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AWS re:Invent 2015: Throwing a Snowball at the hardware market

AWS re:Invent 2015: Throwing a Snowball at the hardware market

Cloud vendor goes against the grain with new data transfer offering

AWS Storage Services vice president, Bill Vass, shows off Snowball during the second day keynote at re:Invent 2015

AWS Storage Services vice president, Bill Vass, shows off Snowball during the second day keynote at re:Invent 2015

Hardware vendors are constantly moving into software and Cloud offerings but it is not often that a Cloud vendor will launch a hardware offering and that is exactly what AWS has done with Snowball.

In truth, the data transfer offering is part hardware and part service. AWS Snowball is a petabyte-scale data transport appliance that can transfer 50TB per appliance of data into and out of AWS. The secure and tamper-free appliances are delivered to the customer, filled with data and then shipped back to AWS and put into the Cloud.

AWS Storage Services vice-president, Bill Vass, described the offering as an important tool for migrating customer data.

“As customers have realised that their data contains key insights that can lead to competitive advantage, they’re looking to get as much data into AWS as quickly as possible,” he said.

The Cloud provider said one of the big pain points for customers was the time it takes to upload large amounts of data.

While many in the AWS partner community are excited about Snowball, Australian partners still have the challenge of dealing with the delays in services being made locally available.

Australian marketing organisation, Global Red, has rebuilt it’s entire infrastructure on the AWS platform and is one of what the public Cloud providers calls its all-in technology partners.

Global Red chief information officer, Kartik Rao, said one of the challenges being an Australian business utilising AWS is the lead time for service delivery.

“Often times there are delays in some of the services arriving in our region,” he said.

“For example, last year I was here [at AWS re:Invent] last year and Lambda was announced. It was very exciting, we could see hundreds of applications for it. Unfortunately, Lambda is still not available in Sydney. Availability of key services is a challenge.

Bulletproof chief information officer, John Ferlito, echoed Rao’s sentiments and added delays are merely part and parcel of being on the other side of the world.

The Australian Cloud provider was one of the founding partners when AWS opened up a local shop in 2012. Bulletproof was the APAC region’s first premier partner, announced at re:Invent 2013. Ferlito told ARN that a few weeks ago the company was also named an AWS managed service provider partner (MSP) partner.

“Sometimes some of the new services that AWS announces will only be available in US East or US West, so they can take a while to get to Sydney,” Ferlito said. “There is also an issue that Sydney doesn’t have three availability zones so some of the products and services are difficult to get working.

“It's not too bad though, you can put other solutions in place. Sometimes it is frustrating because you know that an offering exists and you have Australian customers that want to use it and you can’t help them, you have to wait until it gets here, but AWS is working on that and the gap is shrinking.

“The other big thing is keeping track of all the changes and all the new offerings, it’s almost a full time job now.”

The release of Snowball is one of the key announcements for Ferlito, who said it will solve a lot of customer pain points now and many more in the future.

“Moving backup data around is a big problem. If you think of a massive law firm that has to keep documents for seven years or organisations that have to hold a lot of video like the airports,that could be petabytes of data.You can’t ship that across the network. It just takes too long. So that makes Snowball pretty interesting.

“It is actually really key, we have the odd customer that has bucket loads of data they need to move around, but it is the huge pain point for many companies.

“Sometimes you hear the odd story of a company running hybrid where the workload is running locally and they decide to burst it into the Cloud when they run out of local resources and then pull it back. That’s great if you don’t have a lot of data to move around, but if you have a couple of terabytes of data, that just takes forever to move.

“Customers with backup workloads that they want to get off of tape and off of local storage and into [AWS’] S3, having Snowball units delivered and being able to put it in a box and ship it back and have it automatically online is great.

“They would ship one to Australia, but the issue for us is the shipping would be pricey and at the moment it would be imported into US East or US West. You could do an S3 replication to copy it back to Sydney if you needed to, so there are options there. I would be pretty surprised if the service didn’t move to Australia as well. I’m sure it is just a matter of setting up a lab somewhere where they put them in, plug them in and magic happens.”


Chris Player traveled to AWS re:Invent 2105 as a guest of Amazon Web Services

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Tags dataBill VassstorageSnowballAWSKartik RaoGlobal RedBulletProofBulletproof chief information officerGlobal red chief information officerJohn FerlitoAWS Storage Services vice presidentCloud

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