1. Home
  2. Training Library
  3. Amazon Web Services
  4. Amazon Web Services Courses
  5. Running Operations & Large Scale Data Transfer in non-AWS Environments with the AWS Snow Family



Course Introduction
Running Operations with the Snow Family
Course Conclusion
3m 26s
Start course

This course takes an introductory look at the AWS Snow Family of devices, giving you an understanding of what they are and the problems they are designed to solve. The devices covered by this course include AWS Snowcone, Snowball, Snowmobile.

Learning Objectives

  • Define the AWS Snow Family
  • Understand the differences between AWS Snowcone, AWS Snowball, and AWS Snowmobile
  • Learn when you would use each service in a production environment
  • Understand their key features and how to request a snow device

Intended Audience

This course has been designed to help those who are new to the AWS snow family of devices and are potentially looking at them to assist with data import/export requirements for migrating data into and out of AWS.


To get the most out of this course, you should have an understanding and awareness of the Amazon S3 storage service, as well as a basic understanding of edge computing.


In this lecture, I want to quickly summarise the key points that we learned about the AWS snow family.

I started by explaining that:

  • The snow family consists of a range of physical hardware devices designed to enable you to transfer data into or out of AWS from the edge or beyond the Cloud
  • You can perform data transfers from as little as a few terabytes using an AWS snowcone all the way up to a staggering 100 petabytes using a single AWS snowmobile
  • The snow family consists of Snowcones, Snowballs, and snowmobiles
  • Snowcones are the smallest, followed by the snowball and finally the snowmobile
  • Snowcones and Snowballs come fitted with compute power enabling your applications to run operations in often remote and difficult to reach environments
  • Snowballs come as 3 different options, compute optimized, compute optimized with GPU and storage optimized

Having an understanding of when you should select one snow device over another is important, and so I explained:

  • Both the snowcone and snowball were great use cases for:
    • Portable edge computing
    • Data transfer at the edge
    • Storage aggregation

I also highlighted when you would use the Snowcone over the Snowball as seen in this table.  

You would use the snowcone if you: 

  • Needed a portable device that you could easily carry to difficult to reach locations and situations
  • Only needed a maximum of 8TB storage
  • If you needed the ability to perform on-line data transfer using AWS DataSync, preventing you the need to send the Snowcone back to AWS for an off-line data transfer
  • If you didn’t have a consistent power support and you needed the support of a battery pack

Alternatively, you would use the Snowball device if you: 

  • Didn’t need to provide mobility to the snow device and it could remain in one location for a set period of time
  • Needed to transfer data of up to 80TB
  • Needed the ability to run enhanced graphics processing by using the Compute Optimized with GPU option
  • Had a requirement to transfer data using S3 API’s
  • Required the use of usable SSD Storage 
  • Needed to optimized network ports that could reach speeds of up to 100Gbit, as Snowcones only have network port speeds of 10Gbit
  • Needed to cluster your snowballs.  Clustering allows you to order between 5-10 snowball devices, acting as a single pool of resources.  This allows you to gain a larger storage capacity, and also enhance the level of durability of the data should a snowball fail.   Clustering is only an option if you are looking to simply perform local compute and storage workloads without transferring any data back to AWS.
  • Needed to rack mount your devices providing the opportunity to implement temporary installations of both compute and storage
  • Required the snow device to be HIPAA compliant

The AWS Snowmobile would be used if:

  • You needed to transfer MASSIVE amounts of data from a single location, up to 100PB per snowmobile
  • Snowmobiles can be used in parallel to transfer exabytes of data
  • Used for migrating entire data centres to a new location, or migrating entire storage libraries or repositories
  • Snowmobiles should be used if you need to transfer more than 10petabytes of data

I also ran through the process of how to order a snow device which followed a simple process flow.

For Snowcones and Snowballs: 

  1. Raise a job from with the AWS Management Console or via the AWS CLI specifying specific details and requirements
  2. AWS will then deliver the snow device
  3. The customer will then power and unlock the device
  4. The device is then connected to your network
  5. Data transfer and edge computing processing is completed 
  6. The device is prepared to be shipped back to AWS
  7. The data is transferred to AWS storage by AWS personnel 
  8. The data is erased from the snow device

If you require a snowmobile:

  1. Contact AWS Sales support
  2. AWS will carry out a site assessment of where the snowmobile will be placed
  3. The snowmobile will be driven by AWS personnel to site
  4. AWS personnel will configure and connect the container
  5. Data is transferred 
  6. AWS personnel will drive the snowmobile back to AWS to carry out the data transfer onto AWS storage services

I then summarized some key features of the snow family and these primary centered around

  • Data encryption
  • Data validation
  • Anti-tamper systems
  • Ruggedized enclosures
  • Tracking and tracing 
  • Secure data erasure
  • Networking
  • Enhanced security measures (escort vehicle and 24/7 video surveillance for snowmobiles 

I also provided an introduction to the AWS OpsHub, which is downloadable software used as a graphical user interface to help you manage your snow family of devices.  

That now brings me to the end of this lecture and to the end of this course, and so you should now have a greater understanding of the AWS Snow family, the devices, their use cases, and how you can use them to run operations and perform large scale data transfer in non-AWS environments.

Feedback on our courses here at Cloud Academy is valuable to both us as trainers and any students looking to take the same course in the future. If you have any feedback, positive or negative, it would be greatly appreciated if you could contact support@cloudacademy.com.

Thank you for your time and good luck with your continued learning of cloud computing. Thank you.

About the Author
Learning Paths

Stuart has been working within the IT industry for two decades covering a huge range of topic areas and technologies, from data center and network infrastructure design, to cloud architecture and implementation.

To date, Stuart has created 150+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 180,000 students, mostly within the AWS category and with a heavy focus on security and compliance.

Stuart is a member of the AWS Community Builders Program for his contributions towards AWS.

He is AWS certified and accredited in addition to being a published author covering topics across the AWS landscape.

In January 2016 Stuart was awarded ‘Expert of the Year Award 2015’ from Experts Exchange for his knowledge share within cloud services to the community.

Stuart enjoys writing about cloud technologies and you will find many of his articles within our blog pages.