Alibaba and Meraas partner to offer cloud services in region

The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s cloud-computing unit has formed a joint venture with Meraas Holding to offer big data and cloud computing services to government and private enterprises across the region.

The formation of the unnamed joint venture represents a major boost for Dubai’s smart city aspirations, and is only the second venture outside China for Alibaba’s Aliyun unit.

The new Dubai-based venture will specialise in application development, service-oriented architecture, testing, validation, citizenship e-services and Big Data operations with a special focus on analytics, revenue generation and payment solutions.

“The company will offer services that contribute to the six key pillars [of Dubai’s smart city project] including transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services and urban planning,” said the Meraas group chairman Abdulla Al Habbai.

“We strongly believe that the new company will alter the information technology landscape of the region.”

The new venture will be the anchor tenant for a technology-orientated community comprising of a data centre, as well as hospitality, residential and commercial spaces, retail and food and beverage units.

Aliyun’s joint project with Meraas comes just two months after it announced the opening of a data centre in Silicon Valley, the company’s first venture outside China, putting it in direct competition with the cloud service offerings of Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

But while Aliyun’s Silicon Valley operations are initially aimed at serving Chinese enterprises active in the US, the new Dubai venture will have a wider scope, according to the company’s president Simon Hu.

The company’s venture with Meraas “aims at not only helping Dubai transform the emirate into a smart city … but also enabling the enterprises in the region, that can be Chinese companies with international expansion plans, as well as local companies with cloud computing needs”, said Mr Hi.

The new venture is expected to begin offering services by the end of the year, he said.

“Dubai’s advanced infrastructure and economic strength is a good match for our technology edge, and with Meraas we will be able to provide local entrepreneurs with the vital infrastructure that will ignite innovation and help them to succeed,” said Alibaba’s executive chairman and founder Jack Ma.

The establishment of the new venture comes as ICT spending in the Mena region is forecast to grow to US$270 billion this year, according to the research analysts IDC.

It forecasts that the overall managed and data centre services markets in the UAE is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.8 per cent between 2013 and 2018 to reach a total of $971.8 million by 2018.

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