What is Elastic Compute Service (ECS)?

Elastic Compute Service (ECS) is a high-performance, stable, reliable, and scalable IaaS-level service provided by Alibaba Cloud.

Elastic Compute Service (ECS) is a high-performance, stable, reliable, and scalable IaaS-level service provided by Alibaba Cloud. It is more convenient and efficient compared with physical servers. You can immediately acquire ECS instances and scale computing resources on-demand. ECS provides a variety of instance types that suit various business needs and help boost business growth.

Why ECS?

ECS provides the following benefits:

  • You do not have to purchase hardware or construct data centers up front.
  • Instances are delivered within minutes, enabling rapid deployment and reducing time to market.
  • You can make use of resources in data centers and BGP grids around the world.
  • You can scale and release resources based on actual business needs.
  • Provides heterogenous computing servers such as GPU, FPGA, bare metal servers, and general x86 servers.
  • You can use ECS to access other Alibaba Cloud services over the internal network, reducing traffic costs.
  • Provides a host of security solutions, such as virtual firewalls, permission control, internal network isolation, virus protection, and traffic throttling.
  • Provides a performance monitoring framework and proactive O&M systems.
  • Provides standardized APIs to improve ease of use and applicability.

Benefits of ECS

ECS provides better availability, security, and elasticity than integrated data centers (IDCs) and cloud server providers.

High Availability

Alibaba Cloud adopts more stringent IDC standards, server access standards, and O&M standards to ensure data reliability and high availability of the cloud computing infrastructure and ECS.

Each Alibaba Cloud region has multiple zones. You can create active/standby or active/active ECS instances in multiple zones to achieve higher availability. You can build fault tolerant systems across multiple regions and zones to implement a financial-grade solution that spans three data centers across two regions. Alibaba Cloud provides mature solutions for fault tolerant services such as disaster recovery.

The Alibaba Cloud framework allows you to seamlessly switch between services. For more information about industry solutions. Alibaba Cloud industry solutions support a variety of services, such as finance, e-commerce, and video services.

Alibaba Cloud provides you with the following support services:

  • Products and services for availability improvement, such as Elastic Compute Service (ECS), Server Load Balancer (SLB), Relational Database Service (RDS), and Data Transmission Service (DTS).
  • Industry partners and ecosystem partners that help you build a more advanced and stable architecture and guarantee service continuity.
  • Diverse training services that help you achieve high availability from businesses to underlying services.


Alibaba Cloud has passed a host of international information security certifications, such as ISO 27001 and MTCS, which demands strict confidentiality of user data and user information, as well as user privacy protection.

We recommend that you use ECS in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). VPCs provide a stable, secure, controllable network environment that can be delivered in a short period of time. The capability and architecture of VPC hybrid cloud bring the technical advantages of cloud computing to enterprises in traditional industries that have not implemented cloud computing.

  • Breadth of network products

    You only need to perform a simple configuration to connect your business environment to global IDCs, making your business more flexible, stable, and extensible.

  • Interconnection with your IDC

    You can use Express Connect to connect Alibaba Cloud VPC to your IDC to build a hybrid cloud architecture. You can use a variety of hybrid cloud architectures to provide network services and robust networking.

  • Stability

    After constructing your VPC, you can update your network architecture and obtain new network functions daily to constantly evolve your network infrastructure and ensure your business is always running steadily.

  • Security

    VPC features traffic isolation and attack isolation to protect your services from cyber attacks. After you build your business in a VPC, the first line of defense is established.


Elasticity is a key benefit of cloud computing. Alibaba Cloud is capable of providing IT resources required by a medium-sized Internet enterprise within a few minutes. In this way, most enterprises that build business on the cloud can process huge business volumes.

Alibaba Cloud provides elastic computing, storage, networking, and business architecture planning and allows you to combine your businesses as needed.

  • Elastic computing
    • Vertical scaling

      Vertical scaling is the process where the configurations of an ECS instance are modified. After you purchase an ECS instance or storage capacity from Alibaba Cloud, you can configure the instance based on your transaction volume, whereas it may be difficult to change the configurations of a server in a traditional IDC.

    • Horizontal scaling

      Horizontal scaling allows the re-division of resources between applications. A traditional IDC may not be able to immediately provide sufficient resources for online gaming or live video streaming applications during peak hours. The elasticity of cloud computing makes it possible to provide the resources required during peak hours. When the load returns to normal levels, you can release unnecessary resources to reduce operation costs. The combination of ECS vertical and horizontal elasticity enables you to scale resources up and down by specific quantities as scheduled or against business load.

  • Elastic storage

    In a traditional IDC, you must add servers to increase the storage space. However, the number of servers that you can add is limited. Alibaba Cloud provides unlimited storage capacity and allows you to order as much storage space based on the business requirements.

  • Elastic network

    Alibaba Cloud provides network elasticity. When purchasing Alibaba Cloud VPCs, you can configure the VPCs in the same way as the IDCs. In addition, VPCs have the following benefits: interconnection between data centers, separate secure domains in data centers, and flexible network configurations and planning within a VPC.

Comparison between ECS and traditional IDCs

The following table lists the benefits of ECS compared with traditional IDCs.

ItemECSTraditional IDC
Equipment room deploymentProvides independently developed DC-powered servers with low PUE.Provides traditional AC-powered servers with high PUE.
Provides backbone equipment rooms with high outbound bandwidth and dedicated bandwidth.Provides equipment rooms with various quality levels and shared bandwidth primarily, difficult for users to choose from.
Provides multi-line BGP equipment rooms, enabling smooth and balanced access among regions.Provides equipment rooms with a single or dual line primarily.
Ease of operationProvides mainstream OSs, including activated Windows OS.Requires users to purchase and install OSs manually.
Easily switches between OSs online.OSs have to be manually reinstalled.
Provides a Web-based console for online management.Users must manually perform management and maintenance operations.
Provides mobile phone verification for password setting, increasing data security.Brings difficulty in resetting passwords, and exposes high risk of password cracking.
Disaster recovery and backupStores three copies of each piece of data. When one copy is corrupted, the data can be quickly restored.Users must build a disaster recovery environment by themselves, and use traditional storage devices.
Users can customize automatic snapshot policies to create automatic snapshots for data recovery.Does not support automatic recovery because the snapshot function is not provided.
Hardware failures can be recovered quickly and automatically.Users must restore corrupted data manually.
Security and reliabilityEffectively prevents MAC spoofing and ARP attacks.Fails to prevent MAC spoofing and ARP attacks.
Effectively defends against DDoS attacks by using black holes and traffic scrubbing.Needs additional costs for devices for traffic scrubbing and black hole shielding systems.
Provides additional services, such as port scanning, trojan scanning, and vulnerability scanning.Typically encounters problems such as port scanning, trojan scanning, and vulnerability scanning.
Flexible scalabilityActivates cloud servers on demand and upgrades configurations online.Needs a long time for server delivery.
Adjusts outbound bandwidth as required.Requires one-off purchase of outbound bandwidth that cannot be adjusted.
Combines with Server Load Balancer online, enabling scaling up applications quickly and easily.Uses hardware-based server load balancing, which is expensive and difficult to set up.
Cost effectivenessLow cost.High cost.
Small up-front investment.Large up-front investment, causing serious waste of resources.
Provides pay-as-you-go and flexible payment options to allow you to flexibly respond to business changes.Requires users to purchase up front to meet configuration requirements during peak hours.


ECS is a highly flexible solution that can be used independently as a simple web server or an application server, or used with other Alibaba Cloud products to deliver advanced solutions.

Official websites and simple web applications

A new website has low traffic and requires only low-configuration ECS instances to run applications, databases, storage files, and other resources. As your business expands, you can upgrade the ECS configuration or add ECS instances at any time without worrying about resource insufficiency during peak traffic.

Multimedia and high-traffic apps or websites

ECS can be used with OSS to store static images, videos, and downloaded packages, reducing the storage fees. In addition, it can work with CDN and Load Balancer to significantly reduce your waiting time, cut down public bandwidth costs, and improve service availability.

Databases with high I/O requirements

ECS supports databases with high I/O requirements, such as OLTP and NoSQL databases. A high-configuration I/O-optimized ECS instance can be used with the ESSD to achieve high level of I/O concurrency with higher data reliability. Alternatively, multiple lower-configuration I/O-optimized ECS instances can be used with Server Load Balancer (SLB) to deliver a high availability architecture.

Apps and websites with sharp traffic fluctuations

Some applications may experience sharp traffic fluctuations within a short period. When ECS is used with Auto Scaling, the number of ECS instances is automatically adjusted based on traffic. This way, you can meet the changing resource requirements at a low cost. ECS can also work with SLB to deliver a high availability architecture.

Big data and real-time online and offline analysis

ECS allows you to use big data instance type families to support Hadoop distributed computing, log processing, and large data warehouses. By adopting the local storage architecture, the big data instance type families can deliver better network performance for Hadoop and Spark clusters while providing abundant storage space with higher storage performance.

AI applications

ECS allows you to use compute optimized and GPU-equipped instance type families to build AI applications with TensorFlow. Such instance type families have lower requirements on the computing capacity of clients and are suitable for image processing, and real-time online rendering for cloud gaming and AR/VR applications.

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