China is seeing solid growth in web-facing computers, up 8.3 percent over the last year, according to Netcraft. This notable growth helps explain reports of active data center construction for major web companies in China.
China’s cloud infrastructure is still very much in its infancy, but the growth is starting to kick in. The majority of that growth has occurred within the cloud hosting market, however global cloud workloads are unlikely to be outsourced to China thanks to what remains a very closed market.
Those looking to establish cloud offerings in China still need to partner with a local provider to have any hope of achieving traction. Even Microsoft partnered with 21Vianet to launch its Windows Azure cloud platform in China.
Netcraft found particularly solid growth at Aliyun, a hosting provider that is part of the Alibaba group. Aliyun has six time more web-facing computers than a year ago, with a total of 17,934 in September. The Alibaba group is the largest hosting provider in China, as well as in the top 30 worldwide according to Netcraft, with Aliyun comprising 92 percent of its web-facing computers, according to Netcraft.
However, most of this growth is with hosted sites aimed at the Chinese market. More than half the websites at Aliyun use the .cn Top Level Domain (TLD), compared to 41 percent in the .com TLD. It’s growth is purely in the local market. So while there is significant growth, it’s a very insular type of growth. It makes sense, given the general desire to host content as closest to end users as possible to increase performance.
There’s also The Golden Shield Project, perhaps better known in the West as “The Great Firewall of China” which makes traffic crossing the border slow, unstable or even blocked.
This, among other reasons, is hindering the ability and desire for non-Chinese companies looking to use cloud hosting in China. Traffic can be “patchy” from outside of China – Netcraft notes that packets sent to www.aliyun.com from the UK takes almost half a second to make the journey and back again, and the United States is not much better.
Many hosting services are available only in the Chinese language, and some Chinese hosting companies only accept business from Chinese customers. Aliyun’s customers need a Chinese mobile phone number to receive a verification code to complete the signup process, Netcraft also points out. On-demand instances aren’t so on-demand at Aliyun – there’s an identification verification process.
China has an increasing number of internet users (591 million at the end of June). The growth is strong but self-contained, which is explains why there’s massive data center projects there – the only way to truly serve the market effectively is within the country’s borders.