Behind AWS Snowball and Snowmobile: exec on latest data storage tools | #reInvent


If there is one thing we can be certain of, in this era of big data and the vast scaling up of the Internet of Things, is that the need for data storage (and plenty of it) is only going to grow, and rapidly at that. After the data is stored and archived, then there’s the need for customers to be able to extract the data that they need, when they need it.

AWS provides many different types of storage. A few of the best-known types that AWS provides are: Amazon Simple Storage Service, Amazon Glacier, Amazon Elastic Block Store and AWS Snowball. What a customer chooses will depend on their individual needs for data backup, archive and disaster recovery.

Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, VP and GM, Amazon S3, at Amazon Web Services, said AWS’ philosophy of storage is: “So we don’t think about storage, actually … that might be funny, coming from me; we think about what customers need to do with data and how can we solve that problem. That’s what’s so exciting for us.”

At AWS re:Invent, held in Las Vegas, NV, Bukovec joined Stu Miniman (@stu), co-host of theCUBE*, from the SiliconANGLE Media team. (*Disclosure below) They discussed AWS’ latest ideas for storage that came from customer suggestions, as well as the expanded Snowball line that includes the “monster truck” Snowmobile.

AWS storage innovations for customers

“The way we think about storage absolutely comes from what customers are asking us for,” said Bukovec. She explained that how AWS thinks about and drives innovation in storage is by listening to its customers. While an organization may file storage today, they want to bring it into the cloud; they want the burstability, the elasticity and the scaling of cloud services. They also want their storage in different areas to operate in different ways, she explained.

AWS already has some great services for block and object storage, with S3 and Glacier. To add to those, this year AWS introduced not one, but three capabilities for file storage, which she described as follows: The first is fully managed Elastic File Service. Customers can connect EFS with their onprem environment (where their applications and investments reside), using the direct connect service. The second is a file gateway for S3; this came about because AWS customers were asking, “How can I get files from my onprem to S3?” It is an “object in a bucket,” so any application can access that object for data processing or any other type of operation. The third is the new version of Snowball.

Snowball and Snowmobile: different capabilities for storage

Bukovec talked about Snowball Edge, a small (under 50 lbs.) device providing 100TB of storage in a portable device. She said it’s made for customers to keep for the purpose of data collection. It can be clustered, with up to five Snowball Edges in a cluster at a time; customers can keep it for as long as they like.

Bukovec said that Snowball Edge is very popular with hospitals; they collect data from instruments, such as MRIs. Because Snowball has compute power built in, it does the transcoding. So whenever a medical professional wants to take that collected MRI data out, they can extract and transcode on the fly.

At the re:Invent event, AWS CEO Andy Jassy capped his keynote address by rolling a 45-foot-long truck onstage that was dubbed AWS Snowmobile, which is the much larger version of Snowball. While Snowball is for customers that need to move terabytes worth of data from on-premises to the AWS cloud, Snowmobile has a capacity for up to 100PB of data at a time. AWS will connect Snowball to the customer’s network via cable, transfer the customer’s on-prem data to the Snowmobile and then drive the truck (with container attached) back to an AWS facility to complete the transfer.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of AWS re:Invent(*Disclosure: AWS and other companies sponsor some AWS re:Invent segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither AWS nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo by SiliconANGLE