LAS VEGAS – In a real show stopping moment for Amazon Web Services (AWS) at the Re: Invent conference, company CEO Andy Jassy brought out an 18-wheeler that will carry its new data transfer appliance called SnowMobile.

SnowMobile is the updated version of SnowBall, which was first released in 2009 and updated last year to a model that is based on Amazon-owned appliances kept in the datacentre to move data in and out of the cloud. SnowBall works as an on-premises storage pool running Lambda. The strategy behind this product is to help customers migrate massive amounts of data to the cloud faster than Wi-Fi, cellular wireless communication or network file systems. A more compact version, SnowBall Edge is essentially a big box that can transport up to 100 TB to the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

An AWS Snowball Edge device.
An AWS Snowball Edge device.

The big difference between SnowBall and SnowMobile is size. One is suited for terabytes to petabytes of data, while the truck can haul exabytes of data.

Jarrod Levitan, chief cloud officer of Vancouver-based solution provider TriNimbus, says there are a limited number of cases for SnowMobile. “It has great potential but really only for the federal government and maybe 200 other companies on the planet that would have enough data for a SnowMobile. It is cool and it does solve a problem but don’t look for mass adoption,” he said.

On the other hand, there is a lot of mass appeal for SnowBall Edge. Levitan called SnowBall Edge “radical” because it gives back hardware control and it’s the start of AWS’s strategy for on-premises.

Jeff Barr built this scenario of a team gathering around to look at the scale model of the Snowmobile in Lego.
Jeff Barr built this scenario of a team gathering around to look at the scale model of the Snowmobile in Lego.

SnowMobile along with SnowBall Edge are both available today from AWS. Jassy said the initial target is for customers doing large migration of data. The price is half a cent per GB, per month.

“Customers will have different requirements for data. Why we did SnowBall Edge is that customers needed a bigger appliance to move data from point-to-point. Many of those customers see SnowBall Edge and say let’s use it for all kinds of things because it brings three times the amount of data than before,” Jassy said.

In terms of the truck version of SnowBall there is no extra charge for the truck or fleet itself. All the pricing is on the per GB, per month level and its listed on the AWS Web page, Jassy added.

“How do you move exabytes of data to the cloud? In many cases it can take years. When the truck rolled out people initially thought it was a joke. But it solves a problem that a lot of customers are trying to overcome,” Jassy said.

AWS evangelist Jeff Barr came up with a novel way to showing the new Snowmobile offering. He did it with Lego. Barr built a scene where the truck pulls up to a customer who is frustrated with the planning process, not to mention the cost, of a big data transfer.



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