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Will AWS Snowmobile ride the slow lane to success?

AWS literally drove its data migration service onto the market, rolling Snowball onto the stage at its annual conference. But Snowball's use doesn't meet hype -- at least not yet.

If you want to move your data from an on-premises data center to the cloud, and you want to feel like a badass at the same time, take a look at AWS Snowmobile.

AWS Snowmobile, which was released at AWS re:Invent 2016, is an exabyte-scale data transfer service that uses physical mass storage units, as well as extra layers of security, to transfer data. And that data travels from point A to point B in what AWS calls an "escort security vehicle." The service also includes video surveillance and GPS tracking.

There are a number of use cases for AWS Snowmobile, which is really just a massive, well thought-out data transfer service. Enterprises could use other storage security firms, such as Innova Solutions and Egnyte, for this purpose. These tools essentially move data from data center to data center; however, most don't have expertise with AWS as a target data store. And massive cloud-based data migrations are not yet common.

In addition, the number of cloud workloads could double by the end of the year, meaning the need for this type of service likely will explode by early next year. Enterprises likely would want to use Snowmobile because of AWS' expertise in cloud data management.

Take a tactful migration approach

There are a number of use cases for AWS Snowmobile, which is really just a massive, well thought-out data transfer service.

Most issues that I run into when dealing with massive data migration projects -- some approaching a petabyte -- are because the data migration server doesn't understand target systems. In one case, this miscalculation resulted in the project taking months to finish, instead of a week.

But as the need grows for this type of service, AWS could battle its own customers over data migration procedures. Many enterprises still believe they can upload data over the open internet, which is back-of-the-napkin math that fails to consider bandwidth and the size of the data sets. You can't wait a year for a database to upload, so toss that notion away.

And some enterprises are willing to purchase and deploy their own mass storage devices, similar to AWS' Import/Export Snowball. For example, I had one client purchase all of the largest USB drives that a retail location had in stock for storage. It did not work.

So, although not many enterprises currently use AWS Snowmobile, I suspect that will change. The service has only been around since November 2016. It's not a far-reaching concept, as data transfer is fairly easy to understand -- even if it's a bit harder to implement. Clearly, AWS provides this service to get enterprise data into their cloud, but I would not be surprised if it is a loss leader.

Next Steps

AWS adds support for data lake conversions

Data lock-in can be a problem, but not with these methods

Snowball and other AWS data transfer options to mull over

This was last published in April 2017

Dig Deeper on AWS streaming and file transfer services

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