009, there were only 200 payments per second, while this figure rose to 85,900, 430 times greater.  
“What AliCloud achieved in payment capacity is not only because of Alibaba, but also because of China,” said Hu Xiaoming, revealing that the company’s cloud computing technology will be open to governmental organs, such as the train ticket selling system for Spring Festivals of the China Railway Corporation, to help to serve more consumers.

pic: Hu Xiaoming, president of AliCloud Business Group
If you’ve missed Taobao the black horse, you won’t want to miss this cloud. (The ending words “horse” (Ma in Chinese) and “cloud” (Yun in Chinese) coincide with the name of Ma Yun, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group)
AliCloud is benefiting from a quietly rising status in Alibaba’s business landscape because all the Tmall, Taobao, Ant Financial and other assets settled on the cloud, including pictures and entertainment, offline sales and media sectors cannot survive without the support of cloud computing and big data
Data show that China’s cloud computing market size in 2010 was 35 billion yuan. This figure has grown to 90 billion yuan in 2013 and 100 billion yuan in 2014, an average annual growth of 37 percent. Thanks to the favorable policies in the 13th Five-Year Plan period, the huge user demand and the emerging cloud computing architecture, the cloud computing industry is expected to really take off.
In addition to large marketers on Tmall and Taobao, numerous enterprises joining the Double 11 spree also cooperated with AliCloud to stand ready for the annual challenge, including Suning, Youku, HiTao, Zhong’an Insurance, TianHong Asset Management and Hongling Capital, as well as more than 40 small and medium-sized banks and organizations, reported
Alibaba Group released on Oct 27 its third-quarter earnings for 2015, according to which AliCloud bagged 649 million yuan of revenue, an increase of 128 percent year-on-year.  This figure exceeds the growth rates of the cloud computing businesses of Amazon and Microsoft and has made AliCloud the world's fastest growing cloud computing service provider.
Bloomberg News wrote that cloud computing is changing the market pattern and Amazon and Microsoft have reaped staggering profits from the cloud business.

Executive editor: Niu Ning

Future: AliCloud vs Amazon AWS?

Amazon and Microsoft are two cloud computing giants in the global market. However, in China, AliCloud is the No 1 and AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft are nowhere in the Chinese market. But, in the future, a showdown in China’s cloud computing market may occur between Alibaba and Amazon.

AWS harvested US$2.09 billion in revenues in the previous quarter, an increase of 78 percent year-on-year, making it top among the big companies. AWS is almost invincible around the world and it has pinned its eyes on the Chinese market. However, Alibaba will never easily give up its huge share, devotion to which can be seen in Hu Xiaoming’s speech at the Computing Conference 2015 in Hangzhou, China, from Oct 14 to 15.

“The competition in cloud computing in the future will be between the US and China … I hope future people of various colors will use the software products made by the yellow and this will be the competition between AWS of the US and AliCloud of China,” said Hu.

pic: Liu Zhenfei, general technical director of Alibaba Double 11 festival, in an online interview in Hangzhou.

Liu was the subject of an online interview during the night of Nov 11 from the master of ceremonies of the 2015 Tmall 11.11 global shopping gala at the Water Cube.

How long has the technical team spent preparing for the 2015 Double 11 festival?

We have around 800 technicians in the operation center of Xixi Park and our preparations began from as early as July. During the more than five months
following, we conducted full-chain pressure tests on the transaction and payment systems almost once every week, simulating the situation at zero o’clock on Nov 11.

What are the technical highlights of this festival that you want to share with us?

We had four big breakthroughs this year. First of all, we launched the world's first mechanism of “multiple active standbys in different regions” for the
payment and trading platforms.

What are multiple active standbys in different regions? For example, if one of the data centers in our three cities in East China and South China broke down last night because of a blackout or other reasons, we will be able to conduct a quick “failover” to route its traffic to another data center to ensure the smooth operation of the entire system. We are the only e-commerce and financial platform in the world to achieve this so far.

Second, the rational database OceanBase Alibaba developed undertook all of the transaction flow on AliPay during this Double 11 festival. It ran very smoothly, with zero order-dropping and zero faults. Last year we assigned 10 percent of AliPay transactions on it and this year we made it to 100 percent. When I was at
college, my tutor told me that China had no way to crack three technical bottlenecks: the operating system, the database and the chip. But now I can say
proudly that Alibaba has, at least, cracked one of the three, the database, because it owns a fully independently controlled database.

Third, we adopted HTTPS encrypted transmission across the Taobao and Tmall websites. Among all the e-business platforms in the world, Alibaba is the only one to achieve this. If you visit Taobao or Tmall sites in the browser, you may notice that there is an extra “s” in the address. All Alibaba’s e-business platforms are safe and encrypted from your clients all the way to our servers and information about the consumers and sellers are protected from being hijacked.

This technology itself does not sound mysterious, but the system requires very
complicated renovation to implement it at a very high cost indeed. We decided
to do this last year and the reform was concluded after one year before this
Double 11. So, this year, no access information of the customers will be
hijacked by third parties, which is a significant innovation.  

Fourth, we adopt the world’s largest hybrid cloud architecture. As everyone knows, the traffic on Double 11 is tremendous, so we took full advantage of the public cloud computing resources to share a part of the flow and utilized AliCloud to support the shopping spree. In the words of our engineer Dr Wang Jian, no company in the world is able to place their primary businesses on the public cloud, but Taobao and Alipay of Alibaba achieved this during this Double 11 and the cloud proved fully competent in the face of the flood of huge traffic.

To sum up, these four are big innovations this year. They require strong organizational skills and technology accumulation. They are not only Alibaba’s success, but also the pride of the Internet of China.

(Article written by Wen Gang of from the Water Cube in Beijing)