In March I opined on the remarkable engineering in AWS Snowball and AWS Snowball Edge. There are many trends in tech now and some of them, like the specific capabilities in this cloud computing domain, can seem like they are slow to develop till they are right on you. This is one of those times when I felt surprised. I’ve been tracking cloud computing, big data and even AWS for years, but was surprised when I found out what was available right this moment. I have to admit I was also excited to see what is available right now.
I was also surprised after publishing that post to get lots of inbound contact from friends and associates that are excited about this. One told me how they are testing these for shipboard architectures. That makes sense. Another pointed out the use case they are exploring regarding airborne use, where a flight carries the right number of Snowball and then when it lands immediately ship it off for processing. There are several NASA and NOAA and Geospatial related missions that could benefit from that.
Another friend provided a photo that showed several Snowball being prepared for a deployment. See the shot below:
I don’t know anything about this photo, but count 40 Snowball devices. If each is a 100TB machine, this means we are looking at 4 petabytes of storage. You can also tell from the photo that these devices are easily stack-able. Also, my sense from the photo is that this is at a government facility. Why? Behind the Swowballs you can make out what looks to be a standard ugly basic desk like you find in most government IT shops (sorry guys, I feel for you). You can also see from the photo that they are preparing for deployment because they have this configured to go through a rugged battery backup pack. I don’t know the particular brand of backup these things are plugging into, but is is designed to deliver power and if external power is interrupted will give some amount of backup.
Maybe more interesting is the fact that there does not appear to be any cooling in the room. No fans, no external AC blowers or heat removers. And the servers themselves are not connected to cooling devices. This is awesome. And virtuous. The need for cooling in deployed environments causes costs to skyrocket and is a drag on agility as well.
To me an even bigger point is that many great technologies are progressing at this pace. It is common to think of technology, including the individual tech trends, to be on an exponential growth curve that sees the power of the technology double over some set number of years.
This type of exponential growth always seems to be slow at first. But then there is the knee in the curve. That is when things get really amazing. I wonder, are these AWS Snowball Edge devices at the knee? What about the overall trends of Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence? Sure seems like things are about to get really exciting.
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