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AWS challenger Alibaba Cloud opens German datacentre to woo European enterprises

Chinese cloud services firm Alibaba outlines plans to shake-up the European cloud market with German datacentre launch

Alibaba has signed a colocation datacentre deal with Vodafone in Germany, giving European enterprises locally hosted access to the Chinese firm’s public cloud services for the first time.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Ethan Yu, vice-president of Alibaba Group and the general manager of Alibaba Cloud Global, said the opening of its first European datacentre is part of the firm’s ongoing efforts to expand the Alibaba brand worldwide.

This process kicked-off in earnest around March 2015, when the company set out plans to open its first datacentre outside of China, and is – said Yu – part of its bid to become one of the world’s leading cloud firms.

“We want to be one of the cloud leaders worldwide, and this is a very important step to serve our global client’s needs to achieve that goal,” he said.

Yu acknowledges the company is relatively unknown outside of China, and the company will be embarking on some brand awareness work in the continent to drive adoption of its cloud offerings, which span infrastructure, software, middleware and security services. 

“On the security part we were able to help one of our cloud tenants defend against a DDoS attack of more than 450GB per second,” added Yu.

The company also offers big data analytics, artificial intelligence and voice recognition services, alongside the more “common” cloud services, he added.

“We are developing our big data and deep learning capabilities as well, and we currently have the voice, video and picture recognition technology developed and also externalise our deep learning services to our cloud users. So we have the full range of products,” he said.

Alibaba’s German datacentre is one of four facilities the Amazon Web Services (AWS) challenger is bringing online before the end of 2016, as it presses ahead with its plans to expand its operations beyond its Chinese heartland.

“Germany is located in the heart of Europe and will provide a very good network of coverage, and it also has very good infrastructure for a cloud datacentre to operate, in terms of the quality of its facilities and networks,” said Yu.

“Germany also represents an important economy in Europe, comprising a very sizeable IT audience, which is why we chose it as our first entry point into the continent.” 

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The company has announced plans to open datacentres in Sydney, Tokyo and Dubai this year, which will complement its existing sites in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and the US.

All of these are leased, colocation facilities, rather than new builds, because the company does not want to add the expense of land ownership to its bottom line, Yu said.

“We do own all the hardware inside and provision all the software for Alibaba Cloud, and operate this cloud datacentre. So this is just a choice of how we expand our global datacentres,” he added.

When it comes to building out its European customers base, Yu said the plan is to target Chinese companies that already operate on the continent, as well as native organisations that need locally hosted cloud services.

“The existing Chinese customers would leverage our global infrastructure to place their overseas operations, which saves them lots of time and effort in finding their own colocation facility otherwise,” he said.

“Then there will be European customers coming on Alibaba clouds, looking to place their infrastructure elsewhere in the world, by drawing on the firm’s global datacentre portfolio.”

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)