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Alibaba Cloud Storage: Product Overview and Insight

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Bottom Line:

Alibaba is one of the biggest names in cloud computing, so naturally businesses may look to it for cloud storage. Until mid 2018, Alibaba even appeared poised to give the big three (AWS, Google and Azure) a run for their money in cloud storage. 

However, Alibaba recently dialed back its global cloud domination ambitions to focus on the Chinese market, where it overshadows AWS. Although Alibaba was widely considered a top challenger to cloud leaders AWS and Azure in the U.S. market, its recent announcement that it is no longer competing in the U.S. market will likely cause it to lose ground globally. That said, it just opened a UK data center, so the Asian giant's ambitions remain substantial.

So while Alibaba is a top choice for firms with Asian operations, it's not a viable choice for North America until it revives its strategy for the region.

Company Description:

Alibaba Cloud is a cloud-focused service provider based in China. A subsidiary of Alibaba Group, it was established by Jack Ma in 2009 to provide e-commerce services. It has expanded beyond that to encompass a wide range of cloud offerings, including storage. Its cloud operations are headquartered in Singapore.

Service Description:

Alibaba offers Object Storage Service (OSS), Cloud Disks (block storage), Network Attached Storage (NAS) and a cloud storage gateway software appliance. Alibaba also has artificial intelligence capabilities for image and video recognition, which can utilize its storage services. Additionally:

  • OSS is an encrypted object storage service to store, back up, and archive large amounts of data in the cloud, with a guaranteed reliability of 99.999999999%. RESTful APIs allow storage and access to OSS over the Internet.
  • Cloud Disks offer SSD-based block storage with high performance for Alibaba Elastic Compute Service (ECS). They are most suitable for I/O intensive applications with high reliability requirements.
  • Alibaba Cloud NAS is a file storage service for Alibaba Cloud ECS instances, Alibaba Cloud E-HPC and Container Service. It provides standard file access protocols, so you do not have to modify existing applications. This enables you to have a distributed file system with a single namespace, multi-party sharing, high reliability, and high availability.

Locations:

Alibaba has a great many data centers in China, as well as some in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., and Germany. It recently opened one in the UK.

Storage Type:

Object, block, and file.

Differentiator:

The top choice ins China and the vicinity for buyers who seek infrastructure that supports agile workloads.

Implementation:

Alibaba uses the Amazon S3 API, though some say that Alibaba's method of implementation makes it difficult to adopt. The technology behind this method requires true expertise to deploy.

Data Transfer:

The Alibaba Cloud Data Transport is a PB-level, point-to-point, offline data migration service, which is advertised as “coming soon.” Thus, it lacks the data transfer capabilities of some of its rivals.

Performance:

The highest performance available is via SSD cloud disks. A single cloud disk provides up to 20,000 random read/write IOPS and 300 MB/s throughput.

Availability/SLA:

99.9%

Technical Support:

Several levels of support are available from basic which has business hour email support all the way to Business and Enterprise Support which come with 24/7 ticket and phone support.

Security:

Multiple access control measures and fine-grained authorization, as well as data encryption and anti-leech protection for servers and clients.

Storage Management:

You can manage all static website content, including images, scripts, and videos, and store this content in the same way that you store folders in OSS. Plus, you can access nearby resources using Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) or Content Delivery Network (CDN) acceleration.

Alibaba provides easy access to OSS on the Internet by using RESTful APIs and multi-language SDKs. It provides the console, clients, and data migration tools to upload data to and download data from the cloud, and to retrieve and manage data.

Markets and User Cases:

Alibaba Cloud is the market leader for cloud IaaS in China. It performs well with Chinese public sector and digital businesses. The only languages available are Mandarin, English, and Japanese. For the U.S. market, its focus is on multinational companies that need cloud services in China. SSD cloud disks are specifically I/O-intensive applications with high data reliability requirements, such as MySQL, SQL server, Oracle, PostgreSQL.

Pricing:

OSS fees are calculated based on the total volume of storage used, the amount of data transferred, and number of API requests made. Capacity costs are $0.0185/GB/Month, plus downstream data transfer fees starting at $0.076/GB (upstream is free).

Vendor

Alibaba

Locations

China, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, UAE, US, Germany, UK.

Storage Type

File, block, object

Differentiator

Top vendor in Asia for infrastructure that supports agile workloads.

Performance

20,000 IOPS, 300 MBps throughput per cloud disk

Availability

99.90%

Gartner MQ rating

Challenger

Pricing

$0.0185/GB/Month, plus downstream data transfer fees starting at $0.076/GB

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