Alibaba Cloud has more data centres in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region than its rivals Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. With annual revenues of US$1.67 billion and a million customers as of last year, Alibaba Cloud is in the middle of rapid expansion. Starting with its initial presence in China, the cloud giant has now launched 49 availability zones in 18 regions and was recently ranked as one of the world’s top three IaaS providers by analyst firm Gartner.



Indeed, Alibaba Cloud has more data centres in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region than its rivals Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.

“We are fully committed in the Asia Pacific; we are localized compared to the US-based [cloud] companies. We invested a lot of resources in Southeast Asia, including building an e-hub in Malaysia,” Alibaba Cloud’s chief cloud architect Derek Wang told DCD.


Clouding out the competition

Outside China and Hong Kong, Alibaba Cloud has data centres in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia (Sydney), India (Mumbai), Indonesia, and Japan (Tokyo).

Coupled with its dominance in China, this puts Alibaba Cloud in second place for both IaaS and SaaS market share in the APAC region, according to a report published by the Synergy Research Group in June.

Last week at the Alibaba Cloud Summit in Singapore, Wang announced the launch of nine services worldwide. He also pointed to collaborations with educational institutions such as the just-announced partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS) on an innovation incubator program as further evidence of its commitment in APAC.


Springboard into China

Alibaba Cloud can help global firms with their IT needs as they foray into the vast Chinese market, Wang said: “We are unique with our ‘Go China’ strategy. If you are a company who has some business in China, we can help you. We are the number one cloud in China, and we have the most data centres there.”

Even though it uses Google Cloud elsewhere, Malaysia-based AirAsia relies on Alibaba Cloud to serve customers in China, said Nikunj Shanti, AirAsia’s chief data and digital officer, speaking to DCD last month.

As data sovereignty becomes an increasingly important topic around the globe, China’s new cybersecurity law similarly mandates that foreign organizations store Chinese citizen data within the country. This has already led to quite a few deals: for example, Apple is building its first Chinese data centre in partnership with a government-controlled hosting company.

Not every organization is large enough to require their own data centres though, and that’s where Wang said Alibaba Cloud can play a part. “We understand the cybersecurity law, we can give consultation services on how to set up IT environment in accordance to it,” he explained.


Growing from humble roots

As with the other cloud platforms, Alibaba Cloud grew from providing basic services such as virtual machines, databases and storage. It served a diverse range of companies, from gaming to media firms, as well as various Alibaba-owned businesses such as Taobao and Tmall.

“I think the greatest challenge is understanding customer requirements and trends,” Wang said. “We do not define the future by ourselves. Instead, we learn from the market, we learn from the customers, and we strive to deliver customer value.”

This strategy paid off as Alibaba Cloud gained the industry know-how that allowed it to build compelling solutions for e-commerce and logistic firms. “That’s one reason why e-commerce companies use our services. We provide best practice on how they can set up a good platform for e-commerce,” he added.

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