日期: 2017-03-03 来源: 本站 阅读:

Alibaba provoked an Amazon-style ripple of interest from investors when it reported its quarterly numbers: revenues at AliCloud, its eight-year-old cloud services business, rose 115 per cent year on year to $254m.


The amount may be tiny, at just 3 per cent of the Chinese ecommerce group’s $7.7bn quarterly revenues, but for analysts, the parallel was clear. Amazon Web Services, launched in 2006, went from zero to three-quarters of the US ecommerce group’s operating profit over the next decade. AWS, with $11bn of sales last year, is the world’s biggest cloud business.

上述数字也许微不足道,在这家中国电商集团合计77亿美元的季度营收中只占了3%,然而在分析师们看来,阿里巴巴与亚马逊之间有着明显的相似之处。美国电商亚马逊在2006年推出的云服务Amazon Web Services (AWS),十年之间从零发展到占集团营业利润的四分之三。AWS已是全球最大的云服务提供商,去年销售额达到110亿美元。

Underlining the role of, and money in, cloud services in the US is Snap. The owner of messaging app Snapchat will spend $2bn with Google Cloud over the next five years and is reliant on the search giant’s infrastructure for “the vast majority of [its] computing, storage, bandwidth and other services”, according to its IPO filing.

Snap的例子凸显了云服务在美国的地位及吸金能力。这家旗下拥有消息应用Snapchat的公司在首次公开发行(IPO)文件中披露,未来5年将花费20亿美元购买谷歌云(Google Cloud)的服务,依靠这家搜索引擎巨头的基础设施来获得“绝大部分的计算、存储、带宽及其他服务”。


China is trailing, but growing rapidly: total spending on public cloud services is forecast to rise from $11.2bn in 2016 to $14.2bn this year, according to Gartner, the research firm — a tenth of the $141bn expected to be spent in the US in 2017.


Services, too, have evolved, from data storage into what Alibaba chief scientist Jingren Zhou dubs a “highly centralised information management system”, handling everything from staff payroll to security.


“The potential for Alibaba on cloud is the same as AWS,” says Elinor Leung, who heads up Asia internet research at CLSA. “It’s about scale and technology. The bigger you are, the less costs you pass on to the customer. You basically kill all the little guys.”

里昂证券(CLSA)主管亚洲互联网研究的梁向奕(Elinor Leung)表示:“阿里巴巴在云领域的潜力与AWS一样大。核心是规模和技术。规模越大,转嫁给客户的成本就越少,基本上就能消灭一切小角色。”

Killing the small fry can be expensive, as Alibaba, and AWS before it, knows. According to Ms Leung, AWS has cut the prices it charges a total of 52 times since its launch, and its rates are now half those charged by smaller competitors, leaving it and Microsoft dominant in the field of IT storage and services.


Likewise, Alibaba halved its core product prices in October. In the latest quarter, it lost $5 for every $100 of revenues generated. And exponential growth does not last for ever — Amazon’s AWS sales growth decelerated, to 47 per cent in its latest quarter.


That does little to damp bullish spirits. “Cloud is a huge deal,” says Marin Ivezic, partner at PwC in Hong Kong, pointing to the interdependency between “big data” and cloud computing.

这丝毫无损乐观情绪。普华永道(PwC)驻香港合伙人马林?伊韦齐奇(Marin Ivezic)表示:“云是大生意。”他指出,“大数据”和云计算之间是相互依存的关系。

As more data are generated outside the office or home — from sensors, for example, or the internet of things — so the demand for cloud hosting will grow, he adds. “The value is in the ability to analyse data generated by devices.”


However, the earlier incarnations of the cloud as one big global repository are morphing into more localised centres, partly to meet regulatory requirements and partly because of different demands.


Ethan Sicheng Yu, general manager of Alibaba Cloud’s overseas business, explains: “Our goal is maybe in a few years to establish noticeable market share and to learn local market requirements, because we firmly believe globalisation does not mean you standardise your products everywhere.”


Robert Xu, chairman at Kingdee in Shenzhen, an early adopter of cloud technology and now provider of cloud-based services to hundreds of millions of small and medium sized enterprises, concurs.

深圳的金蝶(Kingdee)是最早应用云技术的公司之一,目前为数百万的中小企业提供各种基于云的服务。该公司的董事长徐少春(Robert Xu)也抱着同样的看法。

“Big data used to be idle in the old era,” he says. “But since we moved to cloud services in the past two years, we have been able to use it in better ways and provide more value to customers.” Those ways include better targeted marketing and using financial data to help secure loans, a perennial headache for SMEs in China.


SMEs provide fertile ground for providers of cloud services in other ways. Mr Xu refers to a “megatrend” driven by both the natural IT renewal cycle (which this time will see businesses move from local servers to the cloud) and China’s changing economy.


“The economy is transforming rapidly in China and companies need to maintain their advantage in better management and better efficiency,” he says. “This is a natural way for them to better survive in the new economy.”


Like the international cloud titans, Kingdee is also looking to bring artificial intelligence to bear in the sphere of big data analytics and other SME services, including alerting them when budget ceilings are about to be hit.


But SMEs are not the only customers. China also boasts a digital generation which has never used a PC or downloaded files to a USB or hard drive, says Chris Ip, a senior partner at McKinsey’s Asia-Pacific digital practice.

不过,中小企业并不是唯一的客户。麦肯锡(McKinsey)亚太区数字化业务资深合伙人叶远扬(Chris Ip)表示,中国拥有数字化的一代,这代人从未用过个人电脑或将文件下载至U盘或硬盘。

“Consumers are leading digital lifestyles. Everyone has a collection of photos, social media history and hoard of electronic files on record. Bank statements and emails, they need to be stored as well.”


Using consumer data generated in China also has the advantage of being cleaner — there is less multiple phone ownership — than is the case in other countries, says Mr Ip, which means marketing and other campaigns are better targeted. Mobile phones have to be registered, and about 99 per cent of Sim cards are linked to national IDs.


“Digital companies are desperate to attract consumers, but also to engage them,” he says. “If you provide that, in a way that is subsidised or free, that’s a killer app that encourages people to come back to your platform rather than someone else’s platform.”


Hence Alibaba’s rivals Baidu and Tencent — together the trio make up China’s internet trinity collectively known as BAT — all offer cloud services. Other China providers include Huawei and China Telecom.

因此,阿里巴巴的对手百度(Baidu)和腾讯(Tencent)也都在提供云服务——这三家企业组成中国互联网行业的三巨头,合称BAT。除它们以外,其他中国云服务提供商还包括华为(Huawei)和中国电信(China Telecom)。

AWS is present through a joint venture with Beijing Sinnet Technology, which owns and operates the data centres, while Microsoft Azure offers services that are operated by 21Vianet. Tencent, China’s third biggest vendor according to the IDC consultancy, works with partners to operate centres in Asia, the Americas and Europe.

AWS通过与北京光环新网(Beijing Sinnet Technology)的合资公司在中国提供服务,后者拥有并运营数据中心。微软Azure提供由世纪互联(21Vianet)运营的云服务。腾讯则与多个合作伙伴携手,运营设在亚洲、美洲和欧洲的数据中心——根据咨询公司IDC的统计,腾讯是中国第三大云服务供应商。

Chinese players are also developing facilities offshore. The consultancy Bain & Co notes in a report, pointing to some of these facilities — including AliCloud’s US data centres — that these “indicate that they may be looking at the market with globalisation in mind”.

中国云服务供应商也在海外建设基础设施。贝恩咨询公司(Bain & Co)在一份报告中提到了一些例子,包括阿里云在美国的数据中心,并表示这些海外设施“表明它们也许在以全球性眼光看待市场”。

Alibaba, says Ms Leung, wants to join its more established multinational peers as part of the “3A” (Alibaba, AWS, Azure) group. But, for all the drivers, she cautions that the jury is out as to its success. “It wants to be top three. Currently people have doubts about China’s cloud.”


Mr Yu has no such qualms. The race between the 3As, he says, has just started. “I think the market is out there. It’s for us to lose. It’s really technology that will differentiate the final winner and I think we have a long way to go”




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