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What is the Snow Family?


Course Introduction
Running Operations with the Snow Family
Course Conclusion
3m 26s
What is the Snow Family?

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 answer 2 simple questions:

  1. What is the snow family 
  2. and what does it consist of?

So firstly, what is it? The snow family consists of a range of physical hardware devices that are all designed to enable you to transfer data into AWS from the edge or beyond the Cloud, such as your Data Center, but they can also be used to transfer data out of AWS too, for example, from Amazon S3 back to your Data Centre. 

It’s unusual when working with the cloud to be talking about physical devices or components, normally your interactions and operations with AWS generally happen programmatically via a browser or command line interface.  The snow family is different, instead, you will be sent a piece of hardware packed with storage and compute capabilities to perform the required data transfer outside of AWS, and when complete, the device is then sent back to AWS for processing and the data uploaded to Amazon S3.

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, and I’ll be talking more about these different snow family members shortly.  Now of course when we are talking about migrating and transferring data at this magnitude, using traditional network connectivity is sometimes simply not feasible from a time perspective. For example, let’s assume you needed to transfer just 1petabye of data over a 1gbps using Direct Connect it would take 104 Days, 5 Hours 59 Minutes, 59.25 Seconds, not forgetting the cost of the data transfer fees too! 

In addition to these devices packing some serious storage capacity for data transfer, some of them also come fitted with compute power, allowing you to run usable EC2 instances that have been designed for the snow family enabling your applications to run operations in often remote and difficult to reach environments, even without having a data center in sight, and when working with a lack of persistent networking connectivity or power.  For example, the snowcone comes with the ability to add battery packs increasing their versatility.  The enablement of running EC2 instances makes it possible to use these devices at the edge to process and analyze data much closer to the source.      

So let’s now take a look at what the snow family consists of to get a better understanding of what these devices are.

As you can see from this table, both from a physical and capacity perspective, the snowcone is the smallest followed by the snowball and finally the snowmobile.  You may also notice that the snowball comes in 3 choices, compute optimized, compute optimized with GPU, and storage optimized, each offering a different use case, however, each of these 3 offerings all come in the same size device. 

About the Author
Stuart Scott
AWS Content Director
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 90+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 140,000 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.