Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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AWS Plows Snow Family to the Edge 

Amazon Web Services added to its Snow family of data migration and edge devices this week with the introduction of a secure edge computing and data transfer device dubbed Snowcone.

The 4.5-pound device that includes 8 terabytes of usable storage targets the growing number of edge computing use cases in which space, power and cooling are limited. The 9- by 6- by 3-inch device fits in a backpack or a standard mailbox and is light enough to be carried by drone.

The edge device runs on a pair of CPUs, 4 gigabytes of memory and USB-C along with optional battery power.

Snowcone can be used for data migration, content distribution, tactical edge computing, healthcare, industrial Internet of Things (IoT), transportation, logistics and autonomous vehicle use cases, public cloud giant (NASDAQ: AMZN) said in a blog post. The tamper-proof, water-resistant and dust-tight devices can transfer data via AWS’ DataSync service or be shipped using an electronic ink shipping label that routes the device to the appropriate AWS cloud region.

Once received, stored data is move to an Amazon S3 bucket and verified, a process that takes about a day. Data are then erased and the device is “sanitized” of any customer information, the company said.

AWS launched its suitcase-size Snowball device in 2015, capable of uploading 50 terabytes of data at a time. It followed a year later with its trailer-hauled Snowmobile exabyte data container.

Along with military-grade ruggedization, Snowcone (along with other Snow devices) encrypt stored data using 256-bit keys managed through a company key management system.

“With more applications running at the edge for an expanding range of use cases, like analyzing IoT sensor data and machine learning inference, AWS Snowcone makes it easier to collect, store, pre-process, and transfer data from harsh environments with limited space to AWS for more intensive processing,” said Bill Vass, Amazon’s vice president of storage, automation and management services.

Amazon foresees the edge device being used in harsh and remote environments ranging from oil rigs and first responder vehicles to the battlefield and factory floors. Snowcone includes support for Amazon’s IoT Greengrass platform designed to boost computing power for edge devices via its public cloud. It can also run Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances for IoT hub and data aggregation deployments.

Snowcone will initially be available in AWS’ East (Northern Virginia), and West (Oregon) regions, with additional regions being added shortly.

Details on the entire AWS Snow family are here.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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