Meet China’s Cloud Innovators: Automation Is Key For Cloud User Experience

My January 2013 report “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017,” forecast that China’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market would remain in flux until 2015. But now I think it will take even longer for the cloud landscape in China to consolidate and stabilize, for three reasons:

1. The boundary between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and PaaS is breaking down.

2. Emerging technologies like Docker are having an impact on technology and mindsets.

3. China has emerging startups in both the IaaS and PaaS segments.

The startups mainly focus on differentiating the cloud user experience by automating various layers to deliver unique value to potential adopters of cloud solutions. They include:

  • QingCloud.Founded in 2012, QingCloud raised US$20 million in Series B funding in January 2014. Its IaaS offerings for public and virtual private cloud include computing (image and instances), network (VxNet, routing, elastic IP, and load balancing), storage (volume and snapshot), database (MySQL-based, master/slave synchronization support with auto-snapshot), security (group policy and SSH key pair login), and management features (web console to deploy, manage, and monitor resources), which are billed on a per-second basis.

QingCloud has two technology advantages. First, it’s opened its API for all available functions. This could give users maximum flexibility to automate the assembly and orchestration of massive resources. Second and even more importantly, QingCloud established a system to automate operations by capturing massive amounts of data generated in the cloud platform and created a resource placement policy to analyze and predict usage scenarios via machine learning. These advances in automation will greatly simplify operations and maintenance and improve customer experience in the cloud.

  • UCloud. Also founded in 2012, UCloud raised US$50 million in Series B funding in June 2014. It provides public cloud infrastructure and services and mainly targets gaming companies with its homegrown platform. On October 21, UCloud launched a data center pilot in North America, becoming one of the first Chinese cloud service providers exploring opportunities there.

One key differentiator of UCloud is its live kernel patching — the ability to patch the kernels of virtual and physical servers without restarting them. Kernel vulnerabilities affect every layer above it, from infrastructure to application, so it’s very important to automate the patching process and avoid business continuity gaps. UCloud can also automatically isolate kernel memory failure — one of the major causes of system crashes — from the rest of the system to reduce downtime as much as possible.

  • Fit2Cloud.Founded in 2014, Fit2Cloud positions itself as DevOps over IaaS. It aims to provide automated management capability across the full application life-cycle, from provisioning, installation, and configuration to deployment, monitoring, and auto-scaling.

Fit2Cloud can uniquely give customers the continuous delivery capability of cloud-native applications. It can support both on-premises private cloud usage scenarios for large enterprise customers and hosted private clouds for small and medium-size businesses. It supports IaaS offerings including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Aliyun, and QingCloud.

I could add more Chinese cloud players to this list; for example, VisualOps (AKA MadeiraCloud) focuses on visualization of cloud operations for AWS, and NiceScale aims to simplify operations management via Docker. The IaaS and PaaS market in China is entering a new era. Do you think they will disrupt the existing market landscape?