6 ways Alibaba Cloud challenges AWS,Azure and GCP
By now, most people have heard of Alibaba, a large conglomerate whose business interests include retail, financial services, logistics, media, and digital branding aws vs gcp pricing 2022 and marketing. As the technical backbone underlying these business units, Alibaba Cloud is the third largest cloud provider in the world, after Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Although Alibaba Cloud offers broadly similar offerings to AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, it does have some surprises.
Alibaba Cloud is a relatively new entrant to the international cloud market, deep-pocketed and eager to take a global lead over Amazon. In April, they announced plans to invest $28 billion in infrastructure over the next 36 months. The investment will be used to build data centers, custom operating systems and semiconductors for hardware acceleration solutions aws vs gcp pricing 2022.
For a quick understanding of Amazon and Alibaba, remember that Amazon is a reseller. They own the inventory and supply chain and sell directly to customers. Alibaba is a marketplace that only connects buyers and sellers. This has two consequences. First, Amazon's supply chain and inventory management systems are considered a competitive advantage, so you won't see them selling supply chain solutions that leverage their experience. Second, Alibaba's profit margins are much higher (23.3% compared to Amazon's 4.1% in 2019). This gives Alibaba Cloud more cash to invest in its products aws vs gcp pricing 2022.
Six ways Alibaba Cloud beats or rivals other leading cloud providers
Highest number of services
Amazon Web Services has 175 services. In the second half of 2019, Alibaba announced 597 new products and 300 solutions. There is literally something for everyone here. With so many, the choices are overwhelming. Alibaba Cloud targets enterprises and SMEs, and there is bound to be a solution, from raising pigs (for real) to financing for your needs (if you can find it aws vs gcp pricing 2022).
Computational storage is an old idea, and its time has finally come. Given the sheer volume of data being processed today, there is no choice but to optimize the hardware path the data takes from disk to the application, and keep it as close to storage as possible with as little computation as possible. A draft standard for computational storage was published in December 2019, but its proprietary hardware also exists, mostly limited to high-end custom computers like the Nvidia DGX series.
Because Alibaba Cloud supports Alibaba's e-commerce group, it's used to handle some really great data volumes and has similarly low-latency access capabilities. During Singles' Day, for example, Alibaba Cloud's PolarDB database processed $30 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) within 24 hours, jumping by $12 billion in the first hour as shoppers scrambled to Buying an item and the merchant doesn't have it in stock. With so many benefits, you can see why Alibaba Cloud is so focused on supporting the database for events, and one of the technologies they use is computational storage.
Computational storage is plentiful and growing rapidly. At the most basic level, PolarDB uses the FPGA to perform transparent compression of the data, whereby the data is decompressed within the data path and the kernel driver is unaware of the difference. For some of the most common queries, this can reduce query times by up to 50%, with an average reduction of about 30%. This is just a compression pushdown, there is still some performance to extract as other firmwares are developed.
Database Compatibility and Performance
PolarDB is the primary database product for Alibaba customers with high data throughput use cases. It uses InnoDB as the storage engine, the same as MySQL but heavily modified for use as a cloud-native database. PolarDB is designed with hardware acceleration in mind, and like the aforementioned compute storage, it uses RDMA to connect storage and compute nodes, thereby eliminating I/O bottlenecks.
Alibaba has taken a different tack when it comes to database migration. Instead of offering proprietary databases and migration tools, they make PolarDB compatible with most databases used in commercial environments. There are versions that can run queries from MySQL, PostgreSQL, and a large portion of Oracle databases. By design, you may be able to run your application on PolarDB unchanged. This is much easier than porting application logic.
Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN)
Alibaba Cloud operates its own cross-regional network, which means you can control the latency and bandwidth between parts of your application running in different regions. Other providers use public internet connection zones, which makes you immune to zone congestion.
Alibaba Cloud achieves this through its software-defined networking product, Cloud Enterprise Network, a global network for building distributed business systems and hybrid clouds. CEN is a full mesh network connecting VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) and VBR (Virtual Bridge Router). It's basically a zone-to-zone virtual networking solution. This is especially useful for firewalls operating in China, where firewalls typically introduce significant delays. CEN provides latency and bandwidth guarantees and is the same network infrastructure that Alibaba uses for its e-commerce products.
As digital data grows, so does its potential value
Data can provide business value in many ways, from helping companies optimize operations to improving customer experience and loyalty. However, the most valuable data also requires the greatest protection. You can increase or decrease bandwidth in real time through the web console or API.
While Alibaba won't win any marketing awards for its innovative name, its "smart brain" solves some really big problems. To me, this is one of Alibaba's most exciting and innovative offerings, made possible in part by the overall commercial and political environment in which they operate. It shows what benefits AI technology can bring when implemented at scale.
While technical pieces are available from companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, you need a systems integrator to design, build, test, and support the final solution. Alibaba's product is a turnkey solution, or such a large turnkey solution that is available, directly supported by the supplier.
Alibaba Cloud ET Brains is designed to be used as an intelligent platform for solving complex business and social problems. There are talents in smart cities, medicine, manufacturing, aviation, environment and finance. Every brain is a complex solution and worth mentioning. Here, I'll introduce the "City Mind" and "Financial Mind" sections to give you an idea of the product.
The "City Brain" is currently deployed in Hangzhou, a city of 21 million in eastern China, to manage traffic, public transport and public safety by integrating events and alerts from sensors throughout the city. If the alarm detected a fire, ambulances and fire crews were dispatched, the fastest route through traffic was calculated, and traffic lights were sequenced, resulting in a 49 percent faster arrival time.
In version 2.0, City Brain improves fire services by providing information on water pressure, the number and location of fire hydrants in the area, and the location of natural gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure.
City Brain also improves public transportation by examining video, Wi-Fi signals and telecom operator signals and calculating optimal passenger throughput. Based on current capacity, it can reroute shuttles and buses, optimize taxi scheduling, and adjust the frequency of buses to minimize delays.
Out-of-the-box financial apps
Getting started in the heavily regulated financial services industry requires a significant investment of resources, not only to overcome regulatory challenges, but also to build and operate the IT mechanisms needed to make it work.
Credit is a good business as long as you can model the risk properly, as there are a lot of "unbanked" people in developing countries. But given the low profit margins, how can you provide credit and still be profitable? Financial Minds offers a solution.
Here, credit risk modeling is delivered as a more or less ready-to-use solution with scorecard templates, a set of commonly used model variables, and workflows available to modelers. Just add your own data, tweak the model, and you can get instant credit. I wouldn't use it for modeling large credit risk, but it's ideal for small loans. Models can be deployed as RESTful APIs in the PAI (AI Platform) EAS service, so third parties (such as a department store or local grocery store) can integrate with your credit platform, creating a partner ecosystem.
This business model reminds me of MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), they don't own or operate any network infrastructure, but lease it from telecom providers. MVNOs compete on efficient operations, customer service, marketing and application availability. Likewise, by using Finance Brain, startups in the credit space can lease their operational infrastructure and focus on the value-added part of the business.
Alibaba Cloud recently announced the "Bring Your Own Key" feature to provide end-to-end protection of data at rest. The other major cloud providers have been around for a while, but with trade tensions between the U.S. and China at an all-time high, the move brings a degree of security to companies considering Alibaba. Aside from post-quantum cryptography (where China seems to have an edge), data should be safe no matter where it resides in the Alibaba ecosystem.
Alibaba Cloud offers an impressive range of products tailored specifically for the Asian market. In many respects, such as price, product breadth and depth, they beat the competition. I think their biggest disadvantage is their lack of sales experience in Western markets. It's all here, but their technical presales, dropshipping, support, and developer outreach/engagement are way behind the likes of AWS, Azure, and GCP. That's why you know so little about them.
If you're setting up in Asia, Alibaba Cloud is certainly a good choice. If you're setting up an office elsewhere and are willing to put in the effort, the cost-effectiveness might make Alibaba worth considering. To support Alibaba's e-commerce cash cow, many cutting-edge technologies in data centers, such as computational storage, appear to be deployed here first, with more products deployed. Other customers (like us) get the improvements made there for free.
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