​AWS' Snowmobile data transport truck highlights why cloud giant is so damn disruptive

Want to move petabytes of data to AWS? The cloud provider has a tractor trailer for that. The move is a bit nutty, but it highlights how far AWS will go to gain workloads.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy used a tractor trailer as a prop and highlighted why the company is so alarming to incumbents. AWS is obsessed with solving customer issues and will go to great lengths to win business and accounts.

Case in point: AWS Snowmobile. As Jassy noted during his keynote at re:Invent, one of the biggest hurdles with moving workloads to the public cloud has been data transport. So why not create a truck that'll suck in your corporate data and move it to AWS?

My first reaction to Snowmobile went like this on an instant message to Stephanie Condon, ZDNet's senior writer, on the scene: "OK that Snowmobile thing is crazy. Like The Onion wrote it."

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Let's just say AWS can think outside the box a bit.

Snowmobile aims to migrate massive datasets (think petabytes) to AWS. The argument for the hybrid cloud is that some workloads are just too ridiculous to move. The bandwidth and networking alone is prohibitive to going to AWS.

AWS has a secure truck that'll store up to 100PB of data and can move exabytes to AWS in weeks. Snowmobile will attach to your network as a local volume mount. AWS then drives away so your data will wind up at cloud datacenters.


Snowmobile is a bit nutty, but it solves a real problem. In addition, AWS Snowmobile effort doesn't sound like some crazy beta program. And there's more.

AWS also outlined Snowball Edge, which is storage appliance that has server-less functions from Lambda built in. Snowball Edge is an appliance that'll add connectivity, storage, and clustering that can be plugged into Internet of Things devices. See: Cloud compute pricing bakeoff: Google vs. AWS vs. Microsoft Azure | AWS cements hybrid cloud position with VMware partnership: Here's what it means

What makes this interesting is that AWS' Jassy also redefined on-premise infrastructure. Forget servers and datacenters. On-prem infrastructure will really be your sensors and things in the field that are connected. Naturally, AWS wants to be in that IoT mix.


For IoT, AWS launched Greengrass, which allows for local compute, messaging, and data caching. Greengrass is a system that can take computing workloads off of sensors and devices in the field.

While AWS cooks up new services -- not surprisingly, the company outlined a big artificial intelligence push and developer platform -- it continues to collect enterprise nameplates.

For instance, Jassy ushered in a parade of top executives from large enterprises to tell their cloud tales.

McDonald's CTO Tom Gergets outlined how AWS is the backbone to its ecommerce platform. The global rollout is underway, and the McDonald's AWS platform is cranking through 31 million transactions an hour.

Gergets said that the AWS deal is starting to move from infrastructure to more platform services. Microservices, Lambda, and more automation are on the to-do list, said Gergets.

Workday has also moved more to AWS infrastructure. Capital One has also expanded with AWS.

Add it up and it's becoming clear that Amazon is an enterprise cloud company that happens to do ecommerce and retail. And when you compare AWS profit margins to retail, you also know why the cloud provider is disruptive. Amazon's enterprise cloud margins are huge compared to retail, but that's still a far way down from enterprise tech incumbents.

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