Alibaba’s cloud computing service launches in US, wants to rain all over Amazon

Alibaba’s cloud computing service is expanding outside of China for the first time. Alibaba today announced that its Aliyun platform, which started in China in 2009, is now adding a data center filled with servers in Silicon Valley and going after businesses who need cloud horsepower across the US.

Yu Sicheng, vice president of Alibaba’s Aliyun division (“yun” means cloud in Chinese) and head of its international business, says in today’s announcement (on the company’s blog) that US-based servers are just the beginning. By the end of the year, the enterprise cloud service is planning to expand to Southeast Asia and Europe.

Aliyun will compete head-on with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer enterprises remote computing power (like AWS EC2). At a later date Aliyun will add in web storage as well (to be called OSS), meaning that the Chinese firm will also compete against AWS S3, Microsoft Azure, and Google App Engine.

Keeping data away from Chinese authorities
To allay fears of China’s government accessing data through Chinese servers, Alibaba says that US companies and startups that use the service will be served only by the Silicon Valley data center.

Alibaba’s cloud platform already competes with the likes of AWS in China. Aliyun’s Chinese data centers are in Beijing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen.

“For the time being, we are just testing the water,” Yu said today. That means Aliyun will focus first on Chinese companies doing business in the US. “We know well what Chinese clients need, and now it’s time for us to learn what US clients need,” he added.

To prove that Alibaba’s cloud service can take the strain, the company points to China’s crazy web shopping day on November 11. During the last November 11 shopfest, Aliyun held up Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall estores under the strain of 80,000 orders per second. Last year’s sales hit a new record as China’s web shoppers spent a total of US$9.3 billion on Alibaba’s two stores in just 24 hours – more than the entire US spends on every single ecommerce store during Cyber Monday.

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