Alibaba Cloud, which is the cloud computing arm of the Alibaba Group, offers compute, storage, network, and database services via its data centers located in 15 countries, spanning 30 locations globally. The expansion of Alibaba Cloud regions, coupled with the growth of the company’s primary products and platforms – such as Alibaba.com, AliExpress, Taobao, Tmall, Lazada, and Youku – necessitates increased data center capacity.

In total, Alibaba Cloud operates 89 data centers worldwide. These data centers support Alibaba’s 30 cloud regions, which are physical locations where data centers are clustered. These regions offer high availability, robust fault tolerance, and a minimal chance of concurrent failure.

Alibaba Cloud serves more than four million global customers. This includes 80% of China’s science and technology innovation enterprises, 60% of China’s national-level specialized “little giant” enterprises, and 55% of companies listed on the Chinese stock exchanges. The company’s Cloud Intelligence Group, which encompasses Alibaba Cloud, reported revenue of $3.95 billion (RMB28,066 million) for the latest quarter, representing a 3% increase year-over-year. Thus, on an annualized basis, Alibaba Cloud’s revenue currently stands at $15.8 billion.

Dgtl Infra examines Alibaba Cloud’s regions, availability zones, and data centers that underpin its fast-expanding cloud computing operations, concentrating on the company’s current infrastructure sites and prospective build locations.

How Many Data Centers Does Alibaba Cloud Have?

Alibaba Cloud operates in 30 regions across the world, encompassing 89 zones. These regions are typically named after the cities where their data centers are located. For example, the data centers for the Japan (Tokyo) region are located in Tokyo.

Aerial of Alibaba Data Centers Located in Zhangbei County Hebei China
Alibaba Cloud Data Center Location in Zhangbei, Hebei province, China.

Alibaba Cloud regions consist of anywhere from 1 to 12 physically distinct data centers, each with its own unique infrastructure for power, cooling, and networking. These data centers are referred to as zones by Alibaba Cloud, whereas other cloud service providers typically call them availability zones. To illustrate, consider a figure where Region 1 contains three zones (Zone A, Zone B, Zone C), and Region 2 also comprises three zones:

Diagram of Alibaba Cloud's Relationship Between Regions and Availability Zones

Within a single region, these zones are linked by a high-bandwidth, low-latency network. As a result, there’s minimal delay (latency) between them. This ensures faster communication for services within the same zone, leading to more efficient business operations.

Alibaba Cloud operates highly efficient data centers worldwide, notable for their excellent power utilization rates. Their strategic global regions provide availability and reliability. Advanced technologies like innovative cooling methods, distributed architecture, sophisticated power distribution systems, and smart monitoring mechanisms improve performance, scalability, and redundancy.

Where Are Alibaba Cloud’s Data Centers Located?

Alibaba Cloud’s regions and zones (also known as availability zones) are physical locations where the company clusters data centers around the world. Below is a summary of Alibaba Cloud’s 30 regions and 89 availability zones throughout China, the United States, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.

China

In China, Alibaba Cloud operates 15 regions and 59 availability zones. Specifically, Alibaba Cloud is available in the following markets: Qingdao, China; Beijing, China; Zhangjiakou, China; Hohhot, China; Ulanqab, China; Hangzhou, China; Shanghai, China; Nanjing, China; Fuzhou, China; Wuhan, China; Shenzhen, China; Heyuan, China; Guangzhou, China; Chengdu, China; and Hong Kong.

Exterior of Alibaba Data Center Facility in Zhangbei County Hebei China
Alibaba Cloud Data Center Location in Zhangbei, Hebei province, China.

Regions

Within these locations, Alibaba Cloud operates data centers in the following regions: China (Qingdao), known as cn-qingdao; China (Beijing), known as cn-beijing; China (Zhangjiakou), known as cn-zhangjiakou; China (Hohhot), known as cn-huhehaote; China (Ulanqab), known as cn-wulanchabu; China (Hangzhou), known as cn-hangzhou; China (Shanghai), known as cn-shanghai; China (Nanjing – Local Region), known as cn-nanjing; China (Fuzhou – Local Region), known as cn-fuzhou; China (Wuhan – Local Region), known as cn-wuhan-lr; China (Shenzhen), known as cn-shenzhen; China (Heyuan), known as cn-heyuan; China (Guangzhou), known as cn-guangzhou; China (Chengdu), known as cn-chengdu; and China (Hong Kong), known as cn-hongkong.

China – Regions and Availability Zones
RegionsCodeZonesLocationCountryOpened
China (Qingdao)cn-qingdao2QingdaoChina2012
China (Beijing)cn-beijing12BeijingChina2013
China (Zhangjiakou)cn-zhangjiakou3ZhangjiakouChina2014
China (Hohhot)cn-huhehaote2HohhotChina2017
China (Ulanqab)cn-wulanchabu3UlanqabChina2020
China (Hangzhou)cn-hangzhou8HangzhouChina2011
China (Shanghai)cn-shanghai11ShanghaiChina2015
China (Nanjing – Local Region)cn-nanjing1NanjingChina2021
China (Fuzhou – Local Region)cn-fuzhou1FuzhouChina2022
China (Wuhan – Local Region)cn-wuhan-lr1WuhanChina2023
China (Shenzhen)cn-shenzhen6ShenzhenChina2014
China (Heyuan)cn-heyuan2HeyuanChina2020
China (Guangzhou)cn-guangzhou2GuangzhouChina2020
China (Chengdu)cn-chengdu2ChengduChina2020
China (Hong Kong)cn-hongkong3Hong KongChina2014
Total59

The cloud computing industry in China remains in the early stages of development. Last year, the revenue from China’s public cloud services market – which encompasses IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS – constituted a mere 0.2% of the country’s GDP. This figure is significantly lower compared to that of the U.S.

United States

In the United States, Alibaba Cloud operates 2 regions and 4 availability zones. Particularly, Alibaba operates facilities in the following markets: Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.

Inside of Alibaba Cloud Data Center Location Regions and Zones

Regions

Within these markets, Alibaba Cloud operates data centers in the following regions: US (Virginia), known as us-east-1, and US (Silicon Valley), known as us-west-1.

United States – Regions and Availability Zones
RegionsCodeZonesLocationStateOpened
US (Virginia)us-east-12WashingtonD.C.2015
US (Silicon Valley)us-west-12San FranciscoCalifornia2014
Total4

Europe

In Europe, Alibaba Cloud operates 2 regions and 5 availability zones. Presently, Alibaba Cloud is available in the following markets: Frankfurt, Germany and London, United Kingdom.

Alibaba's Secure IT Infrastructure Servers with Networking Connections

Regions

Within these markets, Alibaba Cloud operates data centers in the following regions: Germany (Frankfurt), known as eu-central-1, and UK (London), known as eu-west-1.

Europe – Regions and Availability Zones
RegionsCodeZonesLocationCountryOpened
Germany (Frankfurt)eu-central-13FrankfurtGermany2016
UK (London)eu-west-12LondonUnited Kingdom2018
Total5

Asia Pacific

In Asia Pacific, Alibaba Cloud operates 9 regions and 18 availability zones. Specifically, Alibaba Cloud is available in the following markets: Sydney, Australia; Mumbai, India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo, Japan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; Singapore; Seoul, South Korea; and Bangkok, Thailand.

Alibaba Cloud's IT Infra Technicians Engineers Operators

Regions

Within these locations, Alibaba Cloud operates data centers in the following regions: Australia (Sydney), known as ap-southeast-2; India (Mumbai), known as ap-south-1; Indonesia (Jakarta), known as ap-southeast-5; Japan (Tokyo), known as ap-northeast-1; Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), known as ap-southeast-3; Philippines (Manila), known as ap-southeast-6; Singapore (Singapore), known as ap-southeast-1; South Korea (Seoul), known as ap-northeast-2; and Thailand (Bangkok), known as ap-southeast-7.

Asia Pacific – Regions and Availability Zones
RegionsCodeZonesLocationCountryOpened
Australia (Sydney)ap-southeast-22SydneyAustralia2016
India (Mumbai)ap-south-12MumbaiIndia2018
Indonesia (Jakarta)ap-southeast-53JakartaIndonesia2018
Japan (Tokyo)ap-northeast-13TokyoJapan2016
Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)ap-southeast-32Kuala LumpurMalaysia2017
Philippines (Manila)ap-southeast-61ManilaPhilippines2021
Singapore (Singapore)ap-southeast-13SingaporeSingapore2015
South Korea (Seoul)ap-northeast-21SeoulSouth Korea2022
Thailand (Bangkok)ap-southeast-71BangkokThailand2022
Total18

As the leading IaaS provider in the Asia Pacific region, Alibaba Cloud is continually expanding its international cloud infrastructure and enhancing its local cloud service capabilities, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Middle East

In the Middle East, Alibaba Cloud operates 2 regions and 3 availability zones. Particularly, Alibaba Cloud is available in the following markets: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Alibaba Servers Computing Storage Networking Databases Service

Regions

Within these markets, Alibaba Cloud operates data centers in the following regions: SAU (Riyadh – Partner Region), known as me-central-1, and UAE (Dubai), known as me-east-1.

Middle East – Regions and Availability Zones
RegionsCodeZonesLocationCountryOpened
SAU (Riyadh – Partner Region)me-central-12RiyadhSaudi Arabia2022
UAE (Dubai)me-east-11DubaiUnited Arab Emirates2016
Total3

In addition, BCX, a subsidiary of Telkom Group, has launched Alibaba Cloud services from two data centers in Johannesburg, South Africa, with plans to expand to other African countries.

Alibaba – Asia Pacific’s Leading Cloud Services Giant

Alibaba Group is the world’s third-largest Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider and the largest in the Asia Pacific region by revenue in U.S. dollars, according to Gartner. A key player in digital transformation across diverse industries, Alibaba Group’s cloud services division, Alibaba Cloud, was initially created to manage the massive scale and complexity of the company’s internal operations within China, including commerce, payments, and logistics.

Alibaba Group – Business Segments, including Cloud

Alibaba Cloud is an important player in the technological shift that involves replacing traditional IT infrastructure with cloud services, offering higher efficiency at a lower cost. This suite of capabilities includes the company’s own proprietary servers, computing, storage, network, security, database, big data, container technology, machine learning, and tools for model training and inference.

In 2024, Alibaba reduced costs for over 100 cloud computing products in China by up to 55% (average 20%) to win back users from rivals like Tencent, JD.com, and Baidu. Subsequently, Alibaba extended its cloud price cuts to international customers in 13 regions, including the U.S., Singapore, Japan, and Germany.

Cloud Service Models – IaaS, PaaS, and MaaS

Beyond the conventional Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Alibaba Cloud’s offerings extend to platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and model-as-a-service (MaaS), all part of its full-stack cloud capabilities and products portfolio. These cloud service models enable customers to build IT infrastructure that is high-performance, flexible, scalable, cost-effective, and secure. Additionally, it provides customers with sophisticated data management tools, essential for efficiently handling complex analytics and machine learning tasks.

Recognized as China’s largest provider of public cloud services by revenue, including PaaS and IaaS services according to IDC, Alibaba Cloud delivers industry-specific solutions across several verticals, such as finance, public sector, and manufacturing.

Customers of Alibaba Cloud

Examples of Alibaba Cloud's Customer from Various Verticals

Cloud Operating System

Alibaba’s Cloud Operating System offers scalable computing resources and services via the internet. It abstracts underlying infrastructure complexities, allowing users to access applications and data from any device, anywhere. The system is composed of:

  • Apsara: This is Alibaba Cloud’s proprietary, general-purpose distributed computing operating system
  • ShenlongCompute: This is Alibaba Cloud’s hardware virtualization architecture, which plays a crucial role in maximizing computing efficiency
  • Pangu: Serving as Alibaba Cloud’s distributed cloud storage system, Pangu ensures reliable, scalable, and efficient data storage solutions

Cloud Revenue Streams

Alibaba Cloud’s revenue is primarily derived from offering public and hybrid cloud services to enterprise customers both domestically and internationally.

Alibaba Facility with Rows of Servers for Computing Storage Network Security Database

These services are detailed as follows:

  • Public Cloud Services: Revenue is generated through various offerings that include elastic computing, storage, networking, database, big data, security solutions, and the use of proprietary servers. Enterprise customers are billed for these services either based on their usage (pay-as-you-go) or via a subscription model, such as for the on-demand delivery of computing and storage resources
  • Hybrid Cloud Services: Revenue is produced by providing comprehensive cloud service packages that are tailored to the specific needs of enterprise customers. These packages include hardware provisioning, software licensing, software installation services, as well as application development and ongoing maintenance. This approach allows for a more customized cloud solution that integrates with the customer’s existing on-premises infrastructure

Machine Learning and Large Language Models (LLMs)

Alibaba Cloud offers enterprises a machine learning platform designed for the large-scale training and inference of models. This platform accommodates both Alibaba’s proprietary foundation model, as well as facilitating the training and implementation of other large-scale and domain-specific models prevalent in the market.

In 2023, Alibaba Cloud introduced its newest Large Language Model (LLM), Tongyi Qianwen. This LLM is slated for integration into every facet of Alibaba’s business applications, with the aim of significantly enriching the user experience across their entire ecosystem.

Recognizing the transformative power of generative AI, Alibaba Cloud is democratizing this innovation by providing enterprise customers with access to Tongyi Qianwen via the cloud. Furthermore, customers will have the capability to develop bespoke LLMs tailored specifically to their unique business contexts.

Competition and Market Share

Alibaba Cloud competes internationally with the following cloud service providers (CSPs): Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Oracle Cloud. Domestically, in China, its main competitors include Baidu AI Cloud, Huawei Cloud, Kingsoft Cloud, JD Cloud, QingCloud, and UCloud.

Overall, among global cloud service providers, Alibaba Cloud holds a 4% market share in terms of spending on cloud infrastructure services.

READ MORE: Top 10 Cloud Service Providers Globally

Alibaba Cloud’s Sustainability in Data Center Design

Alibaba Cloud’s data centers are designed to prioritize sustainability, possessing an industry-leading Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.215 in their self-built data centers. This performance in sustainability is achieved through a diverse range of energy-saving strategies, including the implementation of AI and machine learning in power management algorithms, the adoption of liquid cooling technologies for servers, and the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Alibaba Cloud's Sustainable Data Center and Designs

Energy Efficiency

Illustrating their progress, Alibaba Cloud’s clean energy usage in its self-built data centers rose from 21.6% in FY2022 to 53.9% in FY2023, marking a 1.5-fold increase on a year-over-year basis. This substantial shift to clean energy resulted in a reduction of 1.105 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) emissions. Additionally, in FY2023, Alibaba Cloud’s services prevented the release of 6.863 million MtCO2e by helping customers minimize their reliance on locally deployed data centers and servers, by migrating them to the cloud.

Research conducted by Alibaba Cloud indicates that customers in China can avoid up to 85.5% of their computing emissions when they switch from on-premises data centers to Alibaba Cloud. This substantial reduction is primarily due to the superior efficiency of Alibaba’s own data centers. Notably, the most significant carbon savings are attributed to enhanced Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and the decreased energy consumption of servers throughout the operational phase of a data center.

Water Efficiency

Alibaba Cloud is also focused on resource recycling, with a particular emphasis on water conservation, pursuing technological innovations that contribute to minimal water usage. An example of this is the development of a high-efficiency dry cooler designed to optimize Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE), successfully driving the WUE below 0.1 liters per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Alibaba Cloud Well-Architected Framework

Alibaba Cloud presents its Well-Architected Framework, designed to offer best practices for achieving success in the cloud era. This framework emphasizes architectural excellence in alignment with an organization’s objectives and values. Its primary goal is to unleash the full capabilities of the cloud, enabling organizations to foster growth, improve efficiency, enhance resilience, and spur innovation.

Alibaba Cloud's Well-Architected Framework including its Five Best Practices

Pillars of the Well-Architected Framework

  1. Security: In today’s interconnected world, information security is paramount. This pillar of the framework assists businesses in developing robust systems that function effectively and are safeguarded against evolving threats. While Alibaba Cloud ensures the security of the cloud service platform, customers are responsible for their application security
  2. Reliability: No business can tolerate system downtime. The framework prioritizes the creation of highly available and resilient systems, ensuring customers enjoy an uninterrupted experience. Moreover, it provides safeguards for business continuity in the face of potential failures
  3. Cost Optimization: Efficiently managing costs is crucial. The framework guides businesses in maximizing the utility of their cloud resources, enabling them to achieve more while spending less
  4. Operational Excellence: As cloud environments become more complex, maintaining efficient operations becomes vital. This component of the framework aids in structuring efficient operational systems, streamlining daily activities, and automating repetitive tasks
  5. Performance Efficiency: Ensuring that systems deliver peak performance is a pivotal aspect of the framework and critical for users to receive the most optimized experience possible. Performance efficiency is achieved by prioritizing cloud-native services and technologies, employing serverless architectures in line with cloud-native standards, and leveraging Alibaba Cloud’s elasticity and performance stability

Cloud Governance Center

Alibaba’s Cloud Governance Center provides a set of tools that automatically deliver over 100 distinct metrics. These tools empower users to evaluate multiple dimensions of their systems and assess whether they meet the standards of a well-architected cloud environment. Additionally, the Cloud Governance Center offers more than 80 scenario-based architecture solutions, presenting users with a comprehensive toolkit to tap into.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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