AWS will migrate your data to the cloud under armed guard

A yellow and white AWS sign hanging in front of a building
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Amazon Web Services (AWS) wants to move enterprise workloads into the cloud by the truckload, quite literally.

Following the success of last year's Snowball device, a 50TB hardware kit that could be filled with data and couriered into AWS's data centres, the company has decided to scale the service up significantly.

At AWS re:Invent 2016 this week, the public cloud giant launched the device's 100TB successor, Snowball Edge, and Snowmobile, a shipping container that can hold one exabyte (1,000 PTB, or 1 million TB) of data.

CEO Andy Jassy ended his keynote by having the container driven into the hall on the back of a semi-trailer truck.

While the crowd tried to work out whether it was a practical joke or not, he said: "Moving an exabyte of data would take 26 years with a 10GB per-second connection. With Snowmobile it would take you a little less than six months."

Later saying that one customer was using multiple Snowmobiles to perform a "gigantic migration of data" into Amazon's cloud, Jassy said: "When we started AWS the notion of an exabyte of data just seemed completely out there. Today it's a lot more commonplace."

Customers with such unthinkable amounts of data in on-premise environments got in touch with AWS, saying they wanted to move to the cloud but needed far bigger boxes than Snowball to migrate all their workloads.

"You would not believe how many companies now have exabytes of data that they want to move to the cloud," Jassy told delegates. "Because they want to take advantage of the storage services that we have, the database services we have, the huge number of analytics services we have, the AI services we have."

At the price of half a cent per GB per month, customers can use Snowmobile today to move to Amazon S3 or Glacier, and there's some extra services available on top, too. Product marketing chief Lowell Anderson told Cloud Pro: "One of the options is to have an escort vehicle with armed guards that travels with the truck."

Other customers will opt for less dramatic ways to move to AWS, using Snowball Edge to shift up to 100TB of data per device into the public cloud.

A clustering option with the Edge means customers can shard their data across a number of the devices, negating the need to keep it on-premise while the migration is underway, while the Edge can also upload and download data to move between on-premise and cloud environments.

The Edge also uses AWS's new Greengrass service, which gives offline devices compute capability and local communication power with Lambda, AWS's serverless coding software.

As an example of how people could use Edge, Jassy said oceanographers could store data at sea on Edge, and use its compute power to pre-process and analyse some of the data before they get back to land, when they can send the rest off for AWS to perform deeper analysis on.