Tech

ByteDance launches Volcano Engine public cloud

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has launched a public cloud it’s excitingly dubbed Volcano Engine.

ByteDance discussed its cloud ambitions in 2020, and in the same year Volcano Engine joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. In mid-2021 ByteDance teased a future cloud launch.

Volcano Engine’s site bloomed in the last 24 hours, revealing a plethora of products and services.

Many are just the kind of elastic compute and storage you expect from a hyperscaler. Offerings like database as a service (ApsaraDB for MySQL), cloud networks, and cloud DDOS protection are also table stakes.

Upping the ante, Volcano Engine also offers products developed and used by ByteDance to power its own platforms – such as the ByteHouse data warehouse, an intelligent recommendation engine and a “Smart Video Creation SDK” that includes “intelligent beautification”. ByteDance’s video and personalization tech is widely regarded as state of the art, and is the reason TikTok has grown so quickly and emerged as a challenger to more established social networks.

The cloud newcomer has not disclosed how many datacenters or regions it operates, nor much information about resilience or service level guarantees. It appears only to have infrastructure in China – which doesn’t surprise, given keeping TikTok afloat outside the Middle Kingdom is probably enough overseas action for ByteDance to handle!

The service’s web site is entirely in Chinese – but that’s not a deal-breaker. Alibaba Cloud was slow to translate its site into other languages in its early years, even after it opened datacenters outside China.

Chinese media report that ByteDance execs have said the launch signals an ambition to become China’s number four cloud – behind Alibaba, Huawei, and Tencent. Other reports state that ByteDance recently dropped around $150 million of capital into Volcano Engine – a sum that’s not likely to buy many datacenters or servers.

The world – including China – does not lack options for vanilla IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS. The Register understands that Volcano Engine realises it can’t compete on those fronts and is instead taking the well-worn path of productizing its parent company’s tech.

But even with TikTok’s AI, Volcano Engine has plenty of challengers. At home, Baidu also eschews competing on IaaS and leads with cloudy AI. Nvidia is starting to do the same around the world, and AWS spent much of this week’s Re:Invent gabfest talking about its AI and analytics capabilities. ®


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