On Wednesday, Amazon Web Service CEO Andy Jassy had a big finish to his multi-hour keynote speech given at the AWS customer conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.
He had someone drive a truck onto the stage, pulling a giant container he called the “Snowmobile.”
The audience laughed and cheered. It looked like a gag, but it wasn’t.
This is real product from AWS, and easily the biggest (if you are measuring in feet) product announcement of the day.
The story of the Snowmobile basically started a year ago. Now that every business, from startups to huge companies, are rushing to the cloud as fast as they can, Amazon Web Services has turned its attention to a tricky problem.
How do you physically get all the data stored in a company ‘s massive data center into Amazon’s cloud?
Last year, it announced a solution it called Snowball, a handheld box about the size of a desktop PC. A company rents it from Amazon, stuffs it with a petabyte of data and ships it back to Amazon to unload. A petabyte is one million gigabytes and it used to be considered an insane amount of data. In this way, a company could transfer a petabyte per week into Amazon’s cloud, and eventually unplug their data center altogether if they wanted to.
Jassy didn’t think the Snowball would be much of a hit. He even “chastised” the Snowball team for manufacturing too many of them, he admitted on stage.
But he was wrong, big time. The team had to almost instantly “go back and order 10 times number of Snowballs we have. I can’t believe how much data we’ve transferred with Snowball.”
It became such a thing, that IT folks started talking selfies with their Snowballs and sending them to Amazon.
These days, there are companies that store so much more data, they measure it in exabytes. Each exabyte is one billion gigabytes.
Using conventional means of transferring that data, “It will take you 26 years to move an exabyte to the cloud,” Jassy said.
Enter the Snowmobile. “With 10 Snowmobiles it take six months” to move that data to the cloud.
So for companies sitting on mind-boggling amounts of data, Amazon will literally drive a Snowmobile to their data centres, load it up, and haul to back to Amazon.
As for the popular Snowball, Amazon has upgraded it with more capacity, compute power, and other things because folks have come up with all kinds of innovate things they want to do with it besides use it to ship data to AWS.
Here’s another view of the Snowmobile.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.