Around the world, enterprises are no longer debating the merits of cloud computing but are evaluating how they can leverage it as part of their digital transformation initiatives. From migrating existing on-premises workloads to building cloud-native services, businesses are looking to the cloud to deliver the digital capabilities they need to drive their businesses forward.
This tectonic shift towards the cloud is evidenced by the sheer growth of the global public cloud services market, predicted by analyst firm Gartner to reach US$266.4 billion in 2020. As is often the case, a key challenge faced by enterprises revolves around selecting the right global cloud provider partner to work with.
Established in 2009 as the cloud computing backbone of Alibaba Group, Alibaba Cloud has been propelled to the forefront of the global public cloud industry. According to Gartner, the division is now ranked third for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) worldwide and is the largest public cloud platform in Asia.
Alibaba Cloud’s Elastic Computing Service (ECS) offers a diverse range of cloud computing capabilities ranging from general purpose x86 servers, bare metal servers to specialized GPU and FPGA offerings. Like other public cloud providers, virtual servers are offered as cloud instances with a varying number of CPU cores and memory capacity. These can be deployed individually or as part of an isolated private cloud network (VPC), as well as grouped into security groups.
For reliability, Alibaba Cloud promises one of the highest service level agreement (SLA) rates for both standalone instances and multi-region deployments. An SLA of 99.975 percent is offered for the former, which is the highest of all global cloud providers and far superior to another leading cloud provider which doesn’t offer an SLA for individual instances. For a service deployment across multiple availability zones, the SLA is pegged at 99.995 percent.
The current 6th Gen Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances are based on 2nd Gen Intel Xeon processors for improved computing performance. These are built around Alibaba Cloud’s X-Dragon chip and a lightweight hypervisor designed to reduce virtualization overheads. By unlocking the full CPU and memory resources of host machines, this ensures improved capabilities especially for higher-specification instances.
Multiple billing methods with differing price points are offered for ECS instances to fit diverse requirements and deployment scenarios. This ranges from traditional “pay-as-you-go” instances, pre-allocated “reserved” instances that are offered at a discount, or “preemptive” instances that allows organizations to acquire spare cloud capacity at a significant cost reduction.
In today’s hypercompetitive landscape, savvy businesses know that success can only happen through agility and innovation. This typically means building on a cloud infrastructure that is reliable and highly scalable in order to focus on delivering new capabilities that matter. With multiple zones in most regions, ECS instances on Alibaba Cloud can be deployed in multiple zones for a robust, fault-tolerant system that keeps running.
Below are some Alibaba Cloud capabilities designed to aid the deployment, management and scaling of ECS instances.
- Auto provisioning:
One-click deployment of instance clusters using auto provisioning groups to schedule and maintain computing resources, eliminating the tedium of creating ECS instances manually.
- Auto scaling:
As the volume of user requests increases, additional computing resources can be added into a load balancer pool to rapidly scale up.
- Resource Orchestration Service (ROC):
Create and configure resources based on predefined templates, automatically allocating the requisite cloud computing resources for a new deployment.
- Operation Orchestration Service (OOS):
Manage the health of a cloud deployment by monitoring virtual CPU usage, with the ability to react preemptively should specific conditions be met.
Finally, enterprises are increasingly looking to host core enterprise systems in the cloud, which typically require powerful processing capabilities and ample RAM. On Alibaba Cloud, ultra-large instances with up to 4 TB of RAM are available and certified by SAP to handle SAP HANA workloads. For even larger deployments, ECS instances with up to 6TB of memory are currently under development.
But how does Alibaba Cloud compare with competing global public cloud platforms? While the sheer breadth and complexity here means that no apples-to-apples comparison is possible, one evaluation criterion would undoubtedly be the performance of a cloud platform under intense workloads.
There is probably no better example here than the top shopping seasons such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In Asia, the largest online shopping festival would undoubtedly be Singles’ Day on November 11 in China. Alibaba Cloud is deployed to support this massive online sales event, processing more than a billion orders within 24 hours as database queries spiked by more than 122 times without crashing.
The rock-solid reliability doesn’t come at the expense of security either. Alibaba Cloud adheres to a host of international security standards and has implemented various international best practices to manage its public cloud platform. Some of the global standards include ISO 27001:2013, ISO/IEC 27017:2015, PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Technology Risk Management (TRM) Guidelines, and Multi-Tier Cloud Security (MTCS) Singapore Standard Level 3.
Alibaba Cloud is the biggest public cloud service provider in APAC and ranked third globally according to Gartner. Alibaba Cloud operates in 21 regions and across 63 availability zones globally. In Southeast Asia, Alibaba Cloud also has the strongest regional footprint with data centers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Organizations looking to try Alibaba Cloud can take advantage of a free trial of the ECS service. Available since December 2019, Alibaba Cloud offers a 12-month free trial plan for small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them migrate to the cloud. You can sign up for it here.