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Alibaba Depends on Huawei Servers

"Huawei servers provide good performance and quality, which fully meets application requirements of Alibaba. Huawei is always responsive to our customization needs. As our important partner for system platform construction, Huawei gives great technical and service support."

-- Technical Support Department of Alibaba

About Alibaba

Founded in 1999, Alibaba Group is the biggest Internet-based e-commerce company in the world. Alibaba Group aims to create convenient online trade channels for global enterprises and consumers and provide diversified Internet businesses including business-to-business online web portals, online retail and payment services, a shopping search engine, and data-centric cloud computing services. After development for years, Alibaba Group currently has multiple famous websites, such as Taobao, Tmall, Alipay, and Yuebao.

Challenges

In 2005, the number of Internet users in China exceeded 100 million, ranking second in the world. In 2009, the number of Internet users in China exceeded 300 million, ranking first in the world. In 2013, the number of Internet users in China exceeded 600 million, accounting for over 22.4% of the global Internet users. This number was twice that of American Internet users.

As the netizen scale grows, the Internet-based e-commerce develops fast in China. Alibaba grows fast and becomes the leading e-commerce enterprise in China. Currently, Taobao of Alibaba has nearly 500 million registered users, over 60 million fixed daily visitors, and over 800 million online goods every day with 48,000 of them being sold every minute. By the end of December 2012, the number of Alipay's registered users exceeded 800 million, the number of companies on Tmall exceeded 60,000, and sellers on Taobao exceeded 7 million. On November 11, 2012, Alipay handled 19 billion yuan in sales with 100 million trades. On November 11, 2013, Alipay handled over 35 billion yuan in sales with nearly 188 million trades.

As the biggest e-commerce platform in China, Alibaba is leading in IT technology. Since 2012, to achieve best performance and lowest costs of hardware and software, Taobao has been developing front-end and back-end software on their own or using open-source, customized software. The x86 servers were used for hardware and purchased based on software features, which imposes strict requirements on vendors' R&D capability and product performance. In 2013, Alibaba gradually replaced midrange computers and dedicated storage devices with x86 rack servers, which are mostly Huawei servers. Huawei servers help Alibaba meet the following challenges:

High concurrent performance for access to massive number of small files

For online trade websites with massive access requests, users spend most of the time in browsing pictures. According to traffic analysis of Taobao, traffic of picture browsing accounts for over 90%. Traffic of the homepage of Taobao accounts for less than 10%. Traffic of access to pictures of hot goods is massive. Sellers on Taobao pay much attention to the quality of pictures, uploading speed, and access speed. To meet requirements on concurrent performance for access to massive small files (over 30 billion small files), Alibaba uses Taobao File System (TFS). As a distributed file system facing Internet services, TFS is used for handling massive unstructured data (files with sizes less than 1 MB). A TFS cluster consists of two NameServer nodes and multiple DataServer nodes. Service programs are deployed on common x86 servers. The server clusters provide super powerful computing capabilities and large-capacity local storage to support high concurrent performance for access to massive small files in the data center with the lowest costs.

Low power consumption

As the biggest e-commerce enterprise, Alibaba has hundreds of thousands of servers. Servers run uninterruptedly in 24 hours. According to Alibaba's assessment, the electricity costs for servers and air conditioners reach several hundreds of millions yuan. How to control costs for IT infrastructure, improve server utilization (using cloud computing technology), and reduce power consumption of servers become the most concerned problems of Alibaba.

Rapid deployment

As the most popular e-commerce enterprise that handles the largest number of transactions in China, Alibaba has a huge user base (almost 500 million users of Taobao). User requirements change rapidly without any rules, which brings great challenges. In addition, services of the Internet of things, big data, cloud computing develop fast, which imposes high requirements on computing capability of the data center. To meet services requirements, Alibaba needs to purchase thousands of servers every year. To support fast service rollout, Alibaba requires that the deployment time is within one week (traditional deployment cycle is one month).

Solution

In 2005, Huawei found that the Internet industry was emerging and developing fast. In 2006, Alibaba bought DC blade servers from Huawei for the first time. After operation for a few months, Alibaba was very satisfied with Huawei's technical support and server quality. Since then, Huawei has provided about 50,000 servers of various types for Alibaba. Most servers are rack servers, such as RH2285 and RH2288, which carry about 1/3 e-commerce businesses. Huawei servers meet requirements of Alibaba from the following aspects:

High performance: Alibaba used several Huawei 2U 2-socket rack servers. Take the RH2288 V2 as an example. The RH2288 V2 provides super large local storage capacity (50 TB) and uses DIMMs at 1.5 times the usual height on the Romely EP platform, with the maximum memory capacity of 768 GB. This server is an ideal option for Alibaba to construct TFS clusters.

Energy saving technologies: Huawei servers use all-round energy saving technologies, such as vector airflow management, double-faced cellular boards, dynamic energy management technology (DEMT), and dynamic power capping, gaining recognition worldwide. Compared with competitive products, Huawei servers save energy by over 10%. Considering the current deployment scale of Huawei servers, Alibaba can save electricity costs of several tens of millions yuan.

Integrated rack delivery: To meet Alibaba's requirements on rapid deployment, Huawei offers OS preinstallation, integrated package, and integrated rack delivery, transportation, and installation. Service rollout can be complete by connecting power and the network onsite. The delivery time is shortened to 3 to 5 days.

Customer Benefits

  • The stable and high-performance servers offer great support for the Double 11 festivals in these years without system breakdowns.
  • The energy efficiency is improved by at least 10%, saving electricity costs of several tens of millions RMB per year for Alibaba.
  • The onsite delivery requires 3 to 5 days only, which could accelerate service rollout.

The thank you letter from Alibaba remarked, "When celebrating our success, we think of Huawei's expert team and Huawei's stable and reliable products. Without your support and cooperation, we cannot achieve such success. Thank you!"

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