Amazon Web Services makes big move into China

awscnAmazon Web Services will open a new China region starting with a limited preview in the country early next year, the latest step in the Seattle-based company’s worldwide expansion of its cloud computing platform.

The move, announced this morning, gives Amazon a new beachhead in the world’s most populous nation, and steps up the company’s rivalry with competitors including Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce and cloud computing provider. Microsoft expanded its Windows Azure cloud computing platform to China earlier this year.

AWS says it already has thousands of customers in China, but so far they’ve been leveraging the company’s data centers elsewhere around the world. Amazon says the ability to run applications from infrastructure inside China will reduce latency and allow companies to comply with regulatory requirements to store data inside the country.

The move comes with some of the characteristic trappings of doing business in the country, including the need for Amazon to work with a complex network of local partners to deliver the service.

Amazon explains in a news release, “To provide the best experience for customers in China and to comply with China’s legal and regulatory requirements, AWS China has taken a multi-partner approach for delivering cloud services. AWS is partnering with multiple local Chinese providers, including ChinaNetCenter and SINNET, who will provide the necessary Internet Data Center (IDC) and Internet Service Provider (ISP) services, such as infrastructure, bandwidth, and network capabilities, to support the delivery of AWS software technology services in China.”

The company says it will invite a “select group” of businesses in the country and those with customers in China to use the limited preview when it launches in early 2014.