Alibaba Enters the Cloud Services Arena – but what does it mean for Customers?

Alibaba.com

Posted on Monday, August 3, 2015

Chinese retailer Alibaba has announced plans to enter the Cloud services arena with a $1 billion, three year investment program building datacenters across Singapore, the Middle East, Europe and Japan. Known as the ‘Chinese Amazon’, the Alibaba play is clearly a move to emulate the popular AWS Cloud computing platform.

Although the entry of another major player into the Cloud services marketplace should be good news for customers, there are still a number of issues that none of the incumbent providers have properly addressed.

Security

Top of any corporate agenda is the protection of data against loss, theft or corruption. Cloud providers assure clients that every datacenter is protected by enterprise-grade security provisions, but questions remain as to how long these defences will remain intact. Vast stores of valuable data are particularly attractive to cybercriminals, so it follows that Cloud services are of particular interest.

Businesses should also be concerned about data being stored outside their national jurisdiction. Issues of national security or politics could see access to data curtailed because of war or international sanctions for instance. Regaining access to data under these circumstances could be all but impossible and there is no guarantee that information would not be used or exploited if a sovereign government became involved.

Migration and portability

Making their own Cloud services announcement this week, Google hit the headlines by offering enterprise customers 100 petabytes of free Nearline archive data storage. Among the caveats was a requirement that those taking up the offer had to be coming from another Cloud service (like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure), and that they had to upload at least 1 petabyte of data within the first 30 days.

Aside from the sheer amount of time such a transfer would take over the average corporate Internet connection, the Nearline offer raises even more questions – just how easy is it to migrate data between services? And how much would a migration cost?