Did you hear about the e-commerce site that also became a global cloud solutions provider? It could well be the opening line of a joke, but the funny thing here is that this isn’t a unique situation. Amazon* was certainly the first but China’s answer to Jeff Bezos is Jack Ma and his Alibaba* online empire, best known for linking Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers.
While Alibaba’s web sales operations have evolved, so has its computing ambitions and in 2010 it began offering cloud computing services to its domestic market. Since then, Alibaba Cloud has broadened its reach to become a significant player on the global scene, actively expanding its capabilities beyond its immediate neighbours by establishing data centres in the US with sites opening in Germany, Australia and Japan, to better serves those regions.
For the MENA region, the wait is over as Alibaba Cloud, also known as Aliyun.com*, opened up its data centre in Dubai this November. The project was realised through Alibaba’s joint venture with Meraas*, to form Yvolv*, the company that will operate the facility and services with an eye on the upcoming World Expo 2020* that will be hosted in Dubai.
“Alibaba’s Apsara runs best on Intel Architecture now”
Part of the joint effort here isn’t just ticking the boxes to get everything running smoothly but to tweak the system to maximise its potential, as Datacenter Group Sales Director – Middle East, Turkey & Africa Firas Al Fanney explains: “Intel has a very deep collaboration with Alibaba on Apsara optimisation. Both sides invest significant engineering resources to optimise Apsara on IA (Intel Architecture) platforms every year. The optimization work has covered computing, networking and storage and adopted a number of new technologies such as new virtualization features (computing), DPDK (networking) and SPDK (storage).”
DPDK refers to the Data Plane Development Kit which consists of libraries and drivers that greatly enhance packet processing speeds on a range of processors. Using Intel DPDK libraries, system developers can rapidly implement these functions to take advantage of a packet performance boost of up to ten times with Intel® Xeon® server processors. The Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK) provides similar performance improvements with the focus on Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) storage, such as the Intel Solid-State Drive Data Center P3700 Series – an innovation in data transfer speeds and an ideal match for Intel Xeon servers.
For Alibaba, having Intel’s expertise at this level was critical in eliminating potential bottlenecks to integrate its Apsara software with a mix of the latest Intel® Xeon® E5-2682 v4 (Broadwell) processors and previous generation Intel® Xeon® E5-2680 v3 (Haswell) processors.
“Alibaba’s Apsara runs best on Intel Architecture now,” says Al Fanney. Well, that’s certainly the result this technology partnership is aiming for; optimised, high performance computing at scale. Certainly, Intel has form here – a 99.2 per cent market share1 for server chips is pretty convincing –so when it comes to planning ahead, your choice of technology partner could even allow you to shape your future.
“Alibaba is also interested in working with Intel to explore and define next-generation cloud platforms,” says Al Fanney, indicating that this is not just a one-way street to build numerous data centres, but a significant collaborative venture for the two companies.
To help realise Alibaba’s global ambitions, Intel has drawn upon its expertise and comprehensive data centre product portfolio to tailor solutions for each region’s specific needs. Now enjoying a new range of first rate cloud services, Dubai is the latest region to experience the benefits of this technology partnership, but it certainly won’t be the last.
*Trademarks are the property of their owners