North America is holding strong to the “cloud power” title, but there’s some stiff competition—especially from China and the Middle East. However, now that these two regions have partnered up, they’re setting the bar even higher. By now, most Americans have heard of Alibaba (and perhaps even shopped there): It’s the Chinese answer to Amazon, and if offers products at such lowball prices, often with free or really low shipping to the US, that it’s hard to resist. The computing arm of Alibaba is Aliyun, and they’ve just scored a partnership with Meraas of Dubai. The Meraas Holding company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) excels in delivering system integration services throughout the UAE, and now they’re ready to expand.

Customers of the newly formed tech couple will enjoy architecture that’s service-oriented, validation, big data operations, application development, testing and citizenship e-services just for starters. Their specialty? Analytics, payment options for their clients and making money for everyone (themselves included, of course). Additionally, Meraas has announced that they’re working on a “technology-oriented master-planned integrated community” complete with a Tier 3 data center. That data center will be “home base” for delivering the services of the venture, but will also serve the residential, hospitality, retail, restaurant and commercial industries. It’s all part of the Dubai “Smart City” strategy, which is all about bringing the best in media, R&D, ICT and finance to the Middle East—and it seems to be working.

Big Clouds Approaching

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, public clouds in general are growing—it’s estimated by Gartner that this sector will grow 17.1 percent by the end of 2015 to reach a whopping $851 million. SaaS (software as a service) is the biggest cloud service sector, and on a global scale it’s slated for a 25 percent hike this year to reach over $205 million. In the UAE, where growth is particularly high, it’s estimated by IDC that the data center industry will experience growing pangs of 20 percent year after year until 2018 (and perhaps beyond, but analysts can’t accurately look that far ahead) to reach over $971 million in 2018.

It’s no surprise that Aliyun is targeting the hottest tech hubs around the world, given their recent Silicon Valley launch. At first, this Alibaba company was looking only at China-based companies that happened to be located in the US, but their strategy quickly changed. They’ve now gone global, but Meraas is the first joint venture in the Middle East. However, if all goes well, it could be a great first step towards worldwide domination.

Already, Aliyun makes up nearly one quarter of the entire China cloud computing industry. It’s easily the biggest cloud computing platform in the country, picking up acquisition gems like Kanbox (the Dropbox of China) less than one year ago. What will be Alibaba’s and Aliyun’s next move? It seems to have a goal of taking down Amazon and, given the rapid expansion, it might just be a goal worth chasing.



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