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Reuters/Robert Galbraith
The cloud keeps growing.
THUNDER AHEAD

Alibaba is going head-to-head with Amazon in the cloud

By Richard Macauley

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s cloud-computing business, Aliyun, has opened a data center in Silicon Valley. That’s its first such expansion overseas, and pits Alibaba directly against Amazon Web Services, as well as offerings from Google and Microsoft.

Aliyun’s data center will support businesses that need extra storage space or processing power, an industry predicted to be worth more than $100 billion by 2017. The company’s blog says it will offer four key services in the US; a “virtual server,” a load-balancing service, data processing capability, and storage.

The company is treading carefully in the US. Yu Sicheng, Aliyun’s vice-president, said it will start by offering its services to Chinese companies operating in the US. ”We know well what Chinese clients need, and now it’s time for us to learn what US clients need,” he said.

Still, it doesn’t look like the company expects the learning process to take long—Aliyun predicts it will be offering its services to international clients in the second half of this year, including customers from Europe and southeast Asia.

And although few in the US are likely to recognize the name Aliyun, it has demonstrated that it can withstand some of the biggest surges on the internet such as Single’s Day, China’s biggest online shopping day of the year, which deluged Alibaba with up to 80,000 orders per second, without any crashes.

In order to ease the concerns of any company that might fear snooping by the Chinese government, Aliyun said it will keep US data exclusively on its US-based servers.