Chinese IT giants flexing cloud muscle in APAC

In Southeast Asia, Huawei and Alibaba are already household names to those who have either bought something online from Alibaba-owned Lazada or used Huawei’s Leica-branded P10 smartphones to take snapshots.

While the two Chinese tech giants have made significant inroads in the region’s consumer markets, they are only getting started in making themselves known to enterprise IT buyers – at least in Southeast Asia.

This week in Hangzhou, Alibaba said it is on-track in overtaking public cloud leader Amazon Web Services (AWS), claiming that some of its products have already exceeded that of AWS’s.

Alibaba’s confidence dovetails with that of a rising China which has been investing aggressively across the region, driven by its Belt and Road initiative that aims to foster closer economic cooperation and connectivity between Asia and Europe.

In Southeast Asia, Alibaba has positioned itself as the only global cloud service supplier from Asia, and claims to have the cultural and contextual advantages to provide data intelligence and computing capabilities to customers in this region.

“Among global cloud top players, we are the only company originating from the East. By working extensively with China or Asia-based clients, we have a better understanding of their needs and more insightful knowledge of the China and Asia market,” an Alibaba spokesperson told Computer Weekly.

In Singapore, it is collaborating with National University of Singapore and EZ-Link, Singapore’s largest issuer of contactless payment cards, to boost Singapore’s smart city and data-driven capabilities.

In Malaysia, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Conversant Solutions and Prestariang Berhad to collaborate on building an integrated education platform that will deliver a range of cloud-based education and related services, such as campus management, teaching and learning, and digital payment.

Alibaba is also building a datacentre in Malaysia to provide enterprises in the region with cloud capabilities to support their global expansion.

These efforts are already bearing fruit. According to Gartner, Alibaba was the world’s third largest public cloud service provider in 2016, buoyed by its position as the volume leader and dominant player in China’s cloud services market.

Lesser known to enterprises are Huawei’s cloud services, which are just starting to take shape. This week, the company said it plans to invest $500m globally in developing cloud-based professional services, a cloud platform and a cloud ecosystem as part of its APAC strategy. In the next five years, Huawei will also pour more resources into cloud-related R&D, increasing annual investment by more than 50%.

Like Alibaba, Huawei is riding on China’s economic clout, hoping to help Chinese companies expand overseas and non-Chinese companies enter the China market through a global cloud network and a suite of ICT services.

That the two Chinese tech giants are aggressively pursuing customers in APAC spells good news for enterprises. Besides keeping the two incumbents Amazon and Microsoft on their toes, Alibaba and Huawei may well bring new innovations honed through years of operating in the cut-throat, highly-competitive Chinese technology market.