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Huawei Servers Power Alibaba eCommerce

Background

Founded in 1999, Alibaba Group is the biggest Internet-based eCommerce 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 years of development, Alibaba Group currently has multiple popular 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, this number exceeded 300 million, highest in the world. In 2013, it exceeded 600 million, accounting for over 22.4% of global Internet users, twice that of the United States.

Alibaba’s fast growth has made it the leading eCommerce enterprise in China. Currently, Alibaba’s Taobao boasts nearly 500 million registered users, over 60 million fixed daily visitors, and over 800 million online goods each day, with 48,000 products sold every minute. By the end of December 2012, the number of Alipay’s registered users had 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 eCommerce platform in China, Alibaba is leading in IT technology. Since 2012, to achieve the best performance and the lowest hardware and software costs, Taobao has been developing front-end and back-end software on their own or using open-source, customized software. The x86 servers, used for hardware and purchased based on software features, imposed strict requirements on vendor 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 numbers of small files
For online trade websites with massive numbers of access requests, users spend most of their time browsing images. According to the traffic analysis of Taobao, image browsing accounts for over 90% of total traffic. Taobao’s homepage traffic accounts for less than 10%. Sellers on Taobao pay special attention to image quality, upload speed, and access speed. To meet requirements for concurrent performance for access to massive numbers of small files (over 30 billion), Alibaba uses the Taobao File System (TFS). As a distributed file system for Internet services, TFS is used for handling mass 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 mass small files in the data center with the lowest costs.

Low power consumption
As the biggest eCommerce 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 hundred million yuan. Controlling costs for IT infrastructure, improving server utilization (using cloud computing technology), and reducing server power consumption became an urgent problem for Alibaba.

Rapid deployment
As the most popular eCommerce enterprise that handles the largest number of transactions in China, Alibaba has a huge user base (almost 500 million Taobao users). User requirements change rapidly without any rules, posing great challenges. In addition, services for the Internet of Things, Big Data, and cloud computing must be developed quickly, which imposes high requirements on data center computing capability. To meet these requirements, Alibaba must purchase thousands of servers every year. To support fast service rollout, Alibaba requires that deployment time be within one week (the traditional deployment cycle is one month).

Solution

In 2006, Alibaba bought DC blade servers from Huawei for the first time. After a few months of operation, Alibaba was satisfied with Huawei’s technical support and server quality. Since then, Huawei has provided about 50,000 servers of various types to Alibaba. Most are rack servers, such as RH2285 and RH2288, which carry about one-third of the eCommerce businesses.

Huawei servers meet Alibaba’s requirements as follows:

  • High performance: Alibaba used several Huawei 2U 2-socket rack servers. For 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 a maximum memory capacity of 768 GB. This server is an ideal option for Alibaba to build TFS clusters.
  • Energy-saving technologies: Huawei servers use comprehensive 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 more than 10% on energy consumption. With the current deployment scale of Huawei servers, Alibaba can save several tens of millions of yuan on electricity costs.
  • Integrated rack delivery: To meet Alibaba’s requirements for rapid deployment, Huawei offers OS pre-installation, an integrated package, and integrated rack delivery, transportation, and installation. Service rollout can be completed by connecting power and the network on site. Delivery time is shortened to 3 to 5 days.

Benefits

  • The stable, high-performance servers offer great support for the Double 11 festivals without system breakdowns.
  • Energy efficiency is improved by at least 10%, saving of several tens of millions of yuan per year in electricity costs.
  • On-site delivery requires 3 to 5 days only, which accelerates service rollout.
From the Alibaba Technical Support Department:

“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.”

Finally, according to an Alibaba executive, “When celebrating our success, we think of Huawei’s expert team and Huawei’s stable and reliable products. Without your support and cooperation, we could not have achieved such success.”

WORLDWIDE