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New AWS migration tools target big data behind a firewall

Expanded AWS migration tools and proactive security measures are the focus of a string of new products from Amazon aimed at luring in more enterprise workloads.

CHICAGO -- Amazon added a handful of capabilities this week to entice customers to get large-scale data sets out...

of their data centers and onto its public cloud.

Over the past year, Amazon has emphasized making enterprises comfortable with AWS migration and moving existing workloads to AWS. That effort continued here at the cloud giant's AWS Summit global roadshow, with expanded services for moving massive amounts of data to its platform and testing the viability and security of workloads in its cloud.

Cloud computing vendors can process massive amounts of data effectively and efficiently, but their fundamental challenge is getting that data to the cloud -- and back -- when customers need it. These latest features, on top of existing functionality such as AWS Direct Connect, aim to solve that AWS migration problem, according to Robert Stroud, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"This big data rage -- it's all about information and it's growing at such a huge rate that [cloud providers] have to focus on the delivery and the transfer of data in a more effective manner," he said.

One of the new AWS additions doesn't actually move data, but it could do the legwork to make that transition smoother and faster. AWS Application Discovery Service, expected to be available in preview in the coming weeks, is only the second on-premises tool from AWS. It will measure baseline performance and identify dependencies between applications and underlying infrastructure.

"One of the biggest problems you're going to have in migration of systems of record -- especially traditional systems -- is to understand the components and the elements that make it up," Stroud said.

That's one of the major impediments to cloud adoption, so this new service should help simplify AWS migration, Stroud noted. He also expects the service and surrounding capabilities to expand in the future through ecosystem partners using its API.

Faster data transfer speeds

Daryl Wicker, a consultant at WowLinx Computer Consultants Inc., an AWS reseller in Greenfield, Indiana, works primarily with smaller customers. Most of the new services aren't aimed at his clients, but he can see the value for larger organizations based on his decades of experience at a major pharmaceutical company prior to becoming a consultant.

"I was the network architect and I worked with the server groups, and they would find out there were apps [with sensitive data on them] that had been used by maybe two or three people but had basically been forgotten," Wicker said.

If a company is smaller or has had a lot of employee turnover then it could be helpful, but for larger enterprises it might be redundant, added Kevin Strong, cloud solutions architect at Northwestern Mutual, in Milwaukee.

"I already know a lot of things about my apps and we have people who already know that," he said. "I just call them, put them in a room and talk about it; we don't need a tool."

Another new service, S3 Transfer Acceleration, uses the edge network to provide data transfer speeds up to 500% faster than what was previously available, according to AWS. There's no additional configuration required; users just click a button to increase the speed to a specified endpoint.

An updated AWS migration tool, the Snowball appliance for shipping directly to AWS data centers, is 60% larger with 80 TB of storage. Snowball is the first on-premises AWS hardware, and has had 500 billion objects loaded since October, a number that outpaced what some in the industry expected when Snowball was first announced last year.

I certainly was caught off guard," Stroud said. "I didn't think enterprises would be ready to move such significant pieces of data in one lump sum."

Amazon is also addressing one of the early knocks on the service by expanding where it's available. Previously limited to the U.S. East region, it's now available in the U.S. West, Dublin, Sydney and GovCloud regions. It will be available in all regions by the end of the year, according to the company.

Despite Amazon's efforts to ease the burden of AWS migration, some attendees at the show said it's still far from seamless.

Teradata Marketing Applications, in Indianapolis, is in the late stages of implementing its AWS environments before moving clients into production. Much of the work has been a lift-and-shift for applications built around .net, SQL and Oracle back-end databases not designed for AWS, so there was a lot of creative work that had to be done, said John Mickle, program manager of global information security at Teradata.

"Our road has been a little bit long and slow, so we might want to circle back to talk about the new services," he said.

Northwestern Mutual is in the process of migrating to the AWS platform. For startups this process can be pretty simple, but for large enterprises it's a challenge to deal with hundreds of applications already inside a data center and built with different tools.

"They have a lot of great tools, great innovation and they're thinking, 'I like that'," Strong said. "But it's not magic to go from where we're at to where we want to be -- it takes time and effort and it's a process."

Security and storage volumes

Amazon Inspector, the company's security service, was also released to general availability at AWS Summit. Unveiled last fall, Amazon Inspector is an automated service that sits next to an application and compares it to security best-practices, providing detailed reporting on potential vulnerabilities to detect those flaws before an application goes live.

"It looks like it's going to be able to create this reporting dashboard to be aware of things that are abnormal and help me build a business case for why we need to do this security [protocol] to deploy in AWS," Mickle said.

Amazon also added two new hard disk drive (HDD)-backed Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes focused on big data workloads and high throughput. Amazon EBS Throughput HDD offers a throughput of up to 500 MB per second per volume, while Cold HHD volumes max out at 250 MB per second per volume. Pricing starts at $0.025 per GB per month.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

Next Steps

AWS security tools thwart attacks

AWS makes it easier and cheaper to migrate databases

Migrate databases to AWS

Dig Deeper on Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) and backup

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What types of challenges have you faced in moving workloads to AWS?
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For us it wasn’t so much the traditional big data” that we needed to move to AWS for analytics as it was just a big set of data split into two groups - newer data that we needed to access more frequently and older data that we needed to access less frequently. With that in mind, one of our considerations was storing data in S3 vs. Glacier. The challenge was in determining what we could put into Glacier yet retrieve in time without incurring additional costs.
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Snowball has been around for a little while, but we determined that an estimated failure rate of around 5% was too much of a risk given the number of snowballs that it would take to transfer our data to AWS. The AWS Application Discovery Service sounds promising.
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