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Why Alibaba Cloud Might Represent the Next Great Business Opportunity

With the Chinese economy starting up after Covid-19, let’s hope the economies in other parts of the world will follow soon. With a large part of 2020 still ahead of us, organizations can still cover a lot of ground to realize their ambitions of expanding globally.

Businesses looking to connect with China’s digital landscape often realize the need for locally compliant infrastructure. With a large segment of the Chinese cloud market, Alibaba Cloud might just be the partner you are looking for. And because the company also operates on an international level, with data centers in Europe and the US, working with them might even be beneficial if you do not intend on entering the Chinese market.

When it comes to doing business with China, and reaching the country’s 1.4 billion digital consumers, it is not hard for businesses to understand what a Chinese presence for their product could bring to the table. The promise of near endless market potential looms. But with complex local regulations and a cybersecurity law that is as strict as the GDPR, a lot of businesses are hesitant to step into these largely uncharted waters. This is where working with a Chinese cloud provider can greatly increase your chances of success. And businesses are turning to Alibaba Cloud.

 “In the near future, Alibaba Cloud might become one of the bigger players in the cloud market because of their technically solid service portfolio, but also the price advantages they can offer to clients,” says Léon Rodenburg, a consulting software developer at Xebia. A Chinese language and culture specialist, Rodenburg has led the way in establishing Xebia as Alibaba’s consultancy and training partner in the Benelux and is the first Alibaba Cloud Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in the region.

Why Alibaba Cloud?

“The Hangzhou-headquartered cloud computing company offers a reliable alternative to the dominant players in the sector,” Rodenburg says, “with a stable and extensive product offering, excellent service standards and market-compliant legal processes within Europe, China, and other markets—and all at extremely competitive prices.”

“Whether or not your business has something to do with China, it's smart to work with—or at least, consider—Chinese cloud providers such as Alibaba. My view is that the big three will become the big four soon,” he says. At present, the world’s leading cloud players are Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and AWS from Amazon, but the sheer size of Alibaba Cloud’s operations offers an idea of its capabilities.

“An increasing number of businesses are beginning to look beyond the big three,” he says, “and it’s worth considering the Chinese option.” A great example is the world’s leading showcase e-commerce event, known as Singles Day, which runs on Alibaba Cloud. Held on November 11 each year, it supports business transactions worth nearly US$31 billion and more than one billion deliveries in a single day. Those volumes are backed by robust cloud services with world-leading security capabilities and protection against common attacks while safeguarding sensitive data and online transactions.

Gateway to China

Alibaba Cloud serves as an essential strategic market bridge for companies that operate within China or trade with the world’s number two economy. “We’re seeing more and more companies expanding into China, perhaps building a presence there, or looking to sell their services to businesses and consumers within the country,” Rodenburg says. 

He explains how Alibaba Cloud serves as a bridge to achieve these goals, in what is referred to as the China Gateway: “That is a collection of services that will help companies enter the Chinese market. One service that Alibaba provides, for example, is ICP filing and registration, which is a type of certificate you need in China to be able to host content under a certain domain name in China. Within China, you're not allowed to go online as you see fit, but you need to register with government authorities. By doing so, you agree to comply with local laws about online content, for example.”  

Travel platforms that want to reach the Chinese market, for instance, benefit from a presence in China. However, with legal obligations to store Chinese user data within the country—similar to GDPR in Europe—companies must rent space or cloud resources within China to comply fully with those laws. “Alibaba Cloud has a lot of experience with these regulations and certificates because, as a Chinese company, they have to deal with them as well. And they can help you navigate that jungle,” Rodenburg adds.

Multi-Market Solutions

Some companies prefer to use Alibaba Cloud within China while using American or European providers in other parts of the world. This sort of multi-cloud strategy presents a number of challenges in terms of security and governance as well as resiliency issues. 

Small to mid-size companies don’t necessarily need that level of complexity, and because it operates both within China and Europe, Alibaba Cloud could serve as a single and better-integrated solution.

Rodenburg explains: "Alibaba Cloud offers the ability to interconnect European data centers with Chinese data centers. This has traditionally been difficult because the public internet in China can be really slow. However, Alibaba and a few other cloud providers in the country have dedicated connections from China to the rest of the world – so, if you need to get data out of China, or if you want to connect to certain backend servers in Europe when an order is placed in a Chinese city, for example, you can do that over these dedicated connections,” Rodenburg explains. “In such a case, you're actually renting a piece of cable that runs from China to Europe and potentially the US. You can rely on Alibaba Cloud's core infrastructure to get stable connections into and from China, which is not possible if you work with non-Chinese cloud providers because they are not allowed to have their own data centers in China." 

Alibaba and the Xebia Group are already jointly helping several clients and have initiated several tech community events, training sessions, and China-related business seminars, in order to help them understand how Alibaba Cloud can give them an edge in and outside China. If you are already active in China or thinking of moving a part of your business there, Alibaba Cloud and Xebia are the go-to partners for getting there.

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