Alibaba Cloud eyes Web3 potential, participation on Singapore government cloud

Chinese cloud vendor will introduce a blockchain node service next quarter as it pushes ahead with its Web3 strategy and is keen to play a role on Singapore's roadmap to move its government services to commercial clouds, which currently encompasses Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Alibaba Cloud is looking to ride the growth of Web3 by offering the platforms and tools it thinks developers will need to bring their applications more quickly to market. The Chinese cloud vendor also is hoping to be part of Singapore's roadmap to move its government services to a commercial cloud environment, which currently encompasses Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

Alibaba earlier this year established a team focused on driving its Web3 strategy across its international markets, outside China. Efforts here included enhancing its infrastructure, products and services, and partners to support customers' transition to Web3 applications, said Raymond Xiao, Alibaba Cloud's head of international industry solutions and architecture. 

The Chinese cloud vendor believes Web3 development is driven by blockchain and immutable ledger technologies, with proponents such as the metaverse and social games that are built on top of public or private blockchains. 

Alibaba's Web3 gameplay spans four key areas, including cloud native and blockchain development, and sits on its blockchain infrastructure as the underlying foundation. Its primary goal here is to support developers in their Web3 journey, providing tools they need for agility and to more quickly bring new applications to market. 

This meant pushing out products such as Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes and serverless technologies, Xiao said in an interview with ZDNET, adding that its Web3 portfolio currently includes more than 20 serverless services as well as private key and smart contract management tools.

A new blockchain node service also will be launched next quarter, enabling Web3 developers to access different blockchain protocols including Avalanche and Polygon, he said. 

Available only to customers outside of China, the PaaS (platform-as-a-service) offering will help cut operational and maintenance time for Web3 developers, who traditionally have to build and maintain each node. The new blockchain node service is API-driven, he added.  

Stressing that Web3 still was evolving and its development in the early stage, Xiao said Alibaba would have to continue monitoring customer requirements and ensuring the underlying technology it offered were in line with market demand. 

This would be centred on the need to build applications quickly on blockchain, he said, adding that Alibaba would look to push out more API services and developer toolkits to support this. 

Looking to support Singapore government cloud move

The Chinese cloud vendor also expressed a keen interest to participate in Singapore's efforts to move its government services to cloud platforms. 

Singapore in late-2018 unveiled a five-year roadmap to move the majority of its on-premise IT systems to commercial cloud platforms, as it looked to speed up the delivery and improve quality of government services to its population. Dubbed Government on Commercial Cloud (GCC), the strategy aims to provide government agencies with a framework on adopting commercial services offered by cloud vendors. 

The roadmap currently is in its second phase, which the Singapore government says will look to tap existing cloud-native capabilities and enable product teams to deliver government digital services "more quickly and securely at reduced costs". There currently are more than 600 e-government services on the GCC, including Whole of Government Application Analytics and MyCareersFuture.

General availability of GCC 2.0 on AWS was rolled out in May this year, with Azure added to the roster just last month. Google Cloud Platform is slated for general availability next year. Apart from the three, no other cloud vendors have been announced for integration on the GCC 2.0 roadmap. 

Alibaba Cloud is hoping this will change in the near future, with its Singapore general manager Derek Wang expressing interest in collaborating with the government on the GCC. Adding more vendors to the mix was critical to offer users more choice, noted Wang.

He told ZDNET that Alibaba already was working with government agencies here on other initiatives, including projects that involved data and artificial intelligence (AI), but was unable to provide details due to confidentiality clauses. 

With growing interest in ESG (environment, social, governance), he said the Chinese cloud vendor also was helping organisations in Singapore with their net zero carbon emission strategies, such as tapping water cooling technology for green data centres. This would further support the government's goal to drive sustainable developments and achieve net zero emissions. 

Wang added that Alibaba's research arm Damo Academy has a team in Singapore working on various capabilities including natural language processing (NLP), which could deliver speech translation services for the public sector. 

Xiao also pointed to Alibaba's experience in providing e-government services in China and other global markets, offering use cases that could be deployed in Singapore. 


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