Alibaba unveils Cloud 2.0, Wuying cloud computer, and Xiaomanlv logistics robot

CTO Jeff Zhang said his company wants to make cloud technology accessible to everyone.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Alibaba has unveiled a new operating system for the cloud, with CTO Jeff Zhang likening it to upgrading a computer to use Windows.

Speaking at the Chinese giant's virtual Apsara Conference 2020 on Thursday, Zhang said this new cloud, Alibaba Cloud 2.0, will allow operations to be more user-friendly and intuitive, enabling more organisations to migrate their workloads and run them without having to understand how to code.

"In short, we want to make cloud technology accessible to everyone … just like water and electricity is," he said through a translator.

The CTO said Alibaba Cloud 2.0 was an "all-in-one platform augmented with Aspara system and digital native operating system".

"I believe that Alibaba Cloud 2.0 will change the way we run our workloads on the cloud and the way we implement applications. [This is the] beginning of a 'digital era' that will give birth to a smarter society, with smarter organisations and enterprises," he said.

Zhang said the digital native operating system -- which he likened to LEGO blocks of the app development world -- is defining new organisations in new ways, and that it was also transforming software development methods, leaving process-based development methods behind.

"The system will be intelligent, future-proof, mobile, and driven by big data, widening and deepening the cooperation between platforms and organisations. This is what digital native operating system changes," he said.

"Through DingTalk integration, we can provide a mobile, insight-driven, and intelligent cloud platform for application development."

The company expects to add further additions, such as IT, IoT, and edge computing devices into the "cloud device" solution.


CTO Jeff Zhang holding the Wuying cloud computer

Screenshot: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

Also announced during his keynote was the official launch of what Zhang called the first cloud computer, Wuying.

"Unlike personal computers, cloud computers allow you to run your workloads on the cloud," he said. "Through cloud computing, this device can deliver an infinite amount of computing power."

Despite being the size of a smartphone, Zhang said Wuying isn't just for personal use at home, but that it can also be used as a complete computer replacement across government and private enterprise.

"To use Wuying, all you have to do is connect it to a screen, then you can use it to do anything you would use a PC to do," Zhang explained.

"However, Wuying transcends the capabilities of PCs, you can use Wuying to perform complex computing tasks, run workloads that have special requirements, or even render a high definition video that may require the use of multiple PCs."

With no CPU or monitor, Zhang said hardware upgrades that are an inevitable part of PC maintenance is removed with Wuying.

"With the evolution of cloud technology, we can break free from this [upgrade] cycle -- everyone will have a cloud computer," he said.

"Wuying offers unparalleled security because there are no interfaces for external devices.

"In today's world, cloud capability is the new norm … we have developed a complete OS on cloud."


Xiaomanlv logistics robot 

Screenshot: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

In a bid to capture the "last mile" of the supply chain, Zhang also announced Alibaba's first logistics solution, a robot named Xiaomanlv.

Xiaomanlv was developed by the autonomous driving lab of Alibaba's DAMO Academy.

"It is designed with the aim of enabling a more convenient life," Zhang said. "It is smart, competent, and safe. It automatically identifies the trajectory of objects and plans routes on-the-fly. Xiaomanlv can determine object positions to within a centimetre."

He said Xiaomanlv's safety features give Alibaba "99.9999% confidence" in its autonomous driving capabilities.

"We expect a fruitful cooperation with companies across various industries to develop more specialised robots," Zhang said.


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