Alibaba Cloud service failure hits shopping app Taobao a day after Singles’ Day, in second major outage in a year

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Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing unit of Alibaba Group Holding, has apologised for an outage that led to the service suspension of one of its online shopping platforms and other main Alibaba apps on Sunday, in the company’s second large-scale system failure in less than a year. The leading Chinese cloud services provider detected abnormalities in its console and application programming interface at 5.44pm, but managed to restore all services by 9.11pm, roughly three and a half hours later, according to a notice published on the company’s official website. The service breakdown hit some of Alibaba’s most popular apps, including workplace communications tool DingTalk and second-hand-goods trading platform Xianyu, as well as online marketplace Taobao, which only concluded its annual Singles’ Day shopping bonanza a day before. The disruptions, which also spread to the cloud firm’s distributed messaging and cloud storage services, quickly became trending topics on microblogging site Weibo. The “actual operation” of most other Alibaba Cloud products remained unaffected, the company said in its notice. The service interruption has dealt a fresh blow to Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, as it strives to position itself at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) innovation in the country, with Alibaba Cloud being an integral provider of computing infrastructure. Alibaba Cloud is a major service provider for the Chinese technology industry, with 80 per cent of the nation’s tech companies and half of its large AI model firms running on Alibaba’s cloud infrastructure, Alibaba Group chairman Joe Tsai said last month. The tech giant aims to remake itself as an “open-technology platform” that provides infrastructure services for the AI innovation and transformation of “thousands of industries”, CEO Eddie Wu Yongming said in a speech last week. The service breakdown on Sunday came after Alibaba Cloud’s Hong Kong and Macau operations suffered a prolonged system failure last December, which caused disruptions at some customer platforms that stretched beyond 24 hours. That outage, which suspended withdrawals at top cryptocurrency exchange OKX and disabled the website of the Monetary Authority of Macau, was described by Alibaba Cloud at the time as its “longest major-scale failure” in a decade. Following that incident, then Alibaba Group chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang Yong took direct control of the Alibaba Cloud, before handing the reins to new CEO Wu in a surprise move in September this year. Alibaba Cloud had previously experienced service failures in March 2019 at its facilities in northern China, which lasted for about six hours, and in June 2018, when a breakdown caused some websites and apps to go offline for about an hour. The company, which aims to go public by next May as part of Alibaba Group’s historic restructuring, saw revenue rise 4 per cent in the June quarter, compared to the group’s 14 per cent revenue growth. Alibaba is set to report its September quarter earnings on Thursday.

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