How Alibaba powered billions of transactions on Singles’ Day with ‘zero downtime’


  • e-Commerce
  • Thursday, 21 Nov 2019

Shoppers spent a record US$38.4bil on Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces on Nov 11 this year. At its peak, the company’s Apsara Operating System supported a record 544,000 orders per second. — SCMP

In just the first 68 seconds of Nov 11, shoppers spent US$1bil (RM4.16bil) on Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces, scooping up everything from consumer electronics to luxury items and even cars.

By the end of the annual 24-hour Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza, the Chinese tech giant reported a record-shattering 268.4 billion yuan (RM159.13bil) of sales.

All of this took place with “zero downtime” thanks to its cloud infrastructure and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Alibaba Cloud said in a statement on Wednesday.

Alibaba Cloud is the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, which is also the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

The cloud service provider applied “multiple mature innovations to power the cloud infrastructure and other key AI-enabled features, enabling millions of businesses to reach hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide”, it said in the statement.

Here are some of the key points from the statement:

  • Alibaba’s third-generation X-Dragon cloud architecture used servers that were seamlessly integrated with computing platforms, helping it process large volumes of transactions with zero downtime.
  • At its peak, the company’s Apsara Operating System supported a record 544,000 orders per second using advanced data processing and analytic capabilities.
  • Despite the record sales, energy consumption at Alibaba’s datacentre dropped 70% from the previous year, saving more than 200,000 kilowatt hours of energy on Singles’ Day using cooling technologies developed by Alibaba Cloud.
  • The machine translation service for Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce platform, AliExpress, was used 1.66 billion times during the shopping festival with over 200 billion words translated in different languages.
  • More than one million orders were placed and processed through voice command using smart speaker Tmall Genie, “a sign that voice shopping has become an increasingly popular trend among Chinese consumers” according to Alibaba Cloud.

Alibaba held its first Singles’ Day shopping event in 2009 as a promotional campaign, but it has since morphed into a show of China’s collective consumer spending power.

The name comes from the date of the event, which written numerically as 11/11 looks like “bare branches”, a Chinese expression for the single and unattached. As a kind of antidote to the societal pressures of being in a relationship, many of China’s singles have begun splurging on themselves on Singles’ Day, and it has come to be seen as a type of anti-Valentine’s Day. – South China Morning Post

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