How Alibaba leveraged AI during 11.11 Shopping Festival in 2020

Hangzhou is known as “Paradise on Earth”, Home of Silk”, “Tea Capital”, “Town of Fish and Rice”, amongst others. Of late, Hangzhou has achieved global fame as the headquarters of Alibaba Group, a tech giant, which is competing with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google. With sobriquets the city has earned over 5000 years or more, it is now is ushering in a new tech-fuelled revolution, with Alibaba’s help.

The technology grandiose can be seen from Alibaba’s annual 11-day festival from November 1 to 11 last year, when the tech major has its annual global shopping festival. Despite China’s standoff with the US in the background, which has had some ripple effect on Chinese companies, Alibaba rolled out some cutting-edge technologies in its annual shopping festival.

Alibaba’s real-time computing platform, powered by Apache Flink, processed data streams totaling 4 billion items per second during peak time, a 60 per cent surge when compared to 2.5 billion last year. Additionally, MaxCompute, Alibaba’s proprietary data warehousing platform, handled up to 1.7 exabytes of data a day during the festival, which is the equivalent of processing 230 high-res photos of each of the 7 billion people in the world. Keeping in mind the kind of scalability and high performance required, no downtime was reported throughout this year’s extended festival period, Alibaba said.

“We were very proud to support 800 million consumers and 250,000 brands during the world’s largest shopping festival,” said Li Cheng, Chief Technology Officer of Alibaba Group. “From the robust digital infrastructure supporting zero downtime operation, to cloud-native offerings for developers’ efficiencies and consumer-facing applications for creating some of smoothest engagement experiences, Alibaba’s technologies have once again passed the toughest tests with flying colors.”

In the year of a pandemic, revenue numbers continued to be strong. This year’s sales generated $74.1 billion in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) during the shopping festival. This, Alibaba continued to reiterate, was due to its Cloud infrastructure upgrades. For example, after midnight on November 11, just 26 seconds after shopping began, peak orders hit 583,000 per second – 1,400 times peak volume at the festival’s debut 12 years ago on November 11, 2009.

Tech ahoy!

The tech giant also leveraged cloud-native databases, including PolarDB, AnalyticDB and Lindorm, Alibaba Cloud enabled 11.11 to run smoothly even during peak periods. PolarDB set a new record with 140 million queries per second during peak time at 11.11, a 60% increase from last year, it said. AnalyticDB, Alibaba Cloud’s self-developed cloud native data warehouse, processed up to 7.7 trillion lines of real-time data, equaling 15 times the data contained in the UK Web Archive at the British Library. In addition, PolarDB-X and AnalyticDB helped China Post to deal with more than 100 million orders during 11.11, with about 100,000 China Post users checking their parcels’ real-time status online.

Also, this year, ‘Livestreaming’ took center stage, which saw thousands of livestreams broadcast on Taobao Live. Leveraging Alibaba Cloud’s narrow-bandwidth and high-definition video solutions, such as its Real-time Streaming (RTS) technology to reduce latency to less than one second (approximately 75% lower than the industry average), the smooth livestreaming experience with dynamic interactions is also proven to be effective in boosting sales, said Alibaba.

By leveraging Alibaba DAMO Academy’s (DAMO) latest multi-module technology – including Natural Language Processing (NLP), image recognition, Text-to-Speech (TTS) and cloud rendering – Taobao Live launched its virtual anchor service for merchants. Virtual anchors can explain product details, respond to some inquiries and even play games with the audience during livestreaming sessions, while the human anchors are on break resting (usually from midnight to early morning).

AliExpress, Alibaba’s global retail marketplace, unveiled the world’s first real-time livestreaming translation feature on an e-commerce platform powered by DAMO’s speech model, supporting simultaneous translation from Chinese to English, Russian, Spanish and French. During the shopping festival, over 70% of the AliExpress merchants leveraged this translation capability, which can also reduce inaudibility in noisy livestreaming environments and even understand accented speech. Eight million global viewers watched over 9,000 livestreams on AliExpress during the festival.

Virtual tours with 3D visuals were available on Taobao to sell big-ticket items like houses and furniture. Underpinned by machine learning technologies like Graph Neural Networks (GNN), Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN), 3D shape analysis and knowledge graphs, Alibaba offered a 3D modeling design platform for brands, reducing the time for model creation from three hours to 10 seconds. Merchants leveraged the technology to create over 100,000 showrooms with virtual 3D products that was experienced by 60 million consumers during the festival.

Alibaba Cloud also supported one of the world’s largest container clusters, enabling the upscaling to one million containers in an hour. The optimal elasticity and scheduling capacity enabled by the cutting-edge cloud-native technologies led to an 80% reduction of computing resources for every 10,000 transactions conducted compared to four years ago.

Digital infrastructure with hyper-scale data centers made 11.11 greener

Alibaba used state-of-the-art green technologies – including liquid cooling and wind energy – at its five hyper-scale data centers to ensure the most environmentally-friendly operation during 11.11. For instance, the hyperscale data center in Hangzhou has one of the world’s largest server clusters submerged in a specialised liquid coolant, which quickly chills the IT hardware. This reduces energy consumption by over 70%, while its Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) approaches the ideal target of 1.0. Compared to traditional data centers, the Hangzhou hyperscale data center can save up to 70 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is sufficient to power over 16,000 households in the United Kingdom in a year].

Core systems on cloud-native technologies

In 2019’s annual festival, Alibaba Group migrated 100% of its core systems onto Alibaba Cloud, the world’s third largest cloud service provider. The global technology leader continued to push and challenge the technological limits with its cloud-native innovation, which has yielded double the efficiency of scalable application delivery.Compare these numbers to what retailers in the US and Europe did and one can gauge the wide chasm when it comes to tech.

Perhaps, retailers in the west could look towards the East going forward.

AWS to deliver 99.999% durability with new io2 volumes in Asia Pacific

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced the general availability of io2 in Asia Pacific.

The next generation Provisioned IOPS SSD volumes for Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) are designed to deliver 100x higher volume durability of 99.999% compared to the previous 99.9% durability offered by io1.

“Customers rely on highly durable AWS block storage to keep their business-critical applications running at any scale,” said Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, the Vice President of Block and Object Storage at AWS.

This higher durability reduces the likelihood of storage failures and improves application availability by making primary copies of data more resilient.

“For new customers where five nines of storage durability is critical to migrate on-premises business critical applications to AWS, io2 brings together performance, durability, and agility all in a single EBS volume,” added Ms. Tomsen Bukovec.

Compared to io1, customers requiring high availability of CRM and online transaction systems  can drive 10x higher input/output operations per second (IOPS) to improve performance without increasing storage cost.

“We need to provision more storage to meet the IOPS requirements, adding to our cost. But with the 10x increase in IOPS per GB ratio, we can easily enable peak performance at a much lower cost than we ever could with traditional SAN hardware vendors,” said Mohammad Shaikh, the Director for Scientific Computing Services, Cloud Computing and DevOps at Bristol Myers Squibb, a global biopharmaceutical company.

AWS identified that customers often provision more storage than needed to meet IOPS requirements for applications like SAP HANA, Microsoft SQL Server, Splunk, Apache Cassandra, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle databases. This resulted in higher spends than customers would otherwise incur.

“Our commitment to our core value of customer success includes ensuring Salesforce applications are available whenever our customers need them,” said Paul Constantinides, the Executive Vice President of Engineering at Salesforce.

The io2 volumes are priced the same as io1 volumes, keeping the same predictable cost for EBS customers.

“The impact of downtime for our customers is high. The new IOPS to GB ratio means we’re actually paying less for performance per GB,” said Chris Bunch, the GM for AWS Practice at Cloudreach, a company specialising in implementing and managing public cloud solutions for enterprise customers across Europe and North America.

Customers can create new AWS io2 volumes or upgrade existing volumes to io2 using Elastic Volumes, which modify the volume type without any downtime for applications running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

“As our customer base has grown, we have started relying more and more on the availability of this platform to guide our strategic decisions. So, higher volume durability is critical for minimizing any downtime,” said Ulrich Dangel, the Principal Infrastructure Architect at Rapid7, a leading provider of cloud security analytics and automation.

The new AWS io2 volumes are now available in Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.

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Alibaba Cloud sees 50% surge in demand to keep Singapore SMEs running during Circuit Breaker

Once Singapore began Circuit Breaker measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic by locking down the country in April, Alibaba Cloud saw a 50% surge in demand for cloud-based technologies.

Businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, embraced cloud computing to continue operations and enable remote working when Singapore’s general mobility came to a standstill.

“When COVID-19 stuck, we felt the struggle and the pain faced by Singaporean local companies,” said Derek Wang, the General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Singapore.

Alibaba Cloud sought to guide local enterprises in Singapore through digitalisation and digital transformation journeys by sharing their know-hows and expertise.

Despite the unprecedented impact caused by COVID-19 on the economy and businesses, Singapore’s SMEs demonstrated their resilience and willingness to embrace cloud computing technologies.

Feeding Singapore on the cloud

With panic buying spreading across the world and shoppers being stranded at home during the pandemic, food and goods delivery services played a critical role in feeding Singapore.

To support the spikes in demand, RedMart, a leading online supermarket in Singapore under Alibaba subsidiary Lazada, ran Alibaba Cloud’s digital infrastructure to maintain delivery records and customer satisfaction.

“Alibaba Cloud has helped RedMart manage our software applications in a flexible, reliable, and cost-effective manner,” said Ashish Awasthi, the Executive Vice President of RedMart.

RedMart implemented Alibaba Cloud database and Elastic Compute Services to virtualize, store, network and secure their infrastructure, which increased their efficiency.

The online supermarket was said to be able to keep costs down for customers by achieving a low total cost of ownership.

Keeping Singaporean retailers in business

As queues reduced to almost zero and shutters closed on shops, heartland retailers were tragically affected by lockdown.

To maintain business continuity and reach customers, traditional brick-and-mortar organisations were forced to go digital.

Alibaba Cloud partnered with SCash to help businesses become an omnichannel operation to enable rapid digital transformation.

“Our partnership with Alibaba Cloud will provide our customers with much needed infrastructure, skills and cost-effectiveness to go digital,” Michael Lee, the Chief Executive Officer of SCash.

More than 170 heartland enterprises signed up for the Alibaba Cloud-SCash initiative, including traditional Chinese medicine halls, fashion outlets, and hawker stalls.

Ensuring staff health and well-being

The health of all individuals is of critical importance, making social distancing, temperature checks and contact tracing paramount during the pandemic.

Alibaba Cloud partnered with JET Workflow to assist SPACElogic, an interior design service in Singapore, in conducting self-check-ins and temperature monitoring from smart devices much like the SafeEntry services implemented by the Singaporean Government.

“Our workers are our greatest asset; therefore, we are very pleased to work with Alibaba Cloud to use technology to help ensure their safety at the workplace,” said Roland Ang, the Regional Director of Strategy and Development at SPACElogic.

This cloud-based solution enabled SPACElogic to look after their workers’ well-being while continuing normal business activities.

Educating Singapore’s students

Once schools closed to contain the spread of COVID-19, students and teachers turned to online learning.

BambooCloud, a cloud-based online learning platform in Singapore, experienced pressure on their existing digital infrastructure due to the sudden increase in online traffic.

“We believe online learning is the future of education. By equipping ourselves with the reliable technology infrastructure provided by Alibaba Cloud, we are able to expand our business to serve more customers on demand especially during COVID-19,” said Yu Hao, Chief Executive Officer of BambooCloud.

BambooCloud deployed Alibaba Cloud’s elastic, scalable and flexible infrastructure to deliver a smooth learning experience that is cost-effective and easy to deploy.

Back in 2003, when the SARS epidemic hit, Alibaba decided to go all-in on technology investments when they were still a SME on the verge of launching their Taobao e-commerce platform.

With this similar experience, Alibaba Cloud launched a US$30 million Anti-COVID-19 SME Enablement Program to accelerate cloud adoption and provide much-needed relief during the pandemic.

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Alibaba Cloud plans Southeast Asia expansion with new Indonesia data center and Philippines alliance

Alibaba Cloud has set in motion plans to expand into Southeast Asia with the announcement of their third data center in Indonesia and a Philippines Ecosystem Alliance.

The initiatives were driven by fast-growing demand from customers who are adopting cloud technologies and progressing digital transformation strategies at a rapid pace.

Not one, not two, but three data centers

Indonesia’s data center market is fueled by an increasing number of Internet and social media users as well as greater connectivity and cloud adoption across the country.

The Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Johnny G. Plate believed Alibaba Cloud’s third data center will accelerate the country’s digital transformation efforts.

The expansion comes after Alibaba Cloud built its first data center in 2018, and a second last year. Upon completion of the third in 2021, Alibaba Cloud will have 64 availability zones across 21 regions worldwide.

The digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group also announced its plan to build the first data scrubbing center in the country to help customers fend off cyberattacks, particularly affecting the finance and gaming industries.

“Cyberattacks have grown in intensity and sophistication, especially at a time when more businesses are moving their IT infrastructure onto cloud,” said Leon Chen as Country Manager at Alibaba Cloud Indonesia.

Alibaba Cloud’s new scrubbing center will help detect, analyse and remove large volumes of malicious traffic to defend distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

As Southeast Asia’s largest and fastest growing digital economy, other tech giants including Google and AWS have also expanded their services in Indonesia.

Alibaba Cloud was also named the largest IaaS provider in Asia Pacific by a recent Gartner report, while Tencent Cloud was third across the region and Huawei Cloud placed third in China.

Accelerating digital transformation in the Philippines

Along with their announcement for a third data center in Indonesia, Alibaba Cloud also revealed the formation of the Alibaba Cloud Philippines Ecosystem Alliance to speed up digital transformation in the country.

“The Philippines is a booming market with a big group of young and digital savvy population. There is strong demand for digital transformation in accordance with the local government’s ‘cloud-first’ initiative,” said Leo Liu, General Manager of Hong Kong, Macau, Korea and Philippines for Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

The alliance will bring together thousands of Alibaba Cloud’s partners and customers to promote cloud adoption and analytics intelligence for businesses of all sizes.

“Digitalisation will be the global economic bedrock in the post-COVID era. This is why we are determined to enhance our efforts in supporting businesses here in their digital transformation journeys,” said Allen Guo, Alibaba Cloud’s Head for Philippines.

The global cloud provider will invest US$283 million this year to train partners and create solutions as well as committing to the aim of training 50,000 IT professionals and certifying at least 10,000 of these within the next three years.

Alibaba Cloud recently worked with telecommunications giant PLDT to provide hybrid cloud and security solutions for eSports matches during the Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

PLDT’s Enterprise and International Data Regional Head for Asia Pacific, Jeff Mendoza, said: “We are looking forward to fortifying this partnership and cooperation as we face this new era of cloud modernisation.”

Over the next three years, the largest provider of public cloud services in China looks to continue its global expansion by investing an additional US$28 billion on its cloud infrastructure, from operating systems, servers, to chips and networks.

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Tencent aims for tech domination with US$70bn ‘new infrastructure’ investment

Tencent, China’s tech giant, revealed it will invest US$70 billion in ‘new infrastructure’ over the next five years in the race for tech domination.

The world’s largest online gaming company plans to spend on cloud computing, big data centers and cybersecurity to compete with the likes of Alibaba Cloud and Amazon.

Tencent joins China’s ‘new infrastructure’ strategy to boost economy

Tencent’s announcement on Tuesday follows China’s ‘new infrastructure’ initiative to leverage on the country’s boom in demand for cloud services and upgrade digital infrastructures to enable growth.

The Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent, Dowson Tong, was quoted by Guangming Daily as saying: “Expediting the ‘new infrastructure’ strategy will help further cement virus containment success.”

China’s economy shrank by 6.8% in the first three months of 2020, ending almost 50 years of consistent growth.

Reuters reported Tencent’s investment will look to expand into business services, as consumer internet growth slows and companies shift number-crunching from their own computers to the cloud.

The WeChat creator’s shares grew by 2.5% after the investment announcement. This growth comes after Tencent saw a slower revenue increase of 22% in their FinTech and Business Services, including Tencent Cloud, in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 39% in Q4 2019.

Mr. Ma Huateng, the Chairman and CEO of Tencent, said: “So far, our businesses have proved resilient and cashflow-generative, enabling us to increase our investment to fulfill our mission of ‘Tech for Good’.”

Tencent’s online gaming revenue grew by 31% year-on-year to US$5.2 billion, and this may increase even more with Tencent’s move into cloud gaming.

Tencent takes on Alibaba Cloud

Tencent had 18% of China’s cloud market in the fourth quarter of 2019, grew by 111% globally and ranked as the third largest Infrastructure-as-a-service provider in Asia Pacific last year.

Tencent also became the first company with more than one million servers in China, the country with the second largest cloud market.

Alibaba Cloud commanded 46.4% of the Chinese market, making it not only the largest in China, but also the rest of Asia Pacific.

In a webcast, Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, identified that the Software-as-a-Service market and wider ecosystem is more mature in the United States compared to countries like China where a developer ecosystem ‘is just starting to get going’.

The data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group achieved a revenue growth of 58% year-over-year to US$1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2020.

Alibaba Cloud recently announced a US$30 million SME cloud adoption program along with US$28 billion worth of data center investments covering 21 regions, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to support digital transformation in a post-pandemic world.

Mr Zhang predicted the pandemic will further accelerate digital transformation of enterprises with industries like public sectors choosing to move to the cloud, despite concluding the fiscal year with a quarter impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tencent also expected to see accelerated cloud services and enterprise software adoption from offline industries and public sectors over the longer term.

Tencent’s US$70 billion investment will also focus on key sectors, including artificial intelligence, 5G networks, blockchain and Internet of Things operating systems.

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Pandemic fuels billion dollar growth for AWS, Microsoft, Google and more global cloud providers in Q1 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled the growth of global cloud providers, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and more in Q1 2020.

More businesses are moving to the cloud to enable remote working and ensure their operations continue. And that’s not all, cloud computing and storage is also needed to empower our leisure time in the age of lockdowns and social distancing through gaming, watching videos and shopping.

More businesses are expected to adopt cloud computing and providers are aiming to increase investment in constructing infrastructure, including data centers, to enable this growth.

In Asia Pacific, the demand for cloud solutions is at a record high for Q1 2020, jumping by 25% to a record US$1.7 billion in annual contract value.

Scott Bertch, Partner and Head of Information Services Group Asia Pacific, said: “We continue to see growth in the IaaS segment as more and more enterprises shift their workloads to the public cloud, or to a hybrid cloud environment.”

As a result, we are seeing significant growth and investments in Q1 2020 from global cloud providers, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Huawei Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud and Tencent Cloud.

AWS makes history crossing US$10 billion revenue mark for the first time

Amazon Web Services continues to maintain its position as the largest cloud provider after it crossed the US$10 billion revenue mark for the first time in Q1 2020.

This represented a year-on-year net sales growth of 33%, which has slowed down from 41% in the same quarter of 2019. But the operating income from AWS grew by 38% from US$2.2 billion in Q1 2019 to more than $3 billion after expenses of US$7.1 billion in the first quarter of 2020. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and CEO, said: “From online shopping to AWS to Prime Video and Fire TV, the current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced.”

The total operating income for Amazon decreased to US$4 billion from US$4.4 billion in Q1 2019. AWS accounts for a huge 77% of their overall operating income.

Mr Bezos warned: “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren’t normal circumstances.”

AWS has helped medical researchers in the fight against COVID-19 with a centralized repository of curated datasets as well as enabling small businesses to use the cloud with an AWS Free Tier.

Mr Bezos added: “We expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”

The cloud provider also announced plans for three more AWS regions in Indonesia, Japan and Spain as well as making AWS Outposts available in Indonesia.

AWS now spans 76 Availability Zones within 24 geographic regions.

Microsoft’s solid quarter sees two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months

Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud revenue increased by 27% to US$12.3 billion in the quarter ending March 31 2020, similar to the previous quarter.

The overall server products and cloud services revenue increased by 30%, but Microsoft Azure’s revenue growth slowed to 59% in FY20 Q3 compared to 62% in FY20 Q2.

Amy Hood, the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft, said: “In this dynamic environment, our sales teams and partners executed a solid third quarter, with Commercial Cloud revenue generating $13.3 billion, up 39% year-over-year.”

As customers shift to working and learning from home during the pandemic, Microsoft has noticed an increase in cloud usage on Teams, Azure and Windows Virtual Desktop.

Satya Nadella, the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, said: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security.”

Microsoft’s cloud services have helped universities like Thammasat University in Thailand continue to teach their students, healthcare providers in creating more than 1,400 bots to assist millions in accessing critical health information and justice systems in the Philippines remain productive.

Google Cloud leads the charge to revenue growth and investment for Alphabet

Google experienced a 13% increase in total revenue, led by the continued strength in their Google Cloud Platform and G Suite offerings.

In Q1 2020, Google Cloud revenues increased by US$952 million to a total of US$2.8 billion. This represented a 52% year-over-year growth. The tech giant’s infrastructure, data and analytics products are said to be the largest drivers of growth for the cloud platform.

With this growth, the most sizeable headcount increases were found in Google Cloud for both technical and sales roles.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, said: “We see businesses thinking deeper about the shift to digital … Cloud and productivity software for businesses of all sizes is a deep area of investment.”

In their Q1 2020 report, Google revealed that US$12.8 billion is not yet recognised as of March 31 2020 due to ‘performance obligations associated with commitments in customer contracts, primarily related to Google Cloud, for future services that have not yet been recognized in revenue’.

Google recognises that ‘pricing and delivery models are competitive and evolving’, which could lead Google to not attain ‘sufficient scale and profitability to achieve our business objectives’.

Google is devoting significant resources to develop and deploy their enterprise-ready cloud services by incurring costs to build and maintain infrastructure that supports cloud computing services. 

The cost of revenues in Q1 2020 increased by $2,970 million compared to Q1 2019. This was largely due to a rise in data center and other operation costs. But the tech giant may reevaluate the pace of their investment plans for data centers, servers and network equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and slowing or stoppage of construction.

> Check out the Q1 2020 data center landscape

Mr Pichai acknowledged customers of Google and closing some larger deals have been impacted by the pandemic, but is excited about the longer-term trend, as CEO-level staff are now thinking about shifting to digital in a deeper way.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google, said: “With respect to the implications of the global crisis for Google Cloud, we’re proud of the accelerated traction we achieved across sectors.”

Google Cloud has helped governments deliver critical health and social services as well as retailers on demand forecasting, media and communications to enhance customer service and more.

Huawei Cloud boasts faster market share growth among all service providers

Huawei boasted the fastest growth among all cloud service providers, maintaining stable service growth to empower its rapid development.

Overall, Huawei generated approximately US$25.7 billion in Q1 2020, representing a year-over-year increase of 1.4% compared to a 39% increase in Q1 2019. Their net profit margin in the first quarter of 2020 was 7.3%, down slightly from 8% in the year before.

Huawei did not publicly release a detailed breakdown of this revenue, but this growth is said to be in line with expectations.

To date, Huawei Cloud has launched over 210 cloud services, operates in 45 availability zones with partners in 23 regions, including recent launches in Singapore and Latin America.

In a press release, Huawei stated: “A seed that survives the storm will sprout and then blossom. Even though it is impossible to know when the tides of this pandemic will turn, we at Huawei believe that this challenge will be overcome by standing together.”

Huawei’s cloud and data center arm continues to make advancements with a data center interconnect solution to help Singapore’s enterprise market cope with huge increases in data flows, especially during the pandemic, as well as innovative power solutions to ensure always-on reliability and efficiency.

Much like other cloud providers, Huawei Cloud has helped healthcare providers using AI, schools and colleges with distance learning and enterprises with free services.

Looking ahead, Huawei Cloud will enhance its AI cloud services, Kunpeng processors and 5G capabilities to increase its market share and help businesses achieve digital transformation.

Alibaba remains the cloud computing leader in Asia Pacific

Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, maintained its leading position in the Asia Pacific cloud computing market for Q1 2020. The cloud provider revealed their revenue grew by 58% year-over-year to US$1.7 billion in the quarter ending March 31 2020 compared to US$1.15 billion in 2019.

Maggie Wu, Chief Financial Officer of Alibaba Group, said in a webcast: “Revenue growth of 35% year-over-year was driven by solid performance of our domestic retail businesses as well as robust cloud computing revenue growth.”

Alibaba Cloud’s revenue also increased by 62% year-over-year in the 2020 fiscal year to US$5.6 billion, driven by their public and hybrid cloud businesses. But Alibaba Group’s net income dropped by 99% year-over-year to US$49 million.

“Our overall business continued to experience strong growth, with a total annual active consumer base of 960 million globally, despite concluding the fiscal year with a quarter impacted by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group.

During the pandemic, Alibaba Cloud’s business grew rapidly due to an increase in consumption of video content and wide adoption of remote working and learning.

Mr Zhang expects the pandemic will further accelerate digital transformation of enterprises with industries like public sectors choosing to move to the cloud.

Alibaba Cloud recently announced a US$30 million SME cloud adoption program along with US$28 billion worth of data center investments covering 21 regions, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to support digital transformation in a post-pandemic world.

Mr Zhang identified that the Software-as-a-Service market and wider ecosystem is more mature in the United States compared to countries like China where a developer ecosystem ‘is just starting to get going’.

To enhance cloud computing skills and ensure a cloud-ready future, the tech giant offers the Alibaba Cloud Academic Empowerment Program. Xiamen University Malaysia is one such organisation to partner with Alibaba Cloud for this program.

IBM sees continued cloud revenue growth to US$5.4 billion

IBM, the American-based multinational technology company, celebrated a total cloud revenue of US$5.4 billion in Q1 2020, which is up 19% year-over-year, but down from US$6.8 billion in Q4 2019.

IBM Chief Executive Officer, Arvind Krishna, said: “Our first-quarter performance in cloud is a reflection of the trust clients place in IBM’s technology and expertise today, and positions us to continue building an enduring hybrid cloud platform for the future.” 

IBM’s Cloud and Cognitive Software brought in revenue of US$5.2 billion with a 32% growth in Cloud and Data Platforms led by Red Hat for their cloud architecture.

IBM has a strong focus on deepening their understanding of clients’ journey to hybrid cloud and AI to create hybrid cloud as their fourth platform.

Mr Krishna said: “This is why services that clients rely on, to build and manage the hybrid cloud platform, is a massive opportunity for IBM. It’s nearly half of the $1.2 trillion hybrid cloud opportunity.”

IBM’s Global Technology Services, which includes Infrastructure and Cloud Services, pulled in US$6.5 billion, down 6% in Q1 2020.

Mr Krishna added: “I believe we are going through a shift to remote work, automation and application modernisation that will accelerate our clients’ shift to hybrid cloud. This gives me immense confidence in our future.”

IBM has worked with banks, health insurance companies and doctors deal with the pandemic and digitally transform using cloud and AI.

James Kavanaugh, the Chief Financial Officer of IBM, said: “While we expect near-term pressure on transactions, we continue to invest in new development and innovation for our hybrid cloud and AI strategy.”

Over the last 12 months, IBM Cloud has brought in US$22 billion in revenue, as IBM looks to take over the hybrid cloud market.

Tencent experiences cloud revenue growth, but slower than the previous quarter

Tencent, a leading provider of Internet value added services in China, saw a total revenue increase of 26% to US$15.2 billion in the first quarter of 2020 compared to Q1 2019. 

Their revenue from FinTech and Business Services, largely driven by WeChat Pay and their cloud services, increased by 22%. This is down from a 39% growth in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Mr. Ma Huateng, the Chairman and CEO of Tencent, said: “So far, our businesses have proved resilient and cashflow-generative, enabling us to increase our investment to fulfill our mission of ‘Tech for Good’.”

Tencent Cloud’s project deployment and new accounts acquisition for cloud business, which caused the decline in revenue. Tencent expects the cloud industry to remain challenging in the short term, but they will continue to increase investment to encourage digital transformation and greater adoption from offline industries and public sectors.

The cloud provider also recently became China’s first company with more than one million servers and have expanded into 26 geographic areas with 53 availability zones.

Mr. Ma Huateng added: “We are allocating time and resources, including over RMB2 billion of donations, to contribute to COVID-19 relief initiatives in China and globally.”

Tencent continues to expand its market share by growing the business across verticals, including tourism, Internet services and cloud gaming.

Tencent’s online gaming revenue grew by 31% year-on-year to US$5.2 billion, and this may increase even more with Tencent’s move into cloud gaming.

The Chinese tech giant also announced on Tuesday 26 May that it will invest US$70 billion over the next five years in new infrastructure, including blockchain, big data centers, supercomputer centers and internet of things operating systems.

Will global cloud providers maintain this growth in Q2 2020? Or will a more conservative approach towards investment and tech spending by customers take over? Watch this space for a round up of next quarter’s results.

Alibaba Cloud and Xiamen University Malaysia look to enhance cloud skills

Students and staff of Xiamen University Malaysia will have their cloud computing skills enhanced after signing a partnership with Alibaba Cloud.

The data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group announced on May 20 that the University’s cloud computing curriculum will be delivered through the Alibaba Cloud Academic Empowerment Program.

Jordy Cao, the General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Malaysia, said: “As more businesses embark on digital transformation, the demand for IT and cloud professionals is expected to rise exponentially.”

The memorandum of understanding signed by both parties aims to empower more students to stay ahead so they can boost their career prospects in the digital economy. Students will be able to receive a certification from Alibaba Cloud after the completion of the education program.

The President of Xiamen University Malaysia, Professor Wang Ruifang, said: “We aim to nurture high-quality IT talent capable of contributing to the digital transformation of Malaysia, China and the broader region.”

The University currently has 11 ICT labs with industry-leading software and 1,011 are enrolled in three ICT-related bachelor’s degree programs, including Computer Science and Technology, Software Engineering, and Digital Media Technology.

The university will soon kick start a Bachelor of Engineering in Artificial Intelligence and a new Data Science program.

A dozen universities have also joined Alibaba Cloud Academy’s virtual learning community on DingTalk to benefit from certified online training.

The cloud provider launched a US$30 million Anti-COVID-19 SME Enablement Program to accelerate cloud adoption and provide much-needed relief during the pandemic. Alibaba Cloud also opened their first local data center in Malaysia in 2017 and is the largest public cloud service provider in Asia Pacific.