Alibaba Cloud vs. Amazon Web Services, which is the cheapest?

Recently established in Europe, the cloud subsidiary of China’s e-commerce giant intends to compete with AWS. But is it competitive?

When it comes to pricing and public cloud, it’s common to compare the three cloud giants Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. A fourth actor intends to disturb this tiercé de tête. As in other fields and especially telecoms, it is a Chinese actor. In this case Alibaba Cloud. With its cloud division created in 2009, the e-commerce giant is trying to replicate the success of its US competitors. With some success. According to IDC , Alibaba Cloud ranked in 2017 third in the public IaaS market behind Amazon and Microsoft, and ahead of Google and IBM, with more than $ 1 billion in revenueand 4.6% market share. Alibaba Cloud still carries out most of its activity in its homeland, but it began an international expansion in 2015. The provider is present in the United States, Australia, Japan, India, South East Asia and other countries. United Arab Emirates. The European conquest is more recent with the opening of a data center in Germany (in Frankfurt) in November 2016. Last October, Alibaba Cloud opened two new Availability Zones in the UK. 

In terms of costs, Alibaba Cloud is more competitive than AWS. The  price benchmark between cloud offers is still a puzzle, as suppliers mix different services and price models with the aim of making any comparison difficult or impossible. The best standard for this exercise is the computing power provided by virtual machines. Alibaba’s Elastic Compute Service (ECS) is the well-known Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) at AWS.

While AWS offers some 80  instances divided into five categories (common use, optimized calculation, optimized memory, accelerated calculation, optimized storage), Alibaba Cloud has about thirty. Which makes the comparison tricky. As part of this comparison, we opted for the Linux instances of both providers responding to a basic or current usage.

Amazon more affordable over time

The rates obtained in the table above correspond to the Frankfurt area for Alibaba Cloud and the Paris area for AWS. Both providers offer a monthly rate or on demand on the principle of pay as you go. For its reserved instances, AWS offers in parallel a decreasing rate depending on the duration of the commitment with discounts of between 29% and more than 60%. For its part, Alibaba Cloud markets prepaid monthly subscriptions.

These offers are difficult to compare, it is more advisable to retain the price on demand. The costs posted on this site are slightly lower for AWS. In the comparison made last June by ParkMyCloud, however, Alibaba is more competitive in other areas, especially in Asia. It also benefits from the difficulty of access of Western clouds to the Chinese market. In China, AWS had to divest infrastructure assets to its local partners, Sinnet, and Ningxia, in order to comply with the regulations.

ParkMyCloud notes, in general, that Alibaba is cheaper than AWS for a one-month subscription. In contrast, AWS has more affordable rates for longer instances and reserved instances . Alibaba can also, according to the cloud comparator, book nasty surprises. In particular, he advises to activate the “No charge for stopped instances” function to avoid being billed for unproductive instances.

Alibaba Cloud: future credible alternative?

In its latest study on laaS  published last May, Gartner is optimistic about the international reach of Alibaba Cloud. “Alibaba has the financial means to continue its global expansion […] and continues to invest strongly in R & D. It has the potential to become an alternative to global clouds in some regions”. Its main lever: “transfer success in China to foreign markets”.

For the consulting firm, Alibaba Cloud has a wide range of IaaS and PaaS offerings, comparable to the service portfolios of other suppliers. Among the hurdles, Gartner questions Alibaba Cloud’s ability to target traditional businesses that have not yet moved into the public cloud, as its hybrid cloud solution, Apsara Stack, is not priori – not yet available internationally. Its portal can also seem confusing, the user is not always clear what capabilities are available in each region.

Moreover, by wanting to replicate the strategy and the offer of its Western competitors, Alibaba Cloud would bring little differentiating elements. In their wake, he has expanded his IaaS in recent months by launching services in big data and artificial intelligence . Finally, international customers may perceive security and regulatory compliance issues through the use of a Chinese provider, even though Alibaba Cloud has been subject to audits by third-party firms.