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AWS Snowcone: An In-Depth Review

Last month, Amazon Web Services unveiled the latest addition to their edge computing, edge storage, and data transfer devices: The AWS Snowcone. The latest member of the Snow family, this new device comes in at just under five pounds and is about the size of a small text book, making it suitable for tight conditions where space is limited.

What can the AWS Snowcone Do?

Much like its former Snowball counterparts, the AWS Snowcone is a secure, rugged physical device packed with 2 vCPUs and 4 GB of RAM that can be used to transfer large amounts of data to AWS (up to 8 terabytes on one device) without the need for an internet connection. In addition, the Snowcone provides edge computing and data analysis capabilities suited for remote locations where connectivity is limited. For those locations where internet connectivity is an option, the Snowcone can also be used to transfer large amounts of data to AWS over the Internet by using the pre-loaded AWS DataSync agent. An alternative to traditional file transfer methods, AWS DataSync leverages a purpose-built network protocol to transfer data to AWS 10x faster while automating the heavy lifting.

Why Use a Snowcone to Transfer Data to AWS?

Any individual or business that wants to move large amounts of data to the cloud knows that it can be a cumbersome process. AWS Snowcone makes it easy to move terabyte-scale data into AWS without the need for large-scale internet circuits or other expensive hardware. In my case, I needed to move about 400 GB of business and personal data into AWS, mostly for backup and archival purposes. While 400 GB might not sound like a lot of data, my internet connection speed is only 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. Transferring 400 GB of data would have taken almost four days with a continuous transfer and saturated my internet connection, wreaking havoc on the overall experience for anyone hoping to stream video or browse the web in my household.  

How can I Get Started Transferring Data with a Snowcone?

Believe it or not, the end-to-end process is incredibly simple. Create the job, receive the Snowcone, transfer your data, then ship it back to AWS and watch the magic happen. Keep in mind that unlike the other Snow family devices that ship with a power cord for the on-board power supply, you will need to supply your own USB-C power adapter with a minimum of 45 W output. 

Create a Snowcone Job ​

First and foremost, you will need an AWS account and a user account with the proper permissions to create an S3 bucket and a Snowcone job. After that, you simply login to the AWS console, create an S3 bucket, then proceed to the AWS Snow Family service. From there, the job creation process is very straightforward – provide your shipping address, provide the type of job (in my case, import to S3), choose the shipping speed, choose the device type, set the security configuration, and then subscribe to notifications. That’s it! Once the job creation is complete, the device will arrive within a few days. 

Transfer Your Data to the Snowcone

Once the Snowcone arrives, you’re ready to start transferring data to it. Simply plug in your power adapter, connect it to your network with an RJ-45 network cable, then power on the device. Once it’s on, you can either use the new AWS OpsHub graphical client or Snowball Edge CLI client to interact with the device. Having already used the Snowball client in the past, I wanted to try out the new OpsHub client and see what the experience was like.  

Once I downloaded and installed the OpsHub software, all I needed to do was provide the IP of the Snowcone displayed on the LCD screen of the device, then provide the unlock code and manifest file downloaded from the AWS console where I created the job. After that, I was presented of an overview of my device from the OpsHub dashboard and do things like mount the Snowcone as an NFS file system, launch the DataSync agent, or start compute instances. Since I needed to transfer files to the Snowcone, I simply enabled NFS and OpsHub did the rest for me by automatically mounting the local Snowcone bucket onto my PC. From there, I could interact with it as if it was just another folder on PC and copy files directly to it. 

To move my data to the Snowcone, I dragged all of my prepared folders and files to the NFS mount. On a 1 Gbps network, 400 GB of data took just under two hours. After verifying that that the file and folder sizes were the same on the source and destination, my “hard” work was complete and I was ready to send the device back to AWS! 

Ship the Snowcone Back to AWS

One of the neatest features of the Snow devices is the E Ink shipping label. This Kindle-like display displays the pre-paid digital shipping labels which are automatically loaded and change once the device is unlocked. It’s also used to provide status information when the device is in use and provides an interactive touch screen that can be used to configure the network settings on the device. Since I already unlocked the device, the E Ink label had already switched and the device was ready to be sent back to AWS. All I needed to do was schedule a pickup and give it to the delivery driver. With notifications enabled, I was able to monitor the progress as it made its way back to AWS. In about four business days, the device was back at AWS and the data was loaded into my S3 bucket. 

Conclusion

Using the AWS Snowcone to move my data to AWS S3 was an exceedingly effortless process. Moreover, the AWS OpsHub interface used to interact with the Snowcone both simplified and streamlined the process. AWS has made moving data into the cloud even easier which would be a no-brainer for businesses looking to move large quantities of data, especially if scaling up an internet circuit is not an option. If migrating petabytescale data or if more compute is required, consider leveraging the Snowball Edge devices which can each provide up to 80 TB of storage or up to 52 vCPU and 208 GiB of memory. If moving hundreds of petabytes of data, consider the AWS Snowmobile 

Get Started with Snowcone

Interested in learning more about how your team can put AWS Snowcone to work? Let’s get in touch! Use the links below to learn more about our cloud expertise or schedule a 1:1 session with one of EagleDream’s certified AWS Ambassadors. 

AUTHOR

Justin Guse

Principal Cloud Solutions Architect and AWS Partner Network Ambassador

 

With over 10 years of experience in IT, Justin has strong background in infrastructure, networking, and systems administration. As an avid learner of the latest emerging technologies in cloud computing, networking, automation, and DevOps, Justin is professionally certified in AWS and Microsoft technologies. 

Using his industry knowledge and skills, Justin appreciates enjoys working closely with his clients to design and build modern, cloud-native systems, focusing on high-availability and scalability. He continuously strives to deliver a superior customer experience through long-term, strategic relationships. 

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