AWS Import/Export Snowball is a physical data transport appliance that allows businesses to migrate a large amount of data to or from the Amazon Web Services public cloud. The AWS Import/Export Snowball appliance aims to solve the challenges of long transfer times, high costs and security vulnerabilities that are often associated with transferring large amounts of data over the Internet using AWS Direct Connect or AWS Import/Export Disk. As of this writing, Snowball is available in 50- and 80-terabyte models, depending on the region.
The Snowball appliance is built to be tamper resistant and uses a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a dedicated processor to detect malicious modifications. AWS inspects each appliance and the TPM to ensure the safety of each transfer. After processing a data transfer, AWS erases data from the appliance in accordance with National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines.
After a customer has requested Snowball and Amazon has shipped the appliance, the administrator can set a manual IP address for the device or connect it to the network through the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). A software client allows the administrator to select which file directories will be transferred. Snowball uses 256-bit encryption and encryption keys are managed using the AWS Key Management Service.
Snowball has an electronic ink display that notifies the user when the transfer is complete; the display also acts as a shipping label. Administrators can track transfer progress in the console through text messages or through the Amazon Simple Notification Service; Snowball's software client can provide an estimate of transfer time and a log of all files imported or exported. Once the transfer is complete, Snowball gets shipped back to AWS using UPS two-day shipping; expedited shipping is available for time-sensitive transfers. When AWS receives the appliance, it imports the data into whichever Simple Storage Service (S3) bucket the administrator has selected. AWS mandates that a single data transfer project be completed within 90 days. Should the administrator want to export that same large amount of data from AWS at some point, Amazon will ship the data back to the customer in another Snowball appliance.