This is big: Amazon’s cloud goes to China

Wow. Amazon Web Services is opening up a new region in Beijing, China, with a limited preview of services to select companies to start early in 2014, according to the Amazon Web Services blog.

“This Region will allow China-based and multinational companies to make use of a broad collection of AWS services while remaining in compliance with China’s legal and regulatory requirements,” wrote AWS evangelist Jeff Barr.

The region will offer all the basics of course — EC2 servers, S3 storage, RDS databases — as well as higher level goodies like Dynamo DB. The full list is on the blog and the AWS China page is here.

Customers wanting to use these facilities will have to create an account specific to this region. Up till now  AWS had Asia Pacific coverage out of Tokyo, Singapore  and Sydney regions as well as edge locations in Chennai Chenai, Osaka, Hong Kong, Manila, Mumbai, and Seoul.

This news raises eyebrows at a time when Google appears to be avoiding China after tussles over internet censorship, recently nixing a planned data center in Hong Kong, for example. Microsoft, on the other hand, has thrown itself headlong into China via a licensing arrangement with 21Vianet which offers  Windows Azure and Office 365 services 21Vianet’s local data centers.

AWS-Beijing could also be part of a much bigger direct confrontation down the line between Amazon (the parent company) and Alibaba, the gigantic chinese e-commerce power.

A few months ago, I speculated that due to data sovereignty preferences and laws outside the U.S., Amazon would set up a series of region-restricted mini AWS clones in different markets. This may be the start of such a push, although it appears geared for commercial users, not government agencies.

In 2011, IDC sized the Chinese market for public cloud in China was $418.5 million and it’s expected to hit $1.08 billion by 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.9 percent for the period between 2012 to 2016.

To date, appetite for “public” cloud in China has been limited. as Derrick Harris reported in January. He wrote:

Because of cultural, regulatory and linguistic issues, private clouds are the hot topic while public cloud services (e.g., Amazon Web Services or any of the myriad SaaS startups in the United States) have little to no presence. This situation can make it tough for U.S. IT companies to make a strong cloud play in China…

Maybe that’s starting to change.