Alibaba Cloud extends global push with Middle Eastern, European data centers

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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s cloud computing arm Alibaba Cloud has underlined its ambitions with the announcement that it’s planning to open no less than four new data centers by the end of the year, in a move it calls a “major milestone” in its global expansion.

Alibaba Cloud said on Monday it’s planning to open new facilities in the Middle East, Europe, Australia and Japan, meaning it will have 14 data centers up and running across the world when 2016 closes.

The rollout began on Monday with the launch of Alibaba Cloud’s new data center in Dubai. The launch of that facility makes Alibaba Cloud the first major global public cloud services provider to offer cloud services from a location in the Middle East, the company said. And that’s important too, because the largely overlooked Middle Eastern and North African public cloud services market is set to grow by 18 percent in 2016 to $879.3 million, from a year ago.

“Alibaba Cloud has contributed significantly to China’s technology advancement, establishing critical commerce infrastructure to enable cross-border businesses, online marketplaces, payments, logistics, cloud computing and big data to work together seamlessly,” Simon Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, said in a statement. “We want to establish cloud computing as the digital foundation for the new global economy using the opportunities of cloud computing to empower businesses of all sizes across all markets.”

Alibaba Cloud will offer a variety of popular cloud services from its new data centers, including data storage, analytics and cloud security.

The company has rapidly emerged as a serious rival to better known public cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Bluemix. Forrester Research Inc. acknowledged as much in its most recent “Forrester Wave: Digital Agencies In China — Strategy And Execution, Q4 2016” report, when it named Alibaba Cloud as one of the top three providers in the middle kingdom alongside AWS and Azure, which means the company has already surpassed Google, IBM and others in its home nation.

Alibaba’s presence outside of China isn’t quite as significant, but it definitely is growing. It has already opened up two data centers in the U.S. In its most recent earnings report, it reported that its revenues jumped by 130 percent to $224 million, with 651,000 paying customers on its books.

In its press release, Alibaba said its first European data center is slated to open in Frankfurt in partnership with Vodafone Germany. In addition, the cloud company will open another facility in Sydney, Australia, by the end of the year, along with a dedicated team based in the country to help build partnerships with local tech firms.

The last of its planned new data centers will open in Japan, hosted by SB Cloud Corp., a joint venture between Softbank and Alibaba Group. That facility will provide Japanese enterprises with competitive and enhanced public cloud computing services from Alibaba Cloud, the company said.

“The four new data centers will further expand Alibaba Cloud’s global ecosystem and footprint, allowing us to meet the increasing demand for secure and scalable cloud computing services from businesses and industries worldwide,” Alibaba Group Vice president Sicheng Yu, general manager of Alibaba Cloud Global, said in a statement.

Image of Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma courtesy of Alibaba