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UPDATED: September 11, 2014 NO. 16 APRIL 17, 2014
The Coming of the Cloud
A new type of computing service has taken off in China, showing enormous growth potential
By Tang Yuankai

COSTUME PARTY: At the Cloud China 2014 exhibition held in Beijing in March, recipients dressed up as "white clouds" distribute pamphlets and answer questions (TANG YUANKAI)

In China cloud computing technology is becoming a larger and larger part of people's lives, often without the knowledge of their users.

Cloud computing enables people to access systems using a Web browser regardless of their location or the devices they use. Meanwhile, those selling cloud computing services have physical servers that host products and services from a remote location, so that end-users don't have to store it on their own devices. The three major models of cloud computing service are known as software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service.

The term "moving to the cloud" refers to an organization moving away from the traditional model of purchasing dedicated hardware to the new model of using a shared cloud infrastructure and paying as one uses it. As cloud computing services become more affordable than ever as well as diversified to accommodate both big name corporations and small businesses alike, many companies are jumping on the new trend.

Observers believe there will be a groundbreaking growth of cloud computing in China throughout 2014. In the past, multinational and Chinese cloud computing companies focused on building private clouds, which served individual corporate clients. However, several global public cloud providers will complete their infrastructure in China by the end of 2014 and make resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet.

"It is estimated that China's public cloud market could be worth 6.28 billion yuan ($1 billion) in 2014," said Liu Duo, Vice President of the China Academy of Telecommunication Research, at the 2014 Cloudcomputing Forum in Beijing in March. According to Liu, the market value in 2013 was 4.76 billion yuan ($768 million).

Government incentives

"Government organizations should take the lead in using cloud services as well as promoting assessment and accreditation to boost other clients' confidence," said Xie Yuqi, a senior official with the Department of Telecom Development of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), at the forum.

The MIIT, the Ministry of Finance, the Government Offices Administration of the State Council and the Central Government Procurement Center of China reportedly have worked together to include cloud computing services into the government procurement inventory by formulating standards, procurement guides and contract templates.

From March 4 to 6, Cloud China 2014, an exhibition and forum organized by the Center for International Economic and Technological Cooperation under the MIIT, was held in Beijing to promote cloud computing applications, optimizing the environment for information consumption and pushing forward the building of smart cities.

At the event, Zhou Zixue, chief economist with the MIIT, said that cloud computing would be put into better use in key areas, establishing a complete industrial chain and developing into an industry with safety guarantees and innovations in services, technologies and management by 2015.

The standardization of cloud computing has taken off under the guidance of the MIIT. Chen Wei, a senior official with the MIIT, said that an open attitude will be adopted during standardization. "Chinese companies will also actively take part in the drafting of international standards on cloud computing so as to raise our discourse rights in international arena," Chen said.

Global cloud computing giants, including Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon, as well as Chinese IT companies, including Alibaba Group, Shanda and Huawei, have all started to build infrastructure in China.

Last July, IBM announced its engagement with Capitalonline Data Service (CDS), a Chinese Internet data center service provider, to develop a robust infrastructure for delivering enhanced cloud solutions. As part of this multi-million-dollar engagement, IBM will build and manage CDS' public cloud service based on IBM SmartCloud technology.

Amazon also announced the expansion of its public cloud business, Amazon Web Services (AWS), into China at the end of last year by launching a new region in Beijing that will serve Chinese customers. Before the deployment, AWS ran IT equipment that enabled cloud services in nine regions.

Microsoft's Windows Azure Media Services were selected to provide live streaming of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. As a result, all 98 events, which consisted of more than 1,000 hours of content, became available across an array of devices and platforms, including iOS, Android, as well as Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows RT, which also benefited Chinese audiences.

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