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The Fifth Alibaba Technology Forum launches big data competition

Peking University, Mar. 23: On March 18, the Fifth Alibaba Technology Forum (ATF) was held in PKU Hall to share Alibaba’s big data technology and its vision. During the forum, Alibaba launched its global big data competition among students based on its Tianchi cloud computing platform.
It is the first time that ATF has been held in the Chinese mainland. Ma Yun, founder and former CEO of Alibaba Group, together with CTO Wang Jian and CPO Dai Shan delivered keynote speeches. PKU President Wang Enge, who admitted that he had never been to any big event hosted by a corporate before, was also present.

Wang Jian, the man behind Alibaba’s cloud computing technology, took the stage first and shared the stories behind the technology and his vision of cloud computing. “In this data technology era,” he said, “What a computer could do in a hundred days previously can be accomplished within a minute today. Alibaba absorbs the great value that cloud computing brings about.”

Alibaba, which controls 80 percent of China’s ecommerce, generated a record daily turnover of 35 billion RMB on last November 11 during the so-called “Double Eleven” online shopping carnival. At peak time, over 17 million people accessed its website in a single minute, which wouldn’t be possible if it were not for the cloud computing technology behind. In fact, it was this unique need in the world that compelled Alibaba to explore and advance cloud computing technologies in the first place. Last year, its e-commerce volume surpassed that of Amazon and eBay in the U.S. combined. If there were to be an information technology that China could lead, chances are it would be the big data technology.

"The scale of computing will become the competitiveness of a country, an enterprise, a school, even an individual.” Wang Jian believed in the opportunity that of information technology could bring to the whole world.

Ma Yun’s speech afterwards confirmed Wang’s saying. “What kind of company is Alibaba? Six years ago we made our decision that Alibaba is going to be a data sharing company. Can data sharing make money? If not, how can we cover the cost? Could the massive cloud computing technology be realized in the first place? We didn’t know at that time and we were worried.” Ma Yun recalled. “But we knew that the society needs it. That is enough for us to take up the challenge of innovating cloud computing and big data technologies. We feel lucky that we succeeded eventually.”

When asked about the philosophy behind sharing valuable commercial data, Ma Yun firmly answered, “If Alibaba became the only one enterprise that owns the data, we wouldn’t make much progress. Only if we start to share data with more young people, more industries, more enterprises and institutions and combine the wisdom of the whole society, can we go way forward and make the utmost contribution to the human kind.” That is why Alibaba decides to hold Tianchi recommendation algorithm competition by providing student teams with its real commercial big data of customer behaviors. Alibaba hopes that Tianchi will not only become the testing ground for its opening strategy of big data, but also a platform for cultivating technology talents.

PKU President Wang Enge spoke highly of the technology innovation of Alibaba in making online shopping a convenient experience and its belief in sharing big data. He hoped that there would be more outstanding enterprises like Alibaba to establish cooperation with universities through sharing data, giving technical lectures, collaborating on research projects and cultivating talents.

Extended Reading

Alibaba Technology Forum (ATF)

ATF was set up as a professional forum for technology elites in 2013. Alibaba’s top executives would attend the forum to share the stories behind Alibaba and envision the social development driven by technology. The forum appeals to a large number of specialists and scholars every time. The previous four forums were held in Seattle in January 2014, in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in November 2013 and in Stanford University twice in May and October 2013.

Quotes of Ma Yun during 5th ATF

Our mission is to make all businesses easy to do under the sun since day one we founded Alibaba. Today we still abide by it.

The most valuable asset of Alibaba is our staff, while software and technology come second. Therefore, the change of our personnel could largely influence our products and clients.

We are transforming from information technology (IT) era to data technology (DT) era. IT and DT not only differ in technology; moreover, they differ in terms of ways of thinking. IT is to better manage and serve ourselves, while DT is to stimulate productivity and let others live better.

It’s because I didn’t know cloud computing technology or how hard it is that our team could go ahead to explore it and finally succeed.

Only the technologies that have lived outside labs and created social values can be regarded as good technologies.

Optimism is characteristic of entrepreneurs. Always look forward to the future optimistically. There are no hurdles that can’t be overcome.

Too much money leads to big trouble. Wealth needs to be shared.

A businessman can also care about the world. Money is only a resource.

Yesterday’s shortcoming can be turned into today’s strength.

Think about what you want, what you have and what you are willing to give up.

Live in the present; do what you think is right at the moment.

Work happily and live seriously, not the other way around.

Working is part of life, but living a life doesn’t mean basking in the sunshine all the time. If you love what you do, you won’t get tired from your work.

Written by: Li Ruiqi and Chen Long
Edited by: Chen Long
Source: PKU News (Chinese)