Alibaba just got a huge vote of confidence in the cloud war against Amazon and Microsoft

Key Points
  • Alibaba's cloud dates to 2009, predating offerings from Google and Microsoft but still arriving three years after Amazon launched its cloud.
  • Alibaba Cloud leads the cloud infrastructure market in China, Gartner says.
Chinese online retail giant Alibaba CEO Jack Ma (C) waves as he arrives at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on September 19, 2014.
Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

A major report released Thursday on the state of the public cloud industry includes Alibaba's cloud for the first time.

The report from IT research group Gartner suggests that while China-based Alibaba is new to international markets, it's still well-positioned to compete with bigger players in the market, such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet's Google.

In terms of ability to execute, Alibaba is ranked No. 4, ahead of IBM and Oracle, among others. But in terms of completeness of vision, it's behind both IBM and Oracle, as well as the top three vendors of cloud infrastructure, which companies can use to host their applications.

Alibaba Group established its cloud in 2009, three years after Amazon introduced market-leading Amazon Web Services, Gartner analysts Lydia Leong, Raj Bala, Craig Lowery and Dennis Smith wrote in the new report.

Today the Alibaba Cloud leads the cloud infrastructure market in China, although it only launched its international offering, including an English-language web service, last year. Google and Microsoft both introduced their infrastructure as a service tool in 2012.

Like other big providers, Alibaba Cloud has been setting up more data centers around the globe to handle other companies' computing workloads, while also coming out with new services.

Still, the Alibaba Cloud isn't perfect.

Alibaba's international offering "has a limited track record, and does not have the full capabilities or performance of the China offering," the analysts wrote. It "has very little in the way of unique differentiation compared to other hyperscale providers. Additionally, Alibaba Cloud's vision seems inextricably tied to that of its global competitors; it takes liberal inspiration from competitors when developing service capabilities and branding."

On top of that, international customers could have security or compliance worries that stem from relying on a Chinese company, the analysts wrote.

In addition to raw cloud infrastructure, Alibaba also provides software that companies can use to operate clouds in their own data centers, the analysts wrote. This is also true of Microsoft.

Other new entrants in Gartner's 2017 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service include Interoute, Oracle and Skytap, along with Joyent, which Samsung acquired last year. Unlike Alibaba, fellow Chinese cloud operator Tencent was not included in this year's Gartner report.