Microsoft opens up testing of Azure Data Box, its Amazon Snowball rival

Microsoft is seeking testers for its alternative to Amazon's AWS Snowball: Its Azure Data Box data-transfer appliance and service.

Microsoft is accepting testers into a preview program for its Azure Data Box data-transfer appliance.

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Azure Data Box weighs 45 pounds and is ruggedized, tamper resistant and manageable, according to the company's announcement about the preview for it from last week. It's meant to help users move data into Azure faster and more securely.

The box supports 256-bit AES encryption on data, doesn't require external packaging for transportation; can plug into customers' networks and store about 100 TB of data. Customers can "rent it, fill it up and return it -- all tracked in the Azure Portal," officials said.

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Those interested in testing Azure Data Box can sign up here. No pricing information seems to be available yet.

Microsoft already offered an Azure Import/Export service for securely transferring large amounts of data to Azure storage by shipping hard disk drives to an Azure datacenter. The new Data Box service/appliance is more of a turnkey offering similar to those of Microsoft's main cloud competitors.

Amazon launched its first-generation AWS Snowball service in 2009. It updated its data-transfer model and data-transfer appliance in 2015, and subsequently added a larger 100TB data-transfer device and service (AWS Snowball Edge) and its shipping container-sized AWS Snowmobile, an "exabyte-scale data transfer service" to its line-up.

Google also introduced its own GTA data-transfer appliance this year.

Microsoft made a handful of additional Azure announcements last week during its Ignite IT Pro conference. Microsoft's Service Fabric on Linux container-orchestration is now generally available, officials said. Microsoft currently supports Ubuntu 16.04 for the Linux clusters; support for other Linux operating systems, including REd Hat Enterprise Linux, is "on the roadmap," officials said. Azure Service Fabric is Microsoft's microservices and orchestration platform.

Microsoft also kicked off a public preview for Azure File Sync last week. Azure File Sync is meant to keep Azure File share in-sync with customers' on-premises WIndows Servers.

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