We are all familiar with Microsoft Azure, Google's GCP, or Amazon's AWS platform for running applications in a public cloud. But there are also other, lesser-known platforms like Alibaba Cloud. And while many don't know this platform, it is by far the largest one in the Asia Pacific region and even the third largest cloud provider worldwide. Alibaba Cloud has some interesting features.
In this blog, we explore some aspects of the platform and how it can be used with the Payara Platform.
What Is Alibaba?
Alibaba is a giant Chinese conglomerate, with business interests that include retail, financial services, logistics, media, and digital branding and marketing. The technology backbone underpinning these business units, Alibaba Cloud, is the third-largest cloud provider globally. It provides similar offerings as other Cloud platforms but it has also a few surprises.
Alibaba Cloud offers the classic cloud models like IAAS, PAAS, and SAAS solutions. When you go for just a virtual server, you can opt for the Elastic Compute Service (ECS, the same name Amazon uses) where you can choose from a wide variety of options that is much broader than those offered on other platforms. The options are grouped in different instance families based on their usage scenarios. Each instance family is divided into different instance types based on their CPU and memory specifications.
This IAAS solution can be used to run your application on top of Payara Server or Payara Micro instances and combine it with all the other services and functionalities of the platform like monitoring tools, database, and security options.
You can also subscribe to some PAAS solutions, but you can find a wide variety of SAAS solutions on the platform that are unique in their kind. You have very specialised products available for Big Data and the analysis of the data, e-commerce, finance, and Smart Cities. But you also have many solutions around Artificial Intelligence (grouped under Intelligence Brains) supporting Neural Networks, Video recognition, and many more advanced techniques.
Also, container-based services are available in Alibaba Cloud. There is support for Kubernetes, but also the Red Hat OpenShift platform is available. You also have a private Container Registry available so you can safely store your images.
You can also run serverless tasks using the Function As a Service principle where the infrastructure is launched at the moment you call the task.
The pricing principles of Alibaba Cloud are very similar to other cloud platforms. You can go for a "Pay as you Go" model where you just pay for the actual resources that you use each month. This is a good option in case you need some additional resources occasionally. Don’t forget to activate the “No fees for stopped instances” feature, as otherwise, the meter keeps running and you have an unpleasant surprise at the end of the period.
You can also choose to go for a monthly subscription which is much cheaper when you use the services continuously.
Unique Database Features
One of the unique features is the PolarDB. It is a highly optimised database capable of handling a very high load. It is the same database that powers the Alibaba online web shop. During peak usages, it can handle up to more than 100 million queries per second, as it did last year in a production setting.
Besides the performance, it can also behave like a MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Oracle database. It understands all the specific commands for these databases which means that a migration is very easy to perform. You don't need to adapt your application if it is using specific features of one of those databases but you can just run it on top of the PolarDB instance you have created.
Shared or Dedicated
Just as with other platforms, you can choose if your resource is shared, or if you want a dedicated machine. The dedicated solution is a bit more expensive but the advantage of the shared resource is that it has a very inexpensive price. Alibaba Cloud offers the lowest price for those shared resources when you compare it to similar setups on other platforms.
But another unique feature of Alibaba Cloud is you also have the option of having a dedicated network connection between regions. Alibaba Cloud operates its own inter-regional network, meaning you can control latency and bandwidth between the parts of your application that operate in different regions. Other providers use the public Internet to connect regions, leaving you at the mercy of regional congestion.
There are many features in Alibaba Cloud that make sure your application can operate with the highest security standards. You have an integrated service that proved custom SSL certificates for endpoints, linked to your custom domain names. You have additional services as a Web Application Firewall (WAF) and a DDOS protection service.
Also, data can be stored securely as you can provide your own key for the encryption of your data at rest.
The Alibaba Cloud platform is still mainly focussed on the Asia and Pacific regions where it has many data centers and is the largest platform. But there are also data centers in Europe and North America. And the number and the size of the centers in these two regions increase rapidly. This means that where ever your business or your application is located, you can make use of the Alibaba Cloud.
Alibaba Cloud with Payara Platform is a Good Alternative to Other Public Clouds
Although Alibaba Cloud is the third largest platform in the world, not everyone knows its capabilities. The existence of the performant cloud-based database that can understand the commands specific to the most common databases makes the migration to the platform and the PolarDB database very easy. Alibaba Cloud is a very good alternative to other public clouds when using the Elastic Compute Service infrastructure to provision your Payara Platform instance combined with this database and other useful services around security.