Alibaba Cloud Adds an Application PaaS Solution via the Terminus Acquisition

S. Soh

Summary Bullets:

  • The acquisition of Terminus has given Alibaba Cloud an attractive application PaaS solution that it can take to market and help to boost cloud adoption in China.
  • The Terminus PaaS is evolving and it has a strong roadmap; the multi-cloud approach is a crucial factor when Alibaba Cloud extends the solution internationally.

Terminus and Its Application PaaS

Terminus is a Chinese software provider founded in 2012 with a strong focus on addressing the needs of retail, procurement, and the supply chain functions. The company was acquired by Alibaba, and its products are now offered based on Alibaba Cloud while retaining the Terminus product brand. The Terminus team remains intact and is driving product development, but tapping into Alibaba’s ecosystem, go-to-market machinery, and its infrastructure and technologies to accelerate business expansion.

One area that will help drive the adoption of Alibaba Cloud services is Terminus PaaS. Formerly branded as DICE, this is an application PaaS which enables enterprises to build applications in a full-stack DevOps environment based on container, including code hosting, application building, CI/CD, operations, and monitoring. With the container-based multi-cloud management, customers can optimize their cloud resources across different environments including private cloud, Alibaba Cloud, and other public cloud services. Through this approach, Terminus PaaS enables customers to better allocate resources and have tighter control over the cost of utilizing those resources, as well as avoiding vendor lock-in.

With a microservices architecture, Terminus PaaS provides the tools for the entire development lifecycle – plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate, and monitor. Application downtime is minimized through segmentation, automated distributed application activation, and the blue-green deployment technique. Terminus also provides comprehensive monitoring capability covering availability, functionality, performance, and efficiency. The solution also provides tools to visualize data processing workflow in order to enable real-time monitoring and risk alerts. This is crucial for data governance. The company has developed an add-on marketplace where customers can find tools (middleware and backend systems) to customize their applications. The marketplace will have a mix of Terminus-developed and third-party tools; some existing ones include a notification center, inventory center, accounting center, and order center.

Why Is Terminus PaaS Important to Alibaba Cloud?

Whether it is modernizing legacy applications or developing new business applications, the trend is moving towards greater agility, including the adoption of DevOps, cloud-native offerings, and containerization. With IT looking at doing more with limited resources and wanting to develop applications quickly, a low-code application PaaS solution can help enterprises develop, run, and manage applications more rapidly by simplifying the setup and management of the infrastructure needed to support the application. Terminus PaaS has proven to be well received in the Chinese market, and it has won several major customers. The company has some case studies, including major consumer electronics and home appliances company Haier, online bookstore Xinhua, and real-estate company Vanke. These are enterprises that have the ambition to transform their businesses to become data-driven and achieve faster innovation. They adopted the Terminus PaaS to overcome challenges around siloed architecture and the lack of uniform data management and governance.

While the Terminus PaaS solution is hosted in Alibaba Cloud and included as part of the cloud portfolio, the platform is positioned as a multi-cloud product that can support any public and private cloud. In China, Alibaba Cloud is the dominant cloud service provider, and the adoption of Terminus PaaS will drive the demand for other Alibaba Cloud products, particularly if companies are looking at leveraging other technologies such as big data and analytics. The multi-cloud approach is even more important internationally, since Alibaba Cloud still has a small market share but enterprises are likely to be using multiple cloud providers. In addition, given Terminus’ background in supplying software solutions to enterprises in retail, e-commerce, and supply chain markets, its PaaS solution will find favor with customers in these sectors; these are areas where Alibaba Cloud has similar strengths.

What’s Next?

Terminus PaaS has a roadmap that will further enhance the capability of the platform. With Alibaba driving AI R&D, the Terminus solution will also be offering AI capability to developers, cost optimization for multi-cloud environments, and a service mesh to handle a high volume of network-based, inter-process communication through APIs, as well as expanding the add-on marketplace by developing a community of third-party ISVs.

Like many products, Terminus PaaS has just been included in Alibaba Cloud portfolio and it remains a product that the company will drive mostly within the local market. However, as the platform becomes more mature, Alibaba Cloud can take the product to the international market and attract international ISV partners to be part of its add-on marketplace. Terminus has the ambition to go international, and in 2017, before it was acquired by Alibaba, the company helped Lazada (an e-commerce company in Southeast Asia) upgrade its e-commerce system to resolve issues with the sales system and other legacy systems.

With Alibaba’s brand and international presence, the extension of Terminus into global markets can be accelerated. However, the challenge for Alibaba Cloud is to engage go-to-market partners that can work with enterprises to ensure successful adoption. The company also needs to work closely with a few international customers to prove the benefits of its PaaS (particularly the multi-cloud management) and develop case studies. The e-commerce, retail, and supply chain sectors will be good places to start, as the company needs to differentiate in the market when competing against many other players including Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

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