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Aliyun cloud expansion targets 2,000-plus partners

Aliyun, Alibaba's cloud services unit, plans to expand its partner base as it grows in international markets, including the U.S.

Aliyun, the cloud computing business unit of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., aims to ramp up its partnering effort as it builds its global presence -- including its operations in the U.S.

Earlier this week, Aliyun unveiled 64 cloud offerings and said partners will bolster that portfolio with additional products and services. The company cited a current partner base of more than 200 companies for its Aliyun cloud services and said it expects to expand that number to more than 2,000 partners over the next few years.

Aliyun in March opened a data center in Silicon Valley, California -- its first overseas facility. A second U.S. data center will launch within several months, according to an article in China Daily quoting Li Jin, senior product director at Aliyun.

In another move this week, Aliyun published a data protection pact for its cloud service users.  

Partnering moves

Aliyun's partnering initiative aims to localize the company's services for its international customers.

"We cooperate with various partners in different regions to provide localized cloud services to meet our customer needs," an Alibaba spokeswoman said.

In the U.S., Aliyun partners with Equinix Inc., a data center services provider, and Intel. But the spokeswoman noted that the company isn't focusing solely on the U.S. market. Other partners are based in Singapore and Dubai, for example.

Aliyun seeks to engage with a variety of partner types, as is expands its alliance roster.

The spokeswoman said partners can range from cloud brokers that localize Aliyun cloud products for regional users to government agencies pursuing smart-city plans. Independent software vendors, cloud consulting firms and hardware manufacturers also fall within Aliyun's partnering scope, she added.

"We choose to collaborate with multiple partners to reduce infrastructure cost, improve user experience and create synergies for new momentum. Thus, we can pass long the savings and benefits to our customers and empower them to focus on their business development," the spokeswoman said.

In Equinix's agreement with Aliyun, for example, the company provides access to Aliyun's cloud services via Equinix's data centers in Silicon Valley and Hong Kong. Equinix, which announced its Aliyun partnership in June, plans to expand access through additional data centers in North America and Asia. Intel, meanwhile, will work with Aliyun to promote technology offerings based on Intel Architecture and designed for the international public cloud market, according to an Aliyun statement.

Rather than trying to simply recruit as many channel partners as possible, Aliyun should identify the key channel companies in its specific target markets.
Jeff Kaplanmanaging director, THINKstrategies

In June, Aliyun launched its Marketplace Alliance Program to house its partnering arrangements with Equinix, Intel and other allies.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director at THINKstrategies Inc., a cloud consulting firm based in Wellesley, Mass., added that Aliyun should maintain a sharp focus with its partner recruitment effort.

"Rather than trying to simply recruit as many channel partners as possible, Aliyun should identify the key channel companies in its specific target markets and establish more strategic relationships with these companies, which accentuate their mutual capabilities and create a meaningful value-add," he said.

Competing for partners

Aliyun's cloud computing push puts it on a collision course with Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft in the U.S. market. Aliyun will also have to compete for partners as it builds its channel.

Kaplan said Aliyun's success in that regard will depend on its ability to stand out in the cloud crowd.

"They need to clearly identify how [they] are differentiated from the other major players and the specific customer needs they can fill, either within particular vertical markets or for specific customer use cases," he said.

Aliyun's Data Protection Pact, which outlines its approach to consumer and business data privacy, could help it rise above some of its cloud rivals.

Ali Din, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at dinCloud Inc., called the Data Protection Pact "a great initiative." The Los Angeles-based company is a cloud services provider. 

"It really should be table stakes for any cloud service provider," Din said. "Security and protection of customer data falls on the shoulders of the cloud service provider."

Din noted that dinCloud believes customers have a right to transparency with respect to pricing, where their data is located and how their data is treated.

Rolling out: Aliyun cloud services

As Aliyun grows its partner roster, the company's international effort is a work in progress. Not all of its newly announced cloud services are available for its U.S. data center, the Aliyun spokeswoman said.

Aliyun's Silicon Valley data center provides key cloud computing services, such as the company's Elastic Compute Service, Relational Database Service and Open Storage Service, according to the spokeswoman. Aliyun will add more cloud products as it gains more international cloud consumers, she said.

Next Steps

Read about Aliyun's cloud storage engine.

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