The following is an exclusive interview with Phillip Liu, General Manager, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Middle East, and Africa, to discuss fintech and digital transformation efforts in the region, and ways the Alibaba Cloud can meet companies’ expectations in a highly competitive market for public cloud offerings and services.
1. What are Alibaba Cloud’s top 3 USPs that immediately strike a chord with companies in the region?
a. Rich Cloud Service portfolio: Alibaba Cloud offers a suite of cloud products and services for companies of all sizes; among them some are very unique. For example, Alibaba Cloud’s POLARDB, a next-generation relational database, offers fully managed cloud-hosted database facilities, but with some significant benefits around cost, performance, and resilience. The elasticity, scalability, and high availability features of POLARDB enable the system to bounce back quickly from hardware failure, which is essential in supporting businesse’s online activities in real-time. POLARDB is compatible with MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle, supporting up to 100TB of data. During the recently concluded 11.11 Global Shopping Festival of Alibaba, the Alibaba Cloud powered $74.1 billion in GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) over an 11-day period. PolarDB set a record with 140 million queries per second during peak time at 11.11.
b. Comprehensive domain solutions: apart from cloud infrastructure and industry knowhow, Alibaba Cloud is also providing end-to-end solutions to many industries, which means we can even help our customers build the top-layer applications to save their time and cost for application development. For example, Alibaba Cloud offered Terminus- an Online-to-Offline (O2O) solution that integrates in-store and online shopping, warehouse management, payment and transaction management, membership management, etc. We offer a one-stop solution that combines the best business practices from the Alibaba ecosystem which differentiates us from other cloud services providers.
c. Powerful hybrid cloud: More and more enterprises migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud, however, they must consider construction requirements such as security compliance and reuse of existing data center with the best cost performance. This is one of the most common challenges in the Middle East when it comes to cloud adoption. Therefore, we offer Apsara Stack – a full-stack cloud solution to solve the problem. Apsara Stack is an extension of Alibaba Cloud public cloud that brings public cloud technology to private clouds. It delivers complete and customizable Alibaba Cloud software solutions and allows enterprises to experience the same hyper-scale cloud computing and big data products provided by Alibaba Cloud’s public cloud with their own data centers. Apsara Stack also provides enterprises with a consistent hybrid cloud experience where they can obtain IT resources and ensure business continuity.
2. What are the 3 top benefits to SME’s after signing with Alibaba Cloud?
We help SMEs to:
- Digitally transform their businesses based on a variety of products, services, and best business practices of Alibaba Group with an optimal total cost of ownership (TCO).
- Have access to continuous training to equip customers’ teams with the latest cloud-based technologies and industry know-how.
- Alibaba Cloud’s local data center provides customers with cloud services that comply with local compliance and data security regulations.
We also supported SMEs throughout the pandemic through webinars, online workshops, and initiatives such as the Global SME Enablement Program with cloud technology relief worth more than $30 mn to new and existing SME customers.
3. Which economic sectors of the GCC/MENA region can benefit most from Alibaba Cloud and why?
The retail industry, FinTech, and public sectors stand to benefit the most from Alibaba Cloud.
In terms of retail, we have been powering Alibaba Group’s retail success for years and have robust services to offer retailers large and small. To date, we have more than 80 security and compliance accreditations worldwide – FinTech companies can benefit from our local datacenters and our strong compliance capabilities. Given our compliance capability and strength in private cloud and hybrid cloud solutions, the public sector can have peace of mind of on-premise with the agility, scalability, and flexibility of the cloud.
4. What is the future of the cloud in this region that best fits its needs, security, and growth?
An increasing number of enterprises are using a hybrid cloud strategy–leveraging on a mix of private cloud and public cloud. It could support enterprises’ requirement on security and compliance in an on-premise environment, while help businesses, especially small-medium enterprises (SMEs) take the advantages of the public cloud’s highly elastic, scalable, and available characteristics to achieve both business agility, elasticity, and scalability, and cost optimization.
For Alibaba Cloud, our advantage in public clouds is the AI-empowered intelligent cloud products. Alibaba Cloud is the pilot of hybrid clouds and has supported many customer successes across many industries.
5. How does Alibaba Cloud look at large public cloud market competition in terms of threats and opportunities?
Public cloud solutions provide flexible options to rapidly scale up or down after implementation. This approach is more commonly adopted among SMEs and companies in the retailing and manufacturing sectors. In the cloud, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A purely public or private cloud strategy still provides unique values to many companies regardless of industry or size. The key is to evaluate the options realistically based on actual user demands and usage situations, as well as the company’s IT infrastructure, support, objectives, and plan. For the Middle East, the demand for cloud adoption is growing. According to a report, the Middle East Cloud Infrastructure Services Market size is expected to grow from $2.17 bn in 2016 to $8.79 bn by 2022, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27% during the forecast period of 2017–2022. It’s a big market for all the cloud services providers. Alibaba Cloud will continue to provide the best value to our customers and support them on their way to digital transformation as always.