< back to overview

Holiday Shopping With SDN.

Dec 14, 2015

Zhihua Yang of Alibaba shares how their network and their customers benefit from SDN during the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

Alibaba LogoAlibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival has seen considerable growth over the years. The 2015 festival just wrapped up last month, and the numbers were phenomenal. More than 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands participated. It brought in $14.3 billion total GMV (a 60 percent increase over last year), and mobile GMV settled through Alipay accounted for 68.7 percent of that total. We’re proud to say that this event is now the world’s biggest one-day online sale. It’s hard to believe that the first festival in 2009 only had 27 participating merchants!

During the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, the peak of order creation volumes hits 80,000 orders per second. That’s a lot of traffic for a cloud computing infrastructure. To resolve the limitations associated with a traditional cloud network – increasing our cloud network’s scalability, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and openness – we chose to decouple the underlay and overlay networks by separating the data and control planes with SDN.

We employed an overlay methodology leveraging VXLAN and OpenFlow, benefitting from the stability, self-learning network topology, and self-routing forwarding path of a traditional underlay network. Through our implementation, we found that it perfectly supported our hybrid cloud environment.

The solution is an important step toward the separation of forwarding and control. Our distributed controller provides a simple and flexible way to manage and operate our network, which has led to significant stability and high availability. Our cloud network is scalable, programmable, customizable, and pleasantly streamlined. It is also open and hardware-agnostic; it was very important to us that we avoid vendor lock-in with this transition. Provisioning for the varying amounts of traffic that we experience is now an automated function with high visibility across the network. We are able to very effectively manage varying amounts of traffic as needed, both peaks and lows, during our annual festival as well as every day.

But most importantly, the benefits translate directly to our customers. With our decoupled network, we’re able to offer our customers a high-quality shopping experience. The 2015 11.11 Global Shopping Festival was a great success, and we have SDN to thank for that.

– Zhihua Yang, Network Architecture Team Leader at Alibaba