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Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Alibaba Cloud for AWS Professionals


1. Objective

This document is intended to help professionals, such as engineers, architects, and operations and maintenance (O&M) personnel, who are familiar with AWS services to understand how to navigate through Alibaba Cloud services. This document compares Alibaba Cloud with AWS in terms of products, characteristics, and solution architecture to reveal the similarities and differences between the two cloud providers regarding concepts, terminologies, and implementation. In addition, it provides quick-reference mappings of AWS products, concepts, and terminology to the corresponding products, concepts, and terminology on Alibaba Cloud. This section provides a general overview of the services provided by the two cloud providers. For more information, please navigate to the relevant categories for specific products.

2. Why Alibaba Cloud

Founded in 2009, Alibaba Cloud provides a comprehensive set of cloud computing services with global coverage to help you develop your businesses. Alibaba Cloud is the cloud computing branch of Alibaba Group, serving the internal demands of Alibaba’s extensive e-commerce ecosystem, including Taobao, Tmall, and Alipay. According to the Gartner’s report Market Share Analysis: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide, 2016, Alibaba Cloud is the third largest cloud service provider globally. Alibaba Cloud is also the leader of the Chinese market, with more than 100 cloud computing products and services, spanning across 18 data center regions globally.

3. Portal websites

Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud has two portals, namely the Chinese Portal and Global Portal, which provide services for enterprises and individuals who are registered in China and abroad, respectively. The Global Portal consists of a bilingual console (English and Chinese) and a multilingual website (English, Chinese, and Japanese). On either portal, users can browse and read about Alibaba Cloud products and services, as well as register or log on to the portal to purchase and manage their cloud services.

Because laws and security regulations vary from region to region and from country to country, the Chinese portal differs from the global portal to some extent in terms of products, solutions, support services, and marketplace product offerings. Due to exchange rates and local tax rates, prices on the Chinese portal and global portal may vary as well. For pricing details, see Pricing on Chinese Portal and Pricing on Global Portal.

To launch services in China and internationally, you do not need to have separate accounts on the Chinese Portal and Global Portal. For more information, see 6.1 Accounts.

4. Regions and zones

AWS resources are distributed globally in multiple positions, and these positions are marked by regions and zones. A region is a cluster of data centers. Each region represents a geographically separate area, and may be composed of multiple separate zones.

Alibaba Cloud uses the same concept and terminologies: regions and zones. Regions are located in different cities around the world, whereas zones are physical areas within the same region but with independent power grids and networks.

For the full list of our regions and zones, see Regions and Zones.

Element AWS Term Alibaba Cloud Term
Cluster of data centers and services Region Region
Abstracted data center Availability zone Zone
Edge node Edge Network Location Edge node

Note: The availability of regions and zones do not apply to all products of Alibaba Cloud. The zones of some services are transparent to users, such as for Object Storage Service (OSS) and Elastic Compute Service (ECS) images, while other services run on multiple regions by default, such as DNS and CDN.

5. Endpoints

An endpoint is the web address (URL) of your service, which can be accessed by a client application. To reduce the network latency of application requests, most AWS services are provided with endpoints to optimize user requests.

Alibaba Cloud uses the same design to provide endpoints for most services. For the list of endpoints of Object Storage Service, see OSS Endpoints.

Element AWS Term Alibaba Cloud Term
Entry point to a service Endpoint Endpoint

6. Accounts, constraints, and pricing

6.1 Accounts

Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud users are required to create and configure accounts before purchasing and using Alibaba Cloud services. For details about operating procedure, see Create an Alibaba Cloud Account. After the procedure is complete, you can log in to Alibaba Cloud console and purchase services. You only need one Alibaba Cloud account to operate globally and within China. This greatly simplifies billing, account management, and service deployments for products and services that are launched internationally.

To purchase an ECS server that is located within the Mainland China territory, you will need to comply with China’s real-name authentication requirements. For more information, see Real-name Registration. The order generated based on the services you purchase will be sent to your account. You can query and download the billing on the Billing Management Page.

6.2 Service constraints

Alibaba Cloud sets default service purchase quotas and constraints on accounts, which are similar to the account constraints on AWS. These limits are set to ensure optimized performance and security for users. Some of the quotas can be increased by opening a ticket on the Console. Visit ECS Limits to familiarize and understand the quotas and constraints set for ECS products and services.

6.3 Pricing

Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud employs different billing methods and prices for different services, allowing you to choose the proper billing model for your needs. The two main types of billing methods are Subscription and Pay-As-You-Go. Subscription is more economical for long term usage, while Pay-As-You-Go is better for small-scale, experimental usage of Alibaba Cloud products. For details about pricing, see Pricing Page.

7. Resource management interfaces

7.1 Web based console

The AWS web based console is an important entry point for AWS to manage service resources. Alibaba Cloud also provides a web based console on which users create, manage, and monitor their resources. You can also use the Management Terminal on the console to connect directly to Alibaba Cloud servers. For details about the web based console, visit the Console Page.

7.2 Rest API

Both AWS and Alibaba Cloud provide REST APIs for most functions provided by the console.

7.3 Command line interface (CLI)

Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud provides a CLI through which users can interact with and manage cloud computing services and resources. AWS provides an Amazon CLI tool, while Alibaba Cloud provides an Alibaba Cloud CLI tool. The CLI tools provide standard CLIs for most cloud computing services and are compatible with mainstream OSs, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

Element AWS Term Alibaba Cloud Term
Web-based console Console Console
Command line interface Amazon CLI Alibaba Cloud CLI

8. Types of cloud services

The following sections compare general cloud computing services and the relevant characteristics of AWS and Alibaba Cloud, respectively.Generally speaking, cloud services are composed of a set of basic services, falling into computing, storage, network, and database services. Basic AWS and Alibaba Cloud services include:

Category AWS Alibaba Cloud
Computing Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), EC2 Elastic GPUs, Auto Scaling, Elastic Container Service (ECS) Elastic Compute Service (ECS), Elastic GPU Service (EGS), Auto Scaling, Container Service
Storage Amazon Simple Storage Services (S3), DynamoDB, SimpleDB, CloudFront, Elastic File System (EFS) Object Storage Service (OSS), Table Store, Alibaba Cloud CDN, Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Network Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Direct Connect, Direct Connect, NAT Gateway, ELB, Elastic IP Addresses, VPN Gateway Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Express Connect, Express Connect, NAT Gateway, SLB, Elastic IP, VPN Gateway
Database Relational Database Service (RDS), ElastiCache, DynamoDB, Database Migration Services (DMS) ApsaraDB for RDS, ApsaraDB for Redis, ApsaraDB for MongoDB, HybridDB for PostgreSQL, Data Transmission Service (DTS)

Upper layer services can be created on these basic services through user platforms. Typically, these upper layer services fall into:

  • Security Services

These services are employed to protect user data, applications, and services as well as to prevent malicious attacks. For example, AWS provides AWS Shield Standard/Advanced and AWS WAF, and Alibaba Cloud offers Anti-DDoS Basic/Pro, Web Application Firewall, and Server Guard.

  • Management Services

These services are employed to help users trace cloud applications and manage application permissions and keys. For example, AWS has CloudWatch, Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Key Management Service (KMS), and Alibaba Cloud has CloudMonitor, Resource Access Management, and Key Management Service.

  • Domains & Websites

These services are employed to provide users with products and services for website development. This includes Domain Name System (DNS) services, domain names purchasing and management, and website building tools. Examples include AWS Route 53 and Alibaba Cloud Web Hosting, DNS, and Domains.

  • Big Data Analytics Services

These services are employed to process a massive amount of data. AWS products include AWS Kinesis, and EMR, and Alibaba Cloud products include MaxCompute, E-MapReduce, DataWorks, and DataV.

  • Application Services

These services are used to optimize cloud providers’ application architectures. For example, AWS has SNS and Alibaba Cloud has Message Service.

  • Media Services

These services are employed to help users to create media application and platform on cloud. For example, AWS has Elemental MediaLive and Elastic Transcoder, and Alibaba Cloud has ApsaraVideo Live and ApsaraVideo for Media Processing.

9. Services

The following table provides a one-to-one mapping of the services provided by AWS and Alibaba Cloud (global portal):

  • Compute
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Virtual Servers Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Elastic Compute Service (ECS)
GPU Servers EC2 Elastic GPUs Elastic GPU Service (EGS)
Auto Scale Auto Scaling Auto Scaling
Container Management Elastic Container Service (ECS) Container Service
  • Storage & CDN
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Object Storage Amazon Simple Storage Services (S3) Object Storage Service (OSS)
NoSQL Database DynamoDB ,SimpleDB Table Store
Content Delivery CloudFront Alibaba Cloud CDN
Shared File Storage Elastic File System (EFS) Network Attached Storage (NAS)
  • Networking
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Networking Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
Dedicated Network Direct Connect Express Connect
NAT Gateway NAT Gateway NAT Gateway
Load Balancing Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) Server Load Balancer (SLB)
Elastic IP Elastic IP Addresses Elastic IP
Cross-premises Connectivity VPN Gateway VPN Gateway
  • Databases
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Relational Database Relational Database Service (RDS) ApsaraDB for RDS
Caching ElastiCache ApsaraDB for Redis
Elastic Data Warehouse RedShift HybridDB for PostgreSQL
NoSQL - Document Storage N/A ApsaraDB for MongoDB
Database Migration Database Migration Services (DMS) Data Transmission Service (DTS)
  • Security
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
DDoS Mitigation AWS Shield - Standard Anti-DDoS Basic
DDoS Mitigation AWS Shield - Advanced Anti-DDoS Pro
Mobile Security N/A Mobile Security
Web Application Security Web Application Firewall (WAF) Web Application Firewall
Instance Security N/A Server Guard
Certificate Service Certificate Manager SSL Certificates Service
  • Monitoring & Management
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Monitoring CloudWatch CloudMonitor
Authentication and Authorization Identity & Access Manager (IAM) Resource Access Management
Encryption Key Management Service Key Management Service
Resource Orchestration CloudFormation Resource Orchestration Service
  • Domains & Websites
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Web Applications Elastic Beanstalk Web Hosting
Domain Name Route 53 Domains
Domain Name System (DNS) Route 53 Alibaba Cloud DNS
  • Analytics
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Big Data Processing Amazon EMR MaxCompute ,E-MapReduce
Data Visualization N/A DataV
Development Platform N/A DataWorks
  • Application Service
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Notification Service Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) Message Service
API Service API Gateway API Gateway
Log Service Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose Log Service
Email Sending and Receiving Amazon Simple Email Service DirectMail
  • Media Services
Description AWS Alibaba Cloud
Live Video Streaming AWS Elemental MediaLive ApsaraVideo Live
Media Transcoding Service AWS Elastic Transcoder ApsaraVideo for Media Processing