AWS Finds Way to Move a Lot of Data to Cloud Faster – by Putting it on a Shipping Truck

Snowball appliance and shipping service dramatically reduces large-scale data transfer speed over long distances

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

October 7, 2015

2 Min Read
AWS Finds Way to Move a Lot of Data to Cloud Faster – by Putting it on a Shipping Truck
Bill Vass, AWS VP of engineering, showcases Amazon Snowball at AWS re:Invent 2015 (Image: re:Invent live stream)

Two of the things Amazon has proven it is really good at as a company is shipping packages and storing and processing data. This morning at its AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, the company's cloud services arm announced a data migration service that combines both.

Enterprise data migration to the Amazon Web Services cloud over a Wide Area Network can be a lengthy process and a costly one in terms of network bandwidth consumption. Moving 100 terabytes of data from an on-premise data center to an AWS one, for example, can take as long as 100 days, according to Andy Jassy, senior VP for AWS, who delivered the event’s opening keynote.

Moving that much data over a long distance can be much faster using shipping trucks. The new Amazon Snowball appliance is a high-volume data storage server in a rugged, temper-proof and water-proof enclosure that will show up at your data center doors after you order it and get picked up when you’re done loading data onto it to be taken to an Amazon data center for uploading to your AWS environment.

As enterprises start to use more public cloud services, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or IBM SoftLayer, they identify more applications and data they host in their corporate data centers that can be moved to the cloud. The ability to do that enables some of them to reduce their on-prem data center capacity needs, so they look at cloud as an opportunity to consolidate data centers and spend fewer resources on managing physical infrastructure.

Data migration at large scale is one of the big challenges in moving corporate applications to the cloud, and Snowball is Amazon’s answer to that challenge.

The first model has 50TB of storage capacity. The enclosure comes with the necessary cabling and a mounted Amazon Kindle which displays the shipping label. Once the unit is full, the label changes automatically do display its next destination, and UPS is notified that the unit needs to be picked up.

It encrypts data automatically and, if needed, converts it to the objet storage format. Once the Snowball arrives at an AWS data center, data gets uploaded into S3, Amazon’s cloud storage service, and decrypted.

With two Snowballs, you can move 100TB of data to AWS inside of a week instead of 100 days, Jassy said. Each unit costs $200 to rent and ship two ways.

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