Alibaba opens data centre in London

Alibaba mascot by tube station

Asian cloud computing giant has expanded its European footprint as it targets the financial sector

Alibaba Group has continued its expansion into Europe by opening a London data centre, where it said it will mix Chinese technology with local know-how.

The cloud computing arm of the Chinese tech giant said it highlights the provider's ongoing commitment to the region and its ambitions to focus on retail and financial sectors.

"Our expansion into the United Kingdom, and by extension into Europe, is in direct response to the rapidly increasing demands we have seen for local facilities within the region," said Yeming Wang, general manager of Alibaba Cloud EMEA.

"Using AI-powered and data-driven technology, our latest data centres will offer customers complete access to our wide range of cloud services from machine learning capabilities to predictive data analytics, ensuring that we continue to offer an unparalleled level of service."

So far, that service has been mainly restricted to Asia, where Alibaba Group reigns supreme. But the company is attempting to push its services into areas where Amazon and its cloud computing giant AWS are the dominant force. In 2016 the company made its first venture to Europe with a data centre in Frankfurt, Germany, and now it has a footprint in London.

Part of its strategy involves enabling the local companies and leveraging local knowledge to help both Alibaba Cloud and its European partners get the most from one another.

"For Alibaba cloud, we are very much looking for local partners, because they know the customer and we are the technology enabler, and we try to give them the operational experience," added Wang. "We are developing a lot of partners and, of course, we have our steps how to develop a global partner.

"For Europe, especially this year, we are focusing on several sectors. The first is retail. Specifically, retail is facing a challenge to migrate to the next generation, with more and more smart stores for example. From this smart store, they have to push it to be digitised and give better user experience - targeted advertisement for example. They are changing the traditional way."

This is where Alibaba's main focus is, enabling digital change and migration, but its decision to open cloud zones in the UK is purely financial, as in the UK's prominent financial sector, where digital transformations and FinTech are starting to build momentum.

The London location will offer 24-hour on-site support, as well as a wide range of services such as elastic computing, storage and big data analytics.

Speaking as a customer that uses Alibaba to push their business into China, Sean Harley, chief information officer of global information company Ascential said that working with Alibaba had been key to the companies global success. 

"In an increasingly complex and digitally-driven world, we need a service provider who is equally ambitious and has the geographical, vertical and technical know-how to support us, not only in China but eventually across the world, to help us better serve our global customers," he said.

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