The Snowball gets bigger

If you’ve been concerned about the struggle to get very large workloads onto the public cloud with minimal disruption, cost, and time, help is at hand.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has developed a solution to address those challenges with an appliance-based model – the AWS Import/Export Snowball. According to Amazon, data transfer tasks that traditionally took months can be completed in a day at around a fifth of the cost of using high-speed Internet.

The solution, which was originally announced in October 2015 at the AWS Re: Invent conference in Las Vegas, gave companies a secure way to migrate terabytes (TB) or petabytes (1000 TB) of data from private data centers to Amazon’s public cloud.

In February 2016, AWS announced that they have added export functionality, giving customers the option of exporting their data from the AWS cloud to their own premises.

Fast and cost-effective

Even with high-speed Internet connections, it can take months to transfer large amounts of data. For example, 100 terabytes of data will take more than 100 days to transfer over a dedicated 100 Mbps connection. That same transfer can be accomplished in less than one day, plus shipping time, using two Snowball appliances.

Given the timescales, it can cost thousands of dollars to transfer 100 terabytes of data using high-speed Internet. The same 100 terabytes of data can be transferred using two Snowball appliances for as little as one-fifth the cost of using the Internet.

Rugged, secure and portable

Snowball is a large storage appliance that can hold up to 50 TB of data. The weather-resistant device serves as its own shipping container. It’s rugged enough to withstand a 6 G jolt, and (at 50 lbs) light enough for one person to carry.

Snowball is designed for customers that need to move large volumes of data (generally 10 terabytes or more) to AWS on a one-time or recurring basis. You simply request one or more from the AWS Management Console and wait a few days for the appliance to be delivered to your site. If you want to move very high volumes of data, you can order one or more Snowball appliances and run them in parallel.

The device is entirely self-contained, with 110-volt power and has a built-in E Ink display on the front. The display serves as a shipping label when the device is in transit and as a user interface control panel when it’s set up for data transfer using its 10Gbps network connection.

Snowballs provide other useful benefits, including a tamper-proof enclosure and automatic encryption with 256-bit keys that are managed by the AWS Key Management Service. As well as being physically rugged and tamper-resistant, the device also detects tampering attempts.

Snowballs generate a hash when they’re loaded and when their data is transferred to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), so you can be confident that your data is in the right place.

Simple import process

Once you receive a Snowball, you plug it in, connect it to your network, configure the IP address and install the AWS Snowball client. Then, return to the AWS Console to download the job manifest and a 25 character unlock code. You can then start the import process with a single command.

At this point, you are ready to copy data to the Snowball. The data will be 256-bit encrypted on the host and stored on the appliance in encrypted form. The appliance can be hosted on a private subnet with limited network access.

Next, you simply copy up to 50 TB of data to the Snowball, disconnect the device (a shipping label will automatically appear on the E Ink display), and ship it back to AWS for ingestion. AWS then decrypts the data and copies it to the S3 bucket(s) that you specified when you made your request.

At each stage, notifications are sent to an Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) topic and email address that you specify. The SNS notifications can be used to integrate the data import process into your own data migration workflow system.

Pricing for imports is based on a usage charge of $200 per job, plus shipping charges that are based on your destination and the selected shipment method. As part of this charge, you have up to 10 days (starting the day after delivery) to copy your data to the appliance and ship it out. Extra days cost $15 per day.

Exporting your data

The latest version of Snowball, announced on February 29th 2016 makes the device suitable for data export operations, and the process is as simple as importing data.

You simply log in to the AWS Management Console, create an export request, and specify the data to be exported. A single request can span one or more Amazon S3 buckets. The service will automatically determine how many 50 terabyte appliances are needed. The appliances will be prepared, data copied to them, and the devices shipped to the address specified in the request. You can track each of these steps using the Console.

Like imported data, the data stored on the appliance is encrypted using keys that you specify. The keys are not stored on the device. The service fee per export job is $200. Although Amazon won’t charge for importing the data from Snowball into S3, it will charge $0.03 per GB for the export.

Professional support for Snowball

When you need to migrate terabytes or petabytes of data to AWS, Snowball offers a solution that is faster and more cost-effective than transferring data over the Internet.

If you need professional support for your migration, AWS Managed Service Providers like Virtual Tech Gurus are skilled at cloud infrastructure and application migration. They also deliver added value by offering proactive monitoring, automation, and management of your environment.

For more information, please check out the articles and infographics on our website.