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Cloud computing can be an absolute bear sometimes, particularly for enterprises of a certain size. But Alibaba and Intel are teaming up to make it easier by deepening their ecosystem partnerships.

At the Yunqi Conference 2018 in Hangzhou, China today, the two unveiled a slew of collaborations that promise to accelerate deployments in every sector.

“We are thrilled to have Intel as our long-term strategic partner and are excited to expand our collaboration across a wide array of areas, from edge computing to hybrid cloud, internet of things, and smart mobility,” Simon Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, said in a statement. “By combining Intel’s leading technology services and Alibaba’s experience in driving digital transformation in China and the rest of Asia, we are confident that our clients worldwide will benefit from the technology innovation that comes from this partnership.”

First announced was the Joint Edge Computing Platform (JECP), a new open architecture that leverages computer vision and other machine learning techniques to deliver timely business insights. The two companies describe it as a marriage of Intel’s “software, hardware, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies” and Alibaba Cloud’s latest IoT products and say that factories operated by Chinese company Chongqing Refine-Yumei Die Casting Co. have already tapped it to speed up defection detection by a factor of five.

Chongqing Refine-Yumei’s system consists of a fanless computing node with a Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, Intel’s OpenVINO SDK, and a 5MP POE Basler camera, but Intel and Alibaba say that JECP is modular in design.

The two companies also took the wraps off Apsara Stack Industry Alliance, which will build an ecosystem of cloud solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. They’ll be designed principally around Intel’s Xeon Scalable processors and Alibaba Stack, Alibaba’s eponymous on-premises, hybrid cloud platform.

On the autonomous car side of things, Intel said it would become a strategic partner of Alibaba’s AliOS (formerly YunOS), a highly customized Linux distribution tailored for mobile, industrial, and internet IoT devices. And it pledged to jointly explore v2x models (vehicle-to-everything) — a communication scheme in which cars communicate with other cars in addition to wireless street lights, building-mounted traffic sensors, and even bicycles —  with respect to “5G communication” and “edge computing.”

Last, but not least, in preparation for Singles Day on November 11, Alibaba said it’ll trial “next-generation” Intel Xeon Scalable processor and upcoming Optane DC persistent memory (which Intel detailed in May) with Alibaba Tair, an open source elastic cache platform. (Singles Day is no joke: Last year, celebratory bachelors and bachelorettes spent more than 168.2 billion yuan, or about $25 billion, on gifts and goodies.)

Also debuted at Alibaba Yunqi: OBS Cloud, Alibaba’s cloud-hosted broadcasting solution that aims to offer “all … necessary [components]” for content distribution. Thanks to a collaboration with Intel, it’ll cast audio and video streams during the 2018 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Alibaba’s highly innovative data-centric computing infrastructure powered by Intel technology enables real-time insight for customers from the cloud to the edge,” said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president at Intel’s datacenter group. “Our close collaboration with Alibaba from silicon to software to market adoption enables customers to benefit from a broad set of workload-optimized solutions.”

The announcements come just a week after Intel’s 5G Summit, where the Santa Clara company discussed its plans for next-generation cellular technology. There, network platforms SVP Sandra Rivera said teams are working on 5G New Radio modems and CPUs, memory, chips, and networking hardware for high-efficiency datacenters and reaffirmed the company’s partnerships with Nokia, Ericsson, KT, Tencent, and others.

And they precede the departure of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s cofounder and chairman, who said this month that he plans to step down in a year’s time. He’ll be replaced by current Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang.

Alibaba’s cloud business — which garners close to 50 percent of infrastructure-as-a-service revenue in China, according to IDC — is well-positioned for growth. This year, it displaced IBM to rank fourth in cloud infrastructure and related services, and its annual topped $2.1 billion for the fiscal year.

According to a Gartner report in September, the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 17.3 percent in 2019 to $206.2 billion, up from $175.8 billion in 2018.

“Demand for integrated IaaS and PaaS offerings is driving the next wave of cloud infrastructure adoption,” Sid Nag, research director at Gartner, said at the time.


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