Alibaba Takes Blow in Cloud Business as Executive Departs

This executive spearheaded Alibaba’s smart city efforts

In an apparent setback to Alibaba’s cloud computing ambitions, the company has lost a prominent executive in its cloud computing unit. Min Wanli, the chief scientist in the Alibaba cloud unit, has left the company, according to Chinese media reports. Min joined Alibaba in September 2013, bringing experience and expertise gathered from his many years working for global technology giants IBM (IBM) and Google (GOOGL). At Alibaba, Min was very much involved with the company’s smart city projects, which include digitizing urban transportation systems.

Alibaba Takes Blow in Cloud Business as Executive Departs

Alibaba losing top cloud talent as its rivals try to hold to their own

The departure of Min comes at a time when cloud computing companies are trying hard to hold their own amid intensifying competition for cloud customers. At Google, the company is expanding its cloud sales team to better compete with market leaders Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT). And Microsoft, not content being the world’s second-largest cloud company, recently teamed up with Oracle (ORCL) to better coordinate their strategies in the battle for enterprise cloud customers.

Alibaba dominates the Chinese cloud market, but it is subdued on the global stage. According to Synergy Research estimates, Alibaba finished the first quarter holding around 5.0% of the global cloud market, compared to 35% for Amazon, 15% for Microsoft, around 7.5% for Google, and 6.0% for IBM. The smart city project is crucial to Alibaba’s ambition to become a more global cloud company.