The Alibaba Group, China’s biggest online commerce company, has been heavily investing in cloud technology over the years, and was one of the country’s earliest believers in the technology.
Established in 2009, Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, is among the world’s top three IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) providers, according to Gartner. It is also the largest provider of public cloud services in China, according to IDC. Alibaba Cloud provides a comprehensive suite of cloud computing services to businesses worldwide, including merchants doing business on Alibaba Group marketplaces, start-ups, corporations and public services.
Hoping to learn more about the company’s latest products and its presence in the Middle East, AMEinfo spoke with Phillip Liu, General Manager, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Middle East and Africa.
What can you tell us about your core services and products?
Alibaba Cloud is the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group. We offer cloud-native solutions in e-commerce, payment, logistics, and other vertical-specific innovations from our strategic technology partners. Based on our established domain expertise and best business practices, we enable vertical-specific cloud-based solutions for our partners in the retail, finance, manufacturing, logistics, media, and entertainment sectors in addition to internet companies.
Cloud services and big data platforms built the foundation of Alibaba Group’s entire digital economy. As of now, Alibaba Cloud powers 100 percent of Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival infrastructure. Alibaba Group’s mission has always been to make it easy to do business anywhere. With the support of Alibaba Cloud, companies around the world are provided with reliable and intelligent cloud infrastructure that helps them embrace cutting-edge technology and achieve sustainable business growth.
What about your services and products that were created for a post-COVID-19 world?
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation across multiple industries. As companies and individuals continue to adapt to working from home during and after the pandemic, Alibaba Cloud is dedicated to offering users the benefits of cloud computing that can be implemented in an easy, cost-effective and secure manner. In our recently-concluded Apsara Conference – an annual event that attracts technical experts, software engineers, and specialists from around the world – Alibaba Cloud unveiled the first palm-sized personal cloud computer that weighs about 60 grams. This computer enables a user to access almost unlimited computing resources, anytime and anywhere, through simply connecting the cloud computer with a normal computer screen – while paying via a subscription model or for the actual cloud consumption. With this tiny device, people can better adapt to a post-COVID-19 world through accessing resilient computing power to conduct complex tasks that usually require sophisticated and powerful PCs, such as video editing, animation rendering, software development, and online customer services – anytime and anywhere.
Why is the cloud crucial for Industry 4.0 and the future of business?
Cloud technology aggregates the latest industrial technologies as a service to the market and lowers the cost of technology adoption. This ensures that every user or stakeholder can benefit from Industry 4.0’s evolution and transformation. No matter what industry a business is involved in, the cloud will enable a company to innovate quickly and efficiently and scale up as needed.
Can you share with us some examples of your work in the Middle East?
Alibaba Cloud’s first local data center was established in the Middle East in 2016. Since then, we have been working with multiple partners to integrate cloud technology into multiple industries. We are currently working closely with businesses of all sizes to boost market growth, and are also engaging with local SMEs to increase industry know-how. Last year, we partnered with Zain Saudi Arabia to launch Zain Cloud, that delivers a flexible and scalable public cloud platform, incorporating artificial intelligence solutions to help the telecoms operator rollout a 5G network in Saudi Arabia. Together with partners Al Jammaz Group and Interdist Alliances, we have trained and certified more than 100 cloud professionals across the Middle East and Africa.
Most recently, we empowered WEMART, a leading Asian supermarket chain in the UAE, with a comprehensive Online-to-Offline (O2O) shopping solution. In addition, customer experience was further enhanced through other features that are integrated into the solution such as AliMe chatbot, an AI-powered online customer solution that handles 60-70 percent of consumer queries and after sales services, leading to increased workforce efficiency and consumer responsiveness.
Where do you see the industry going in the coming few years?
Almost everything in the digital world is connected to the cloud in one way or another. Hence, cloud computing is powerful and expansive and will continue to play an increasingly important role in driving the productivity and efficiency of a business. Looking ahead, the cloud computing industry will continue to transform in a more digitalized and intelligent way due to advancements in technology. I predict that a hybrid solution – comprising cloud-based products and on-premises data centers – will become more popular in the future.