Feb
14
2020
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Alibaba Cloud revenue reaches $1.5B for the quarter on 62% growth rate

Alibaba issued its latest earnings report yesterday, and the Chinese eCommerce giant reported that cloud revenue grew 62 percent to $1.5 billion U.S., crossing the RMB10 billion revenue threshold for the first time.

Alibaba also announced that it had completed its migration to its own public cloud in the most recent quarter, a significant milestone because the company can point to its own operations as a reference to potential customers, a point that Daniel Zhang, Alibaba executive chairman and CEO, made in the company’s post-earnings call with analysts.

“We believe the migration of Alibaba’s core e-commerce system to the public cloud is a watershed event. Not only will we ourselves enjoy greater operating efficiency, but we believe, it will also encourage others to adopt our public cloud infrastructure,” Zhang said in the call.

It’s worth noting that the company also warned that the Coronavirus gripping China could have impact on the company’s retail business this year, but it didn’t mention the cloud portion specifically.

Yesterday’s revenue report puts Alibaba on a $6 billion U.S. run rate, good for fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market share race, but well behind the market leaders. In the most recent earnings reports, Google reported $2.5 billion in revenue, Microsoft reported $12.5 billion in combined software and infrastructure revenue and market leader AWS reported a tad under $10 billion for the quarter.

As with Google, Alibaba sits well in the back of the pack, as Synergy Research’s latest market share data shows. The chart was generated before yesterday’s report, but it remains an accurate illustration of the relative positions of the various companies.

Alibaba has a lot in common with Amazon. Both are eCommerce giants. Both have cloud computing arms. Alibaba, however, came much later to the cloud computing side of the house, launching in 2009, but really only beginning to take it seriously in 2015.

At the time, cloud division president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in the cloud market within 4 years. “Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” he said at the time.

They aren’t close to achieving that goal, of course, but they are growing steadily in a hot cloud infrastructure market. Alibaba is the leading cloud vendor in China, although AWS leads in Asia overall, according to the most recent Synergy Research data on the region.

Sep
24
2019
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Alibaba unveils Hanguang 800, an AI inference chip it says significantly increases the speed of machine learning tasks

Alibaba Group introduced its first AI inference chip today, a neural processing unit called Hanguang 800 that it says makes performing machine learning tasks dramatically faster and more energy efficient. The chip, announced today during Alibaba Cloud’s annual Apsara Computing Conference in Hangzhou, is already being used to power features on Alibaba’s e-commerce sites, including product search and personalized recommendations. It will be made available to Alibaba Cloud customers later.

As an example of what the chip can do, Alibaba said it usually takes Taobao an hour to categorize the one billion product images that are uploaded to the e-commerce platform each day by merchants and prepare them for search and personalized recommendations. Using Hanguang 800, Taobao was able to complete the task in only five minutes.

Alibaba is already using Hanguang 800 in many of its business operations that need machine processing. In addition to product search and recommendations, this includes automatic translation on its e-commerce sites, advertising and intelligence customer services.

Though Alibaba hasn’t revealed when the chip will be available to its cloud customers, the chip may help Chinese companies reduce their dependence on U.S. technology as the trade war makes business partnerships between Chinese and American tech companies more difficult. It also can help Alibaba Cloud grow in markets outside of China. Within China, it is the market leader, but in the Asia-Pacific region, Alibaba Cloud still ranks behind Amazon, Microsoft and Google, according to the Synergy Research Group.

Hanguang 800 was created by T-Head, the unit that leads the development of chips for cloud and edge computing within Alibaba DAMO Academy, the global research and development initiative in which Alibaba is investing more than $15 billion. T-Head developed the chip’s hardware and algorithms designed for business apps, including Alibaba’s retail and logistics apps.

In a statement, Alibaba Group CTO and president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Jeff Zhang (pictured above) said, “The launch of Hanguang 800 is an important step in our pursuit of next-generation technologies, boosting computing capabilities that will drive both our current and emerging businesses while improving energy-efficiency.”

He added, “In the near future, we plan to empower our clients by providing access through our cloud business to the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere.”

T-Head’s other launches included the XuanTie 910 earlier this year, an IoT processor based on RISC-V, the open-source hardware instruction set that began as a project at UC Berkeley. XuanTie 910 was created for heavy-duty IoT applications, including edge servers, networking, gateway and autonomous vehicles.

Alibaba DAMO Academy collaborates with universities around the world, including UC Berkeley and Tel Aviv University. Researchers in the program focus on machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing, with the goal of serving two billion customers and creating 100 million jobs by 2035.

Aug
15
2019
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Alibaba cloud biz is on a run rate over $4B

Alibaba announced its earnings today, and the Chinese e-commerce giant got a nice lift from its cloud business, which grew 66% to more than $1.1 billion, or a run rate surpassing $4 billion.

It’s not exactly on par with Amazon, which reported cloud revenue of $8.381 billion last quarter, more than double Alibaba’s yearly run rate, but it’s been a steady rise for the company, which really began taking the cloud seriously as a side business in 2015.

At that time, Alibaba Cloud’s president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in four years. It is not even close to doing that, but it has done well to get to more than a billion a quarter in just four years.

In fact, in its most recent data for the Asia-Pacific region, Synergy Research, a firm that closely tracks the public cloud market, found that Amazon was still number one overall in the region. Alibaba was first in China, but fourth in the region outside of China, with the market’s Big 3 — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — coming in ahead of it. These numbers were based on Q1 data before today’s numbers were known, but they provide a sense of where the market is in the region.

Screenshot 2019 08 15 11.17.26

Synergy’s John Dinsdale says the company’s growth has been impressive, outpacing the market growth rate overall. “Alibaba’s share of the worldwide cloud infrastructure services market was 5% in Q2 — up by almost a percentage point from Q2 of last year, which is a big deal in terms of absolute growth, especially in a market that is growing so rapidly,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.

He added, “The great majority of its revenue does indeed come from China (and Hong Kong), but it is also making inroads in a range of other APAC country markets — Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Australia, Japan and South Korea. While numbers are relatively small, it has also got a foothold in EMEA and some operations in the U.S.”

The company was busy last quarter adding more than 300 new products and features in the period ending June 30th (and reported today). That included changes and updates to core cloud offerings, security, data intelligence and AI applications, according to the company.

While the cloud business still isn’t a serious threat to the industry’s Big Three, especially outside its core Asia-Pacific market, it’s still growing steadily and accounted for almost 7% of Alibaba’s total of $16.74 billion in revenue for the quarter — and that’s not bad at all.

Jul
24
2019
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Alibaba to help Salesforce localize and sell in China

Salesforce, the 20-year-old leader in customer relationship management (CRM) tools, is making a foray into Asia by working with one of the country’s largest tech firms, Alibaba.

Alibaba will be the exclusive provider of Salesforce to enterprise customers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and Salesforce will become the exclusive enterprise CRM software suite sold by Alibaba, the companies announced on Thursday.

The Chinese internet has for years been dominated by consumer-facing services such as Tencent’s WeChat messenger and Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, but enterprise software is starting to garner strong interest from businesses and investors. Workflow automation startup Laiye, for example, recently closed a $35 million funding round led by Cathay Innovation, a growth-stage fund that believes “enterprise software is about to grow rapidly” in China.

The partners have something to gain from each other. Alibaba does not have a Salesforce equivalent serving the raft of small-and-medium businesses selling through its e-commerce marketplaces or using its cloud computing services, so the alliance with the American cloud behemoth will fill that gap.

On the other hand, Salesforce will gain sales avenues in China through Alibaba, whose cloud infrastructure and data platform will help the American firm “offer localized solutions and better serve its multinational customers,” said Ken Shen, vice president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, in a statement.

“More and more of our multinational customers are asking us to support them wherever they do business around the world. That’s why today Salesforce announced a strategic partnership with Alibaba,” said Salesforce in a statement.

Overall, only about 10% of Salesforce revenues in the three months ended April 30 originated from Asia, compared to 20% from Europe and 70% from the Americas.

Besides gaining client acquisition channels, the tie-up also enables Salesforce to store its China-based data at Alibaba Cloud. China requires all overseas companies to work with a domestic firm in processing and storing data sourced from Chinese users.

“The partnership ensures that customers of Salesforce that have operations in the Greater China area will have exclusive access to a locally-hosted version of Salesforce from Alibaba Cloud, who understands local business, culture and regulations,” an Alibaba spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Cloud has been an important growth vertical at Alibaba and nabbing a heavyweight ally will only strengthen its foothold as China’s biggest cloud service provider. Salesforce made some headway in Asia last December when it set up a $100 million fund to invest in Japanese enterprise startups and the latest partnership with Alibaba will see the San Francisco-based firm actually go after customers in Asia.

Apr
18
2018
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Cloud Foundry Foundation looks east as Alibaba joins as a gold member

Cloud Foundry is among the most successful open source project in the enterprise right now. It’s a cloud-agnostic platform-as-a-service offering that helps businesses develop and run their software more efficiently. In many enterprises, it’s now the standard platform for writing new applications. Indeed, half of the Fortune 500 companies now use it in one form or another.

With the imminent IPO of Pivotal, which helped birth the project and still sits at the core of its ecosystem, Cloud Foundry is about to gets its first major moment in the spotlight outside of its core audience. Over the course of the last few years, though, the project and the foundation that manages it have also received the sponsorship of  companies like Cisco, IBM, SAP, SUSE, Google, Microsoft, Ford, Volkswagen and Huawei.

Today, China’s Alibaba Group is joining the Cloud Foundry Foundation as a gold member. Compared to AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, the Alibaba Cloud gets relatively little press, but it’s among the largest clouds in the world. Starting today, Cloud Foundry is also available on the Alibaba Cloud, with support for both the Cloud Foundry application and container runtimes.

Cloud Foundry CTO Chip Childers told me that he expects Alibaba to become an active participant in the open source community. He also noted that Cloud Foundry is seeing quite a bit of growth in China — a sentiment that I’ve seen echoed by other large open source projects, including the likes of OpenStack.

Open source is being heavily adopted in China and many companies are now trying to figure out how to best contribute to these kind of projects. Joining a foundation is an obvious first step. Childers also noted that many traditional enterprises in China are now starting down the path of digital transformation, which is driving the adoption of both open source tools and cloud in general.

Apr
20
2017
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Percona Live Featured Session with Alibaba Cloud – Flashback: Rolling Back a MySQL/MariaDB Instance, Database or Table to a Previous Snapshot

Percona Live Featured Session

Percona Live Featured SessionWelcome to another post in the series of Percona Live featured session blogs! In these blogs, we’ll highlight some of the session speakers that will be at this year’s Percona Live conference. We’ll also discuss how these sessions can help you improve your database environment. Make sure to read to the end to get a special Percona Live 2017 registration bonus!

In this Percona Live featured session, we’ll meet Staff Engineer Guangzhou Zhang (who focuses on PostgreSQL), Staff Engineer Lixun Peng (who focuses on Replication), Senior Engineer Weixiang Zhai (who focuses on InnoDB) and Senior Engineer Xin Liu (who focuses on MongoDB) who are all from Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group.

Alibaba Cloud is holding a session called Flashback: Rolling Back a MySQL/MariaDB Instance, Database or Table to a Previous Snapshot. The talk will discuss how Flashback is currently implemented, what it currently can and can’t do, and what features are in the pipeline for future MariaDB/AliSQL releases.

I had a chance to speak with them about Flashback:

Percona: How did you get into database technology? What do you love about it?

Guangzhou Zhang: Database technology is fundamental to every IT system as it lays the foundation to provide persistency, concurrency and availability. What makes it even more attractive and exciting is in recent years, the “old” database technology has found new directions and innovations in today’s age of cloud computing. There is so much work that can be done fitting open source databases into cloud environments, or even innovating new “cloud native” database architectures in the public cloud.

Lixun: When I was in university, I found database theory very interesting. I decided to be a DBA after graduation. Then I studied lots of Oracle Database books. When I graduated, funnily enough, I became a MySQL DBA, which has meant that I have focused on MySQL-related work until now. MySQL is a great database, but it’s not perfect! I always have optimization requirements to enhance its performance and improve the functionality step by step. I have found it very interesting though and continue to be happy with what it makes possible. And now many of Alibaba Cloud’s users are using my code: this is a great feeling.

Percona: Your talk is called Flashback: Rolling Back a MySQL/MariaDB Instance, Database or Table to a Previous Snapshot. Why would somebody need to rollback a database instance?

Lixun: Anyone can make mistakes, include DBAs. After users mishandle their data, we need to recover from the failure as soon as possible. Then we need a way to recover the data from the correct snapshot, and if possible, do it online and fast. That’s why I have implemented the Flashback feature as it provides the ability to achieve this.

Percona: What are the issues you face rolling back an instance? How does Flashback help?

Lixun: We can, of course, recover data from the last full backup set and incremental binary logs, but if a user’s database is too huge, it could take a while! This is particularly frustrating as it can only be a small amount of the data that needs to be modified, but we still need to recover the whole database.

Flashback allows you to reverse the last misoperation from binary logs. More often than not this will be a small activity, so the speed is much faster than recovery from a full backup. And we don’t need to stop the instance server to do carry this out. That’s very important for the Cloud users.

Percona: What do you want attendees to take away from your session? Why should they attend?

Lixun: I hope the attendees of my session can learn how and why Flashback works, the best way to use it and when they should try to use it.

And Flashback still has some limitations that the users should be aware of. I plan to address these in future versions.

I contributed the Flashback feature to MySQL and MariaDB at the same time. MariaDB 10.2 released it. We are still developing the feature, and I want attendees to know what’s in the roadmap during my session.

Percona: What are you most looking forward to at Percona Live 2017?

Xin Liu: There are two things I’m looking forward to at Percona Live. Firstly, holding technical discussion groups around the subject of our talks or about other open source databases. Also, I‘m interested in other NoSQL-focused database topics, such as HBase, Redis, Cassandra, etc. I also want to learn more about its core storage engine, especially WiredTiger or MongoRocks (which are the MongoDB’s storage engines). Gathering more details, design information or ideas for improvements will bring benefit to for us and our work.

Lixun: The best thing for me is meeting with the best MySQL engineers at the conference. There are very few chances to communicate with the engineers from around the world about the latest technology, and share updates with each other.

Percona: Talk about your team’s other topics . . .

Lixun: The topic proposed by Xin Liu (Multi Active-Active and Disaster Recovery with MongoDB Database Center) demonstrates how we can recover a MongoDB cloud service from a disaster failure, even if we lost whole cluster of a region. Active-Active deployment is the typical way in our production environment, and we developed a system called “Lamda” for replicating asynchronous replication within each region.

The talk from Weixiang Zhai (Scale Read Workload by Sharing Data Files of InnoDB) will introduce how we changed InnoDB so that MySQL can be deployed on shared storage and we can provide the ability to scale out read-only workload.

Guangzhou Zhang (On Building Alibaba’s Public Cloud Database Service for PostgreSQL and MySQL) will talk about the problems we solved while fitting PostgreSQL engines into our public cloud database services. We introduced a lot of enhancements in the database engine to solve disk IO or memory isolation problems. The talk also includes a comparison of PostgreSQL and MySQL covering why and how to deal with them differently within our service.

Register for Percona Live Data Performance Conference 2017, and see Lixun present Flashback: Rolling Back a MySQL/MariaDB Instance, Database or Table to a Previous Snapshot. Use the code FeaturedTalk and receive $100 off the current registration price!

Percona Live Data Performance Conference 2017 is the premier open source event for the data performance ecosystem. It is the place to be for the open source community, as well as businesses that thrive in the MySQL, NoSQL, cloud, big data and Internet of Things (IoT) marketplaces. Attendees include DBAs, sysadmins, developers, architects, CTOs, CEOs, and vendors from around the world.

The Percona Live Data Performance Conference will be April 24-27, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Feb
27
2017
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Ambitious Alibaba takes aim at the kings of cloud computing

HANGZHOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 13:  (CHINA OUT) Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks during the launching ceremony of the Alibaba's Tmall 11.11 Global Shopping Festival at the company's headquarters on October 13, 2015 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. Alibaba will open offices in three European countries and expand further in the U.S as it seeks to revive growth and reassure jittery investors. The 11.11 Global Shopping event this year will cover more than 200 countries throughout the world in large-scale businesses.  (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images) When you think of the biggest cloud players in the world, one company you might not consider is Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that held a record $25 billion U.S. IPO in 2014. Alibaba entered the cloud computing business in 2009, just three years after Amazon launched its cloud division, AWS — and Alibaba’s cloud computing efforts are among the ambitious projects that… Read More

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