Alibaba expands cloud biz to UK with new data centres

The Chinese firm has been in talks with BT Group about a cloud services partnership to challenge Amazon


LONDON • The cloud-computing arm of Chinese retail giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd opened its first data centres in the UK, with two sites operational in London.

The expansion is “driven by the rapidly growing customer demand”, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg. “The UK is one of the fastest-growing European markets for Alibaba Cloud.”

Cloud-computing companies have been opening data centres across Europe — including in the UK — despite the looming uncertainty of Britain’s future relationship with the European Union (EU).

The drive is fuelled in part by government demands: National authorities have increasingly moved computing functions into the cloud, but for regulatory and security purposes, they’re of ten required to hold data within their national borders.

Started in 2009, Alibaba Cloud has expanded beyond China in a direct challenge to Amazon Web Services, the e-commerce giant’s division that dominates cloud computing.

Alibaba Cloud is now the fourth-biggest global provider of cloud infrastructure and related services, behind Amazon. com Inc, Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google, according to a June report by Synergy Research Group.

The Hangzhou, China-based company put its first European data centre in Frankfurt, in partnership with Vodafone Group plc in 2016, allowing the mobile carrier to resell Alibaba Cloud services such as data storage and analytics.

Bloomberg reported in July that the Chinese company had been in talks with BT Group plc about a cloud services partnership in a move to challenge Amazon’s presence in Europe.

A spokesman for Alibaba Cloud declined to comment on its partner for the UK launch.

“In line with our Germany data centre strategy, we always look for the best-in-market partner for key deployments and this is no different,” he said.

The continent has become key to Alibaba Cloud’s success outside China, with prospects in the US made murky by US President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. Alibaba pulled back in the US just as tensions with China have escalated under Trump.

Separately, One of Russia’s richest men, Alisher Usmanov, has transferred control of his majority voting stake in social-networks operator Mail. ru Group in a move that could insulate the company if the billionaire is added to the US sanctions list.

Usmanov’s holding company USM and the Kremlinfriendly businessman’s wireless carrier MegaFon PJSC authorised management led by CEO Boris Dobrodeev to exercise voting rights on a 59% voting stake in the Russian Internet company.