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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Exclusive: Alibaba Cloud seeks more Middle East deals with eye on Expo 2020

The cloud computing arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant opened its first regional data centre in Dubai in 2016

Wanli Min, chief data scientist and vice president of Alibaba Cloud, sees immense potential in Middle East. Alibaba
Wanli Min, chief data scientist and vice president of Alibaba Cloud, sees immense potential in Middle East. Alibaba

Alibaba Cloud aims to expand its services in the Middle East while focusing on forthcoming mega-events, including Dubai Expo 2020.

“Our local team is based in Dubai and it is actively engaging with different industries that are willing to adopt new technology and innovations,” said Wanli Min, chief data scientist and vice president of the cloud computing unit of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group.

The company opened its first regional data centre in Dubai in 2016 which is operated by YVOLV, a joint venture between Alibaba Cloud and Dubai property developer Meraas.

“We are looking forward to expand our operations in the region,” he said.

During the fiscal year ended on March 31, global revenue from Alibaba Cloud increased 101 per cent year-on-year to more than $2.1 billion (Dh7.71bn).

“We are also aiming to be a part of Dubai Expo 2020, one of the biggest events to take place in the region,” said Mr Wanli.

Established in 2009, Alibaba Cloud is ranked third behind Amazon and Microsoft in the infrastructure-as-a-service public cloud services market, according to US researcher Gartner.

“Strategically, this region is very important not only because of the oil but because of the mindsets of local governments,” said Mr Wanli.

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“Local governments are very open to adopt new technologies and innovations. Usually it is very difficult to find this kind of open mindset from the government side.”

Alibaba Cloud had indicated it would open a second data centre in Dubai this year.

However, when asked about its plans, Mr Wanli did not give a definite answer.

There are other new players also emerging in the region.

Amazon Web Services has signed an agreement with the Bahraini government to open at least three data centres by next year.

In March, Microsoft announced plans to open data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its first in the Middle East, as the software maker seeks to capitalise on the region’s growing demand for digitisation.

SAP, Europe’s biggest technology company, announced the opening of a third

data centre in the region in August.

“What we are showcasing at Alibaba Cloud are not just theoretical results from research labs, but actual field tests in cities and industries with our solutions,” said Mr Wanli.

From the Dubai data centre, the company is serving its customers across GCC member countries.

“The UAE is our leading market and we see immense potential in industries such as public sector, manufacturing, energy and oil as they all are very data-intensive.

“Over the years, our number of customers has increased very rapidly in this region,” said Mr Wanli, who declined to share figures.

At the recently concluded annual electronics show Gitex in Dubai, Alibaba Cloud showcased solutions offering urban planners the tools to upgrade their city governance such as improving real-time traffic management, pollution control and smart drainage systems.

“We are also aiming to be a part of Dubai Expo 2020, one of the biggest events to take place in the region,” said Mr Min.