Amazon will literally truck your data into its cloud

Its new 'Snowmobile' data truck offers 100PB of data transfer

aws snowmobile reinvent 2016

A truck towing an AWS Snowmobile pulls into the Re:Invent keynote hall in Las Vegas on November 30, 2016.

Credit: Blair Hanley Frank

It can be hard moving large amounts of data to the cloud. Even with consistent 10 Gbps of data transfer, it would take years to get hundreds of petabytes from an on-premises data center to a public cloud provider.

Amazon is aiming to speed that process up with a high-capacity data transfer product: a literal truck. The Snowmobile is a big, white semi-trailer that can hold 100PB of data. It will then get driven to an Amazon endpoint, and the data will be loaded into its public cloud storage.

For smaller migrations that can also benefit from processing at the edge, Amazon also announced a new Snowball Edge appliance that provides 100TB of storage, local compute power, and migration for handling data transfer and processing.

These new products, announced Wednesday, are aimed at helping companies get large amounts of data into Amazon’s cloud, which will then encourage them to stick with the company's services going forward. That’s especially important because the company charges for data egress, and the costs of a full migration to a competing cloud provider could be too much for some businesses to bear.

For companies that want to move large swaths of data, the Snowmobile could be a useful tool. Amazon will back it up to a customer’s data center, and the truck can handle data transfers of up to 1TB per second by hooking up multiple 40Gbps fiber connections. The Snowmobile can be filled in about 10 days at maximum speed, according to a blog post from AWS evangelist Jeff Barr.

What's more, the truck is waterproof and can be parked in either covered or uncovered locations.

Amazon takes the security of the trailer seriously — the company can provide security for the Snowmobile while it's located at a customer's data center and will provide an escort for the data to its destination. Each container will provide GPS tracking as well, and users' data is encrypted.

The trucks are already being used, including with one large customer who is undergoing a "pretty gigantic" migration, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said during a press conference.

The Snowball Edge, by contrast, is designed to be a more easily portable and compute-heavy appliance. Like its namesake, the Snowball migration appliance, it’s a ruggedized storage device that comes with an e-ink shipping label to get it back to Amazon for data transfer into AWS.

It holds 100TB of data, compared to the Snowball’s 80TB, and also sports a touchscreen for interacting with the device. That’s useful because the device is also able to handle data processing on-device using AWS Lambda functions, meaning the Snowball Edge is able to provide analytics on-device. The appliance can also do all its own data encryption, which makes transfer operations faster.

The Snowball Edge was designed to be useful for situations like research boats that don't have internet connectivity, Jassy said during his keynote address at Amazon's Re:Invent conference. A Snowball Edge can collect data, slice down a subset of key information for on-premises processing, and then send the rest of the data to Amazon's cloud.

The device was among a fleet of services that Amazon announced at Re:Invent, including new machine learning-driven APIs and major updates to its compute services.

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