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China Tech Force: The Rise of Alibaba Technology

During QConSF 2015 starting from this 16th Nov, there will be 4 speakers from Alibaba presenting on stage. This article aims to give a brief introduction to the growth path of Alibaba technology for readers' reference.


There are various stages that Alibaba infrastructure experienced during its growth, which have been described in detail in the book "Ten Years of Taobao Technology" (in Chinese, written by Chao Zhao, founder of Taobao Technology University). In short, Taobao started with LAMP. Over several years, PHP was replaced by Java and MySQL replaced by Oracle. After continuous investment in internal development, a modified version of MySQL started to replace Oracle (there was a vigorous movement to remove the expensive IBM, Oracle and EMC products from Alibaba infrastructure around 2012, and the removal was completed around 2014). In recent years, the OceanBase database started to be adopted within the company, which is a distributed big data storage system developed by Taobao engineers. OceanBase was open sourced in 2011 and is now the dominant database service in Alibaba.

The capacity of Alibaba infrastructure is now mostly proved by its performance during "11.11" online shopping festival. During 11th Nov 2014, Alipay (a payment service provided by Alibaba) alone handled over 278 million transactions in a single day (peaking at 2.85 million transactions per minute), in which 197 million transactions came from mobile client.

Zhuoran Zhuang (Ares, Taobao nickname Nantian), Senior Director for Alibaba Wireless Division, will be giving a presentation "Alibaba Mobile Infrastructure at "China Scale" together with his colleague Zhao Xu on day 1 of QConSF. Ares was the Technical Director of the "11.11" online shopping festival for 3 consecutive years (2011-2013), which makes him the best person to share about how the infrastructure and services behind "11.11" evolved during these years.

Technical Talents

Alibaba has raised most of its technical talents from fresh graduates. While inviting senior engineers from the industry to join the company has always been Alibaba's strategy, investments in absorbing external technical talents have been greater during 2014 to early 2015 than other years, especially for engineers and scientist with an academic/overseas background. Typical hires during this period include Haiping Zhao and Yuan Qi.

Haiping Zhao is the first Chinese engineer in Facebook, the author of HipHop project and a committer of HHVM project. He was a Server Architect at Facebook before joining Alibaba in March 2015.

Yuan Qi is an associate editor of Journal of Machine Learning Research and served as area chair of International Conference on Machine Learning. He obtained his PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory in 2005 and worked as an postdoctoral associate at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory until 2007. He joined Purdue University in 2007 and was tenured in 2013 as associate professor in Department of Computer Science and Department of Statistics. Yuan joined Alibaba in 2014 to lead an incubated team Institute of Data Science&Technologies, and is now Vice President and Chief Data Scientist of Ant Financial Service Group. He will be giving a talk "Technological Innovation at Alibaba" on day 2 of QConSF.

Alibaba and Open Source

The open source movement within Alibaba was initiated by Wensong Zhang, the original author of LVS project. Wensong joined Alibaba in 2009 and founded the "Open Source Committee" in his spare time (Wensong is now the CTO of Aliyun, Alibaba's cloud platform). Through years of work promoting open source to internal engineers, the Alibaba github account now has over 80 projects, with several projects that have over 2000 stars.

One of these projects is JStorm, a distributed and fault-tolerant realtime computation system inspired by Apache Storm. Zhongyan Feng, Senior Principal Engineer for Alibaba and the author of JStorm, will be giving a presentation "Very Large Scale Stream Processing inside Taobao" on day 3 of QConSF. JStorm project started off as a replacement for Storm within Alibaba, this forked project was to rewrite the Clojure parts of Storm into Java, as well as adding more enhanced features to satisfy their own needs. Zhongyan and his team has been working on donating JStorm Code back to Apache Foundation in the past months, and the Storm community has accepted their donation via voting this October.


Alibaba is going international and so are their engineers. ChinaTech Day will setup an environment for you to know them, talk to them and play with them, and we are looking forward to see you there!

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