Alibaba opens two data centers in the UK to boost its cloud operations in Europe

Key Points
  • The new facilities are Alibaba's first in Britain, and will be used to serve its business customers in the region.
  • The U.K. facilities, based in London, add to Alibaba's existing EMEA cloud operations in Frankfurt and Dubai.
  • The move comes as the U.K. struggles to finalize the terms of its contentious divorce with the EU.
Nigel Treblin | Getty Images

Alibaba opened two data centers in the U.K. on Monday, further expanding its cloud footprint in Europe.

The new facilities — both in London — are the Chinese tech giant's first in Britain, and will provide its business customers in the region with round-the-clock security and engineering support and real-time monitoring.

A spokesperson for Alibaba Cloud said the move was part of the cloud division's expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

"As part of our commitment to continue expanding into Europe and across EMEA, we are launching two U.K. availability zones in addition to the existing ones in Frankfurt and Dubai," the spokesperson said.

"Our decision on the location is driven by the rapidly growing customer demand in the U.K."

Alibaba said the benefit of having two data centers within one location was the ability to recover or maintain key IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster.

The move comes as the U.K. struggles to finalize the terms of its contentious divorce with the European Union. Brexit talks seem to be in limbo over the key issue of preventing a hard Irish border.

"The United Kingdom is one of the fastest growing European markets for Alibaba Cloud, and many of our customers are in key verticals such as retail, finance, media, education and research, and logistics," the Alibaba spokesperson said.

"We are also working with many global and local partners to make sure we are offering best-in-class technologies, services and consulting to customers."

British software company SDL and media firm Ascential are among Alibaba Cloud's customers in the country. The data centers in London will offer products including elastic computing — essentially a means to manage usage spikes in a network — storage, database, network, application services and big data analytics.

While the firm did not identify the size of its investment in the U.K., nor disclose a figure for the amount of jobs that would be created, a spokesperson said: "We are expanding quickly across Europe, and we are always looking for good talent to join our team."

With the addition of its new London site, Alibaba's cloud unit now has 52 data center zones across 19 different regions, and plans on expanding further.

Cloud is a major battleground for some of the world's largest tech companies, with Amazon's Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure being two of the biggest players in the space.