If you thought cloud competition couldn’t get hotter, think again

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has opened a data center hub in Silicon Valley, adding yet another gigantic player to a growing, but already hotly-contested cloud computing market.

Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, has been likened to Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services unit and you can bet that [company]Amazon[/company], as well as [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company], are watching this development closely. Those American cloud giants are focused on boosting business and operations outside the U.S. — Microsoft and Amazon have presence in China, for example, and now Aliyun will return the favor with its first US-based data center.

The initial plan is for the Aliyun data center, the exact location of which was not disclosed, to target Chinese companies based in the U.S. and to expand from that base. In a statement Aliyun VP Ethan Sicheng Yu said:

… the ultimate objective of Aliyun is to bring cost-efficient and cutting-edge cloud computing services to benefit more clients outside China to boost their business development.

The U.S. expansion comes at an interesting time politically as well — relations are tense between the Chinese and U.S. governments and both sides have accused the other of spying on each other and using native tech companies to help in this effort.

Aliyun’s current data centers are in Hangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

You can now automatically recover instances for Amazon EC2

In yet another sign that the big cloud players of Google, Amazon and Microsoft have moved on from just storage price cuts are in the midst of a feature war, Amazon laid out the details of a new auto recovery tool for Amazon EC2, the company explained in a blog post on Monday.

The tool claims to make it possible for EC2 instances to automatically spin up when internal system checks discover that something is hampering those instances. These problems could include a “loss of network connectivity, loss of system power, software issues on the physical host, and hardware issues on the physical host,” the blog post states.

Now, when a hardware issue impedes one of your EC2 instances, you can automatically reboot that instance, which should contain all the necessary configuration details like the instance ID and the IP address. The new instance can also be rebooted onto new hardware if the situation warrants.

Amazon auto recovery

Amazon auto recovery

The auto recovery feature is currently only available to users running the C3, C4, M3, R3, and T2 instance types in the AWS US East region, but [company]Amazon[/company] plans to “make it available in other regions as quickly as possible.” Users can set parameters and alerts in CloudWatch to enable auto recovery. There is no extra charge for auto recovery but regular charges for CloudWatch apply.

Currently, it doesn’t seem like [company]Microsoft[/company]’s Azure has a similar feature. I asked Microsoft and will update this post if I hear back.

[company]Google[/company] Cloud has Live Migration, which means it doesn’t require auto recovery, according to Scalr founder Sebastian Stadil. However, he sees Amazon’s auto recovery being useful to remedy potential software issues.

“Advanced cloud users have been tying their monitoring to fault recovery for a while now, using either homegrown software or off the shelf software like Scalr/RightScale, and they can now use Amazon as an additional choice,” he wrote in an email.

Barb Darrow contributed to this report.

Update on Friday, Jan 23:
A Microsoft spokesperson sent me this blog post:
[blockquote person=”Microsoft” attribution=”Microsoft”]In addition to platform updates, Microsoft Azure service healing occurs automatically when Microsoft Azure detects problematic nodes and moves these virtual machines (VMs) to new nodes. When this occurs, you lose connectivity to VM during the service healing process and after the service healing process is completed, when you connect to VM, you will likely find an event log entry indicating VM restart/shutdown (either gracefully or unexpected).[/blockquote]