Alibaba Cloud today extended its blockchain service to international markets. The service initially launched in October 2017, but until now was only available to its cloud users in China. Now it will be offered in Alibaba Cloud’s growing Southeast Asian, U.S., and European markets.
Alibaba Cloud’s service is based on two blockchain technologies — the Hyperledger Fabric and Ant Blockchain — and it provides an environment in which customers can build and implement applications for blockchain.
The Hyperledger Fabric is one of five Linux Foundation projects focused on open source blockchain technology. The fabric serves as a foundation for developing distributed blockchain ledger applications within a modular architecture. It includes 10 business blockchain and distributed ledger technologies.
Ant Blockchain was developed by AliCloud parent company Alibaba Group’s financial affiliate Ant Financial Services group. It is a proprietary blockchain platform that is backed by a secure consortium blockchain network.
The AliCloud blockchain service supports a wide range of use cases. These include automatic deployment, consortium blockchain management, smart contracts, user and certificate management, software development kit (SDK) applications, and a variety of monitoring, operating, and maintenance functions. It also supports both Java SDK and Node.js SDK and has built-in security capabilities.
Alibaba Group has been investing in blockchain technology for some time. According to reports, in 2017 it held 10 percent of all global blockchain patents, followed closely by IBM.
A number of AliCloud’s other cloud provider rivals have also dipped their toes into blockchain. IBM completed a number of trials for its financial services blockchain platform, and it launched a beta of its enterprise blockchain service last year. Oracle Cloud debuted its blockchain cloud service earlier this year; Microsoft has been working on its Blockchain-as-a-Service since November 2015; Google is building a distributed ledger blockchain software; and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also working on blockchain, though exactly how remains a mystery.
Alibaba Cloud’s Growing Global Presence
This is just the most recent in a number of global product launches and expansions for AliCloud. Earlier this week it opened two availability zones in the U.K. This includes a new data center location in London, which will provide 24/7 onsite support for both security and engineering. It also will offer a number of AliCloud products including its elastic computing, storage, database, network, big data, and application services.
Previously, Alibaba only had two data center regions in Europe: Frankfurt and Dubai.
Alibaba has had a stronghold on the Chinese market for some time, but has recently been closing the gap on its competitors — namely AWS, Google, Microsoft, and IBM — in the greater Asia-Pacific region. In early October, research firm GlobalData called AliCloud a force to be reckoned with in the region.
“It has a strong presence and mindshare in China where it has almost 50 percent of the IaaS [infrastructure-as-a-service] market share,” GlobalData analyst Siow Meng Soh told SDxCentral at that time. This is a big competitive advantage as other cloud providers have had a tougher time penetrating the market in China due to political and regulatory reasons.