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Amazon wants companies to get onto its cloud using new services

Amazon wants companies to get onto its cloud using new services

The most surprising of all them all is a new Snowball storage appliance

AWS chief Andy Jassy unveils AWS's new services at the company's Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on October 7, 2015. Credit: Amazon

AWS chief Andy Jassy unveils AWS's new services at the company's Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on October 7, 2015. Credit: Amazon

Amazon Web Services has been at the forefront of the migration to the public cloud for years now, and is still pushing more businesses to leave on-premises workloads behind. But there's a difficulty in all that: What about all those companies that have massive amounts of data tied up in on-premises servers and proprietary database formats?

The company addressed that Wednesday with a set of new announcements at its AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas that were all aimed at helping companies get into the cloud. The most surprising of all of them is a new Snowball storage appliance that gives companies a secure way to ship massive amounts of data to Amazon's cloud.

Snowballing into the cloud

Shipping data to Amazon in this instance isn't a metaphor -- the Snowball is literally a large, ruggedized storage appliance that can hold up to 50TB of data and weighs in at a whopping 47 pounds. Companies can hook them up, load them with data and then ship them off to Amazon. Each Snowball has a built-in, e-ink display that serves as a shipping label when the device is in transit, and as a user interface when it's set up for data transfer using its 10Gbps network connection.

It's an expansion of Amazon's thinking behind its Import/Export Drive service, which lets companies ship hard drives with their data on board to Amazon and get them loaded into AWS. While that may seem antiquated, Andy Jassy, the senior vice president of AWS, pointed out that a company needing to move 100TB of data to AWS that devoted 100Mbps of bandwidth to sending it over the Internet would have to wait for 100 days before their data was fully transferred.

The same company would just need to get a pair of Snowballs from Amazon to perform the same task. That's even easier than purchasing a bunch of hard drives, loading them with data and shipping them off through FedEx or some other courier service. Snowballs provide other benefits beyond that, including a tamper-proof enclosure and automatic encryption with 256-bit keys that are managed by the AWS Key Management Service. Snowballs also generate a hash when they're loaded and when their data is transferred to Amazon's Simple Storage Service, so companies can be confident that their data is all in one piece.

Using a Snowball costs $200 per job right off the bat, and companies need to pay an extra $15 per day if they keep the device for more than 10 days. Transferring data from a Snowball is free, but companies who use the device to get data from Amazon's Cloud will have to pay US$0.03 per GB transferred.

Database migration

While Snowballs will help users get large amounts of data into S3, Amazon also launched a new Database Migration Service preview that helps companies securely migrate data from commercial and open-source databases to AWS. In an interesting wrinkle, the service is designed for both homogeneous migrations like sending data from an on-premises Oracle database to one running in Amazon's cloud and heterogenous migrations, so companies can, for example move a SQL Server database over to Amazon Aurora database.

To help with those transitions, Amazon also has a new Schema Conversion Tool that lets companies migrate between different database engines. The migration service is also capable of handling continuous replication between databases, so that companies can push changes from an on-premises database up to Amazon's cloud or reverse that process.

The news comes over a year after Amazon acquired Amiato, a company that operated a service for getting NoSQL databases into Amazon's Redshift database service. Migrating databases in this way is particularly important for Amazon, which is continuing to develop and push new products for its Relational Database Service. The company announced Wednesday it now supports the MariaDB open-source database, and Jassy said that its recently launched Aurora database service has overtaken Redshift as AWS's fastest-growing product.

"By the way, I don't have a conversation with a customer these days without them asking about Aurora," he said.

In addition to all of Amazon's technological plans, the company is also working with consulting firm Accenture on a new AWS Business Group that will help companies migrate their applications and develop new ones on Amazon's cloud. Accenture will also expand its Insights Platform to integrate data and analytics capabilities from AWS.

All of this adds up to a cloud services platform that's well-situated to pull in more companies, which is important if Jassy is to fulfill his vision of getting most computing workloads onto the public cloud within the next decade.

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