The Role of Cloud in China's Government Big Data System
Also featuring: bidding results on a major China Mobile cloud storage project & long-term thoughts on cloud in China
Stories covered today:
The role of the government cloud in China’s planned big data system
Alibaba & Huawei win bids for China Mobile cloud storage project
Thoughts on long-term trends in China’s cloud computing market
The role of cloud in China’s planned big data system
Last week the State Council issued a document titled Guidelines for Building a Nationally Integrated Government Big Data System, in which they laid out a series of instructions for… well, building out a big data system for China’s government.
This is a meaty topic, so rather than tackle it all, I’m zeroing in on how it discusses the role of cloud in this national big data infrastructure.
Notably, almost all of the mentions of cloud in this document come in the form of the phrase “government cloud” (政务云), a topic Cloudology covered in depth back in August. Through this document, we can gain a deeper understanding of the role that the government cloud (and the cloud industry) will play in China’s efforts toward a more integrated and centralized digital government infrastructure.
The first mention of the government cloud comes in an early section summarizing the basic construction of China’s government data infrastructure:
The foundational abilities of the national electronic government extranet are constantly growing. It has already achieved 100% coverage in administrative areas at the county level and higher; township-level coverage has reached 96.1%.
The government cloud’s foundational supporting abilities are constantly being reinforced. Foundational cloud infrastructure has essentially been completed in 31 regions across the country (provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities) as well as by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. More than 70% of prefectural-level cities have built government cloud platforms. Government information systems are gradually migrating to the cloud, resulting in an initial pattern of intensive construction.
Building a nationally integrated government data sharing hub will depend on a nationally integrated government services platform and a national data sharing and exchange platform…
The above section also emphasizes the progress made on the construction of a national open data system, mentioning that provincial-level open data platforms have been established in 21 different regions.
The government cloud is also discussed directly later in the document:
To foster the creation of a national “single account” (一本账) for big data calculation, the State Council advises strengthening monitoring and analysis in government cloud systems across the country and allowing for the convergence of data from national-, county-, and city-level clouds.
It also encourages better mechanisms for managing and operating cloud resources, more comprehensive planning for government cloud resource management, a unified scheduling mechanism for government cloud resources, and an integrated government cloud platform (as opposed to individual regional systems).
Among other efforts for standardization in the government big data system discussed in the document, the State Council recommends creating 1) regulations for government cloud construction and administration as well as 2) guidelines for government cloud monitoring.
Of course, these guidelines for the role of the government cloud don’t come from out of thin air.
Let’s glance at a 2017 State Council document1 that explores similar themes. The document, titled “Guidelines on Building an ‘Internet + Government Services’ Technological System,” discusses the government cloud in several key areas. Among other points, it recommends that government cloud platforms lead the creation of the technical infrastructure for the systems through “intensive deployment and construction.” It also stresses that the government cloud should be built in a centralized manner.
This adds a bit of context to the role that the government cloud will play in the Chinese government’s efforts to build its big data infrastructure. In addition, the explicit call for an integrated national government cloud in the newer document can, among other things, be seen as the culmination of the original advisement for “centralized construction” back in 2017.
Alibaba & Huawei win bids for China Mobile cloud storage project
In early October, China Mobile posted a bidding notice for a significant upgrade to the mobile cloud storage framework for their internet business, China Mobile Internet. It was initially priced at a maximum of 238 million yuan. The project consists of two components, each divided into work for 2022 and 2023.
The first component focuses on foundational software updates for the new cloud storage framework related to essential nodes, necessary compatibility updates and maintenance related to the old framework, and data migrations. The second part consists of development related to SaaS functionality for individual consumers as well as foundational software updates for supplemental nodes.
Last week, China Mobile announced that Huawei Cloud and Alibaba Cloud had won the bidding for the first and second parts of the project, respectively.
One WeChat account commented on an unexpected aspect of this project (note: all emphasis in the quoted section are the original author’s):
This outcome seems to fall within expectations, but at the same time it doesn’t make sense!
The expected part: The contents of this procurement project are relatively routine. It isn’t particularly technically demanding. Both Huawei Cloud and Alibaba Cloud were bound to be among the top three candidates. For them, fulfilling these requirements is a cinch, so it isn’t at all surprising that they won the bid.
The unexpected part: The mobile cloud drive is one of China Mobile’s flagship products. China Mobile Internet is one of the companies under the banner of China Mobile, who is making a widely publicized push for mobile cloud right now. Their progress made on mobile cloud has been incredibly smooth in recent years, and they’re essentially at the forefront of the field; their strength in both technology and resources has been validated by the market.
So why did they let these fertile waters flow to someone else’s field? Think about it — did we ever see an outside company handle cloud service upgrades for Tmall or Taobao?!
A long-term view toward cloud
The 21st Century Business Herald’s official WeChat account recently featured an article discussing the future of cloud in China. Titled “Longtermism in Cloud Computing,” the article includes a number of observations and predictions about the long-term cloud landscape:
The winds are changing in the Chinese cloud market. Priorities among big cloud players are shifting from IaaS to PaaS and SaaS.
Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud have both mentioned their respective desires to increase their investments in PaaS and SaaS.
In particular, Tencent Cloud has exhibited a notable shift. It named “healthy sustainability” as its B2B growth target and recently further repositioned its IaaS services.
Some analysts believe that in light of the national strategy of “fusing the digital with the real,”2 enterprises have already progressed from the initial stage of infrastructure-centric "cloud migration" to a stage of "in-depth cloud usage" in which they leverage the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services of cloud providers. PaaS and SaaS have also become of utmost importance in increasing the digitalization of the real economy. In the long term, a trend of differentiated development may emerge in the cloud computing market as a whole.
While IaaS is still an important facet for cloud providers right now, PaaS and SaaS provide more room for imaginative opportunities and offer much more promising returns in the long run.
The piece focuses particularly on the strategies taken by Tencent, mentioning that the company has realized that its role in the competitive cloud landscape is to focus on platform products and use its in-depth technical capabilities to provide the industry ecosystem with reliable platform tools.
It closes with a quote by Tang Daosheng, a senior vice president at Tencent and leader of their Cloud and Smart Industries Group (CSIG), on Tencent Cloud’s long-term planning:
“We can spend 5 or 10 years amply developing each track we pursue, and then put together a healthy CSIG from those products exhibiting healthy patterns. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
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Credit to the Trivium tech team for resurfacing this document in their recent analysis of the State Council’s guidelines for China’s government big data system (i.e. the main document discussed in this section).