Alibaba supports Singles Day with cloud computing, 3D models

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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There was no “magic” behind Alibaba’s successful 2020 edition of its Singles Day sales holiday, just a lot of innovative technology.

Alibaba broke records by generating an estimated $74.1 billion USD in gross merchandise volume (GMV) during its November 2020 Singles Day e-commerce sales bonanza. Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence division of Alibaba Group, is now unveiling how Singles Day functioned smoothly from a technology standpoint. 

Alibaba's real-time cloud computing platform, powered by Apache Flink, processed data streams totaling 4 billion items per second during peak time, up from 2.5 billion in 2019. MaxCompute, Alibaba's proprietary data warehousing platform, handled up to 1.7 exabytes (an exabyte is equal to 1 billion gigabytes) of data a day during the 11-day festival from Nov. 1 to 11. No downtime was reported throughout this year's extended festival period.

The global e-tail titan leveraged cloud-native databases, including PolarDB, AnalyticDB, and Lindorm. PolarDB set a new record with 140 million queries per second during peak time, a 60% increase from 2019. AnalyticDB, Alibaba Cloud's in-house-developed, cloud-native data warehouse, processed up to 7.7 trillion lines of real-time data. In addition, PolarDB-X and AnalyticDB helped China Post (China’s state-owned postal service) to deal with more than 100 million orders, with about 100,000 China Post users checking their parcels' real-time status online.

Virtual tours with 3D visuals were available on Alibaba’s Taobao e-commerce subsidiary to sell big-ticket items like houses and furniture. Underpinned by machine learning technologies like graph neural networks (GNN), convolutional neural networks (CNN), 3D shape analysis and knowledge graphs, Alibaba offered a 3D modeling design platform for brands. This reducied the time for model creation from three hours to 10 seconds. Retailers leveraged the technology to create over 100,000 showrooms with virtual 3D products, used by 60 million consumers during the event.

Alibaba Cloud also supported one of the world's largest container clusters, enabling the upscaling to 1 million containers in an hour. The optimal elasticity and scheduling capacity enabled by the cloud-native technologies led to an 80% reduction of computing resources for every 10,000 transactions conducted compared to the 2016 Singles Day event. In addition, the company used green technologies - including liquid cooling and wind energy – at its five hyper-scale data centers to ensure the most environmentally-friendly operation during the event. 

"We were very proud to support 800 million consumers and 250,000 brands during the world's largest shopping festival," said Li Cheng, CTO of Alibaba Group. "From the robust digital infrastructure supporting zero downtime operation, to cloud-native offerings for developers' efficiencies and consumer-facing applications for creating some of smoothest engagement experiences, Alibaba's technologies have once again passed the toughest tests with flying colors."