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.

How to succeed in its cloud-driven digital transformation?

When it comes to migration to the cloud, it is reductive to consider the latter as a simple cost-effective solution for storing and hosting applications. Only companies that are ready to adopt agile and flexible approaches will reap the benefits.

It is clear that companies are still showing a certain reserve vis-à-vis the cloud, being reluctant to give the control of their data to a cloud provider and expressing concerns about the security of said data. These fears, however, are allayed by the fact that the benefits far outweigh the risks, and that they can be controlled and reduced.

Therefore, it is no longer a question of whether companies should migrate to the cloud, but rather how to optimize this migration.

The cloud, a financially relevant solution?

In some cases, using the cloud can be more cost-effective than owning data centers; in others, the cost can be significantly higher. On the other hand, the cost of the cloud migration process is often forgotten. The first few months can be particularly expensive, depending on the method used to implement this migration.

If it’s just moving existing applications from a data center to the cloud without modifying them, it’s likely that using the cloud is more expensive than the original system. Conversely, if applications are leveraging specific cloud features that improve their capabilities and efficiency, such as dynamic resource allocation, then the cloud is the most cost-effective option.

It is also important to consider the services offered by the cloud provider to the needs of the business. While high value-added services can facilitate the migration process, these capabilities have an additional cost that is added to the standard costs of the cloud and data centers and should be taken into account.

Data, still data, always data

While managing security issues is easier in the cloud, it’s important to give it serious consideration, especially in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into effect this year.

Businesses can rely on a number of cloud-based cyber security solutions. Cloud providers are investing heavily in security because it is an essential part of their business. They have state-of-the-art security teams and a wide range of tools, either live or through other vendors, to help their customers integrate security into their own systems.

However, whether an application is hosted on-premises or in the cloud, it is up to each software team responsible for software development to properly deploy its application using these security systems correctly.

All of this is at the very heart of the GDPR and the restrictions that this regulation imposes on businesses to manage their data, whether they use cloud services or do everything internally. The cloud empowers businesses to help them enforce these restrictions and increase their security. But the cloud itself is neither a solution to security needs nor an aggravating factor. On the other hand, it provides a framework for providing secure applications and infrastructure for which full visibility of vulnerabilities, risks, and application performance is imperative.

What does the ideal migration look like?

Every migration presents a lot of challenges. While most companies often have a high level of expectations once the decision is made to migrate to the cloud, the reality is not always so simple. Generally, companies blame the different departments as soon as a problem occurs during the migration. Added to this is a pressure to claim victory before a team is ready.

In most companies that are moving to the cloud, software teams are having trouble keeping their promises to stakeholders. Successful migration to the cloud involves taking action during the planning and migration phases, as well as monitoring after migration. To do this, it is essential to instrument the applications early in the process to be able to quickly identify problems and gain a better understanding of what happens to the application during the different phases of the process. migration.

During the planning phase, it is important to identify the type of indicators that will be measured and to have a clear vision of the reasons for these measures. It is then necessary to monitor these Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during migration to ensure success. You also need to create an inventory of resources and define their dependencies, in order to understand how the components of the application work together and set performance expectations for each one.

This level of visibility along with application-related performance data helps determine which resources fall within the scope of the migration, as well as an order in which to migrate those resources. This will, during the migration, assess whether cloud resources are actually improving the application’s operational capabilities. Through rigorous acceptance testing, it is possible to see that the objectives have been achieved or to reiterate the process until the desired results are achieved.

Accelerate change

The ability to gain confidence and demonstrate results is essential because cloud-based infrastructure is now beyond the control of the enterprise. It is also imperative to understand the impact of cloud technologies on applications and the customer experience before seeking to leverage the more advanced capabilities and services that the cloud offers.

The migration of production applications to the cloud raises many questions, including whether the performance impact is in line with expectations. Serverless dynamic technologies and distributed architectures all offer innovation and scalability capabilities. But it is important to be able to assess whether the impacts on performance, whether positive or negative, are appropriate to the application and will meet the needs of the business.

As we move forward with new technologies, it is also important to determine at which stage of the hype cycle they are, as the use of these technologies is often abusive. Indeed, fully embracing a new service without instrumentation runs the risk of ending up with an application that runs on inferior infrastructure. In addition, using a technology that is not yet mature is risky unless you understand the value of the technology, and you can not see that value without having a clear view of the impact of the technology on the technology. ‘application.

The cloud, a source of opportunities

Overall, migrating to the cloud provides many opportunities for businesses to seize and experience new ideas that take shape through cloud technologies. While industry trends and market-specific challenges may be different from one company to another, the constant for businesses is to keep the customer experience at the center of their decisions and stay flexible and agile in the face of business. evolution of the expectations of their customers. The cloud is opening this path for both respected institutions and new start-ups.