Amazon Takes Its Cloud To China


Amazon Web Services will be hosted in local data centres run by Chinese partners

Amazon will launch a preview of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform in China early next year.

In order to navigate the country’s complex legal and regulatory landscape, the company has signed up local partners including ChinaNetCenter and SINNET – two of the leading Chinese data centre operators. These partners will take care of the infrastructure and networks, while Amazon will simply supply the products.

The new China Region will become the company’s tenth international hub, with low latency services and front offices located in Beijing, and the bulk of the infrastructure in Zhongwei, Ningxia – about 1,200 kilometres to the west.

AWS China 2

Chasing Alibaba

The expansion could be seen as an attempt to challenge Alibaba Group – China’s largest e-commerce company that, following in the footsteps of Amazon, launched its cloud computing service in 2009.

During the preview, AWS products will be deployed by a select number of Chinese and multinational businesses. Registration is open from today on the new, localised website.

Amazon says AWS can save businesses time and money, and liberate them from responsibility for their own IT infrastructure. Until now, thousands of Chinese companies that wanted to use Amazon’s cloud products were forced to buy them in the US, Europe or one of the three existing hubs in Asia and the Pacific.

Now, the company has finally decided to establish a base in the most populous country in the world. On Tuesday, Amazon signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Beijing municipal government, Ningxia Autonomous Region government and the ‘Cloud Valley’ – a collection of 27 companies that have emerged as the key promoters of cloud computing in China.

Amazon plans to woo Chinese customers with a range of 19 products, from the Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to the Big Data platform Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) and Glacier long-term storage solution.

All sales, marketing and application development will take place in Beijing, and rely on the capital’s talent pool. Parts of the critical infrastructure with a focus on performance will also be housed there.

Meanwhile, the main muscle behind the operation will be located in Zhongwei, in a remote region of Ningxia, which has cheap access to the resources required to operate large server farms. The farms themselves will not be run by Amazon, but one of its local partners.

At the signing event, China Telecom, China Unicom and other involved parties announced they are in the process of upgrading Zhongwei to a backbone network node, in order to ensure sufficient bandwidth.

“China represents an important long-term market segment for AWS,” explained Andy Jassy, senior vice president of Amazon’s cloud computing business. “We are looking forward to working with Chinese customers, partners, and government institutions to help small and large organisations use cloud computing to innovate and deploy faster, save money, expand their geographic reach, and do so without sacrificing security, availability, data durability, and reliability.”

Amazon is also planning to launch a number of start-up incubators in partnership with Shanghai Jiading Industrial Zone.

“This will help fully utilise datacenter and infrastructure resources in Beijing and Ningxia, and provide highly reliable and secure cloud services to millions of Chinese customers,” commented Yuan Jiajun, executive vice chairman of the government of Ningxia Autonomous Region. “The local presence of AWS will help to accelerate the pace-of-innovation of Chinese businesses and further bolster China’s economy.”

The Chinese market is notoriously difficult to navigate for US and European companies, with increasing numbers of tech businesses choosing to rely on local expertise. A week ago, Google announced it was canceling a project to build a Hong Kong data centre, seemingly in response to repressive moves by the Chinese government.

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