Alibaba Cloud is trying to woo Amazon's customers in the most Chinese way possible

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Alibaba Cloud is trying to woo Amazon's customers in the most Chinese way possible
Alibaba CloudAlibaba Group

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  • Alibaba Cloud is looking to expand its market in India and one-up its competitors.
  • It’s looking to do it in the most Chinese way possible, keeping its product flexible and cheap.
  • Although Alibaba Cloud in the process of wooing a few digital companies away from Amazon Web Services (AWS) — it’s now looking to get bigger companies on board.
Alibaba Cloud is looking to expand its market in India. In a lot of ways, the company’s database management solutions aren’t all that different — but is already wooing away new-age digital companies like Zomato, Paytm and BigBasket from Amazon Web Services (AWS). Now, it is now looking to get bigger companies on board.

The selling point for Alibaba Vice President Feifei Li is not very different from any other Chinese business ⁠— flexible and cheap.

"Both (AWS Aurora and Polar DB) use shared storage architecture, which can serve up to 100 TB (terabytes) of data — but if you want to scale beyond that, like during a massive e-commerce operation, they need scalability beyond what shared storage can offer," Li told Business Insider. And, according to him, it costs a tenth of the AWS’ cloud services.
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But AWS doesn't agree. "It is inaccurate to say that PolarDB is available at a tenth of the cost as Amazon Aurora. If you consider a top of the line instance size, Amazon Aurora is still cheaper than PolarDB with more VCPUs (6 more VCPUs) on offer, and a secure virtualization platform (R5 instances powered by the AWS Nitro System)," the company told Business Insider.

It also pointed out that even though Zomato, Paytm and BigBasket are on Alibaba Cloud, they're also using AWS simultaneously for other services.
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Li is in India to sell Polar DB, Alibaba Cloud’s relational database — a database in which a lot of different data sets can be compared and re-assembled without having to reorganise storage.

Amazon’s customers, Alibaba-backed companies

Currently, most of the company’s clients are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) — but most of the revenue comes from large companies. "We already have quite a few large businesses like Reliance Entertainment and helped them launch across 150 countries," said Alex Li, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud South Asia.

So, Alibaba Cloud’s real test will be when it tries to woo its next set of clients. Out of the four big names highlighted by Li, Alibaba Group has stakes in Paytm and BigBasket.

As Alibaba Cloud tries to woo Amazon’s customers, these are its major promises:

  1. It’s flexible. PolarDB addressed nearly 87 million requests per second during peak traffic helping Alibaba’s 11:11 Single Day sale in China, which clocked a record-breaking gross of $38.4 billion, according to the company.
  2. It’s cheap. Li says the PolarDB is available at a tenth of the cost as AWS Aurora.
  3. It’s tried and tested. "Not only do we have cloud database as a service, but we also provide database infrastructure for the entire Alibaba Group. That really helps us strengthen our technology and mature our product before we offer it to our customers," he explained.
  4. It is fully compatible with MySQL. This is an important capability since more businesses are already integrated with one type of database or another. Compatibility ensures that they can easily transfer their data and processes from one platform to the next.
  5. Security. "We have some unique strengths, that Microsoft, Google and AWS don’t have. For example, we have a product called AllEncrypted. It combines database kernels with security software like Intel SGX. It allows the customer to encrypt their data using a private, secret key — and they don’t have to share that key with us," said Li.
  6. Keep tabs on data. In the near future, blockchain technology will be integrated, which will allow authentication of the data through database logs.
Alibaba Cloud is focusing all of its energies on India, and for good reason. Not only are local businesses looking to shift to the cloud rather than set up their own servers, but India’s impending Personal Data Protection Bill is likely to push for localisation — and Alibaba already has two data centres in the country.
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See also:
Data localisation won't help 'local' firms or improve privacy — but it could cost India $43 billion

WhatsApp data may shift to the cloud, but may no longer be as encrypted

TCS and Cisco experimented a cloud service with a large insurer — and now they are ready to launch
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