Amazon Web Services Announces AWS ‘Snowcone’ Ultra-Portable Edge Computing Device

Last week, AWS announced its newest and most portable addition to its Snow Family of devices, the AWS’ Snowcone’. Like the AWS Snowball and Snowmobile, the Snowcone is an edge computing and data transfer device built for use in disconnected environments. The AWS Snow Family exists because there is a distinct need to collect, store, and process data in remote locations that lack the space, power, and cooling to house a traditional datacenter. With the use cases for edge computing expanding, the launch of a more portable edge computing solution is very timely. 

I recently spent some time discussing AWS’s new product announcements, its response to COVID19, and the AWS Virtual Summit with Jeff Barr, Vice President and Chief Evangelist at AWS, on the Six-Five Insider Edition Podcast. You can access the full podcast episode here. 

Amazon Snowcone

Rugged, compact, and secure

The AWS Snowcone is the smallest device in the Snow Family of devices. The Snowcone measures 9 inches x 6 inches x 3 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds. The ultra-compact device is designed to fit within a standard mailbox and is small enough to throw into a backpack. I watched Jeff Barr fly the Snowcone while attached to a drone. He used the Snowcone to create a 3D model for a solar panel arrangement on top of a home. I don’t know if I would attach my data to a drone, but if you needed to deliver the device to a remote location, it makes sense. The AWS Snowball is purpose-built for easy transport to any remote site.

The AWS Snowcone comes standard with 2 CPUs, 4GB of memory, 8TB of storage, and a USB-C port for data transfer and power. The AWS Snowcone’s security features include two layers of encryption. The encryption is military grade with 256-bit keys that Amazon manages with its key management system (KMS). The device also uses anti-tamper and tamper-evident features to keep the Snowcone secure while being transported to AWS facilities for data offloading. 

The device is built to withstand the most rugged conditions, including freezing and desert environments. The compactness and toughness of the AWS Snowcone allow it to be shipped to settings that the AWS Snowball or Snowmobile could not. The AWS Snowcone is also dust-tight, IP65 water-resistant, and meets several industry standards for free fall shock and operational vibrations. The AWS Snowcone can be shipped to the most rugged of environments ranging from oil fields to remote offices to global military operations. 

Setup and use 

The edge computing use cases that the AWS Snowcone can attack are vast. I suspect that the Snowcone will be utilized for but not limited to, the following: Transportation, data migration, logistics, healthcare, autonomous vehicles, content distribution, and industrial IoT. The Snowcone can be used to run edge computing workloads via AWS IoT Greengrass or in Amazon EC2 instances. The device also has enough local compute power to run these select applications in disconnected environments. In addition to those use cases, the AWS Snowcone can double as an IoT Hub and run Elastic Compute instance for data aggregation.

The setup of the AWS Snowcone is advertised only to take three clicks and is easier than ever to manage with the additional software provided by AWS. With this launch, AWS made it much easier for customers to set up and manage Snowball Family Devices thanks to AWS OpsHub. This graphical user interface allows customers to configure, unlock, and copy data via drag and drop without being connected to the web. 

We’ve touched on many use cases and environments where the AWS Snowcone may operate, but none of that matters without the ability to offload the data, analyze it, and act based on the findings. There are multiple ways to offload data from the AWS Snowcone. In environments with stable connectivity, you can use Ethernet or Wi-Fi to offload data via integrated AWS DataSync. DataSync allows users to automate data transfers, continuously update the cloud, and move data up to 10x faster. You can also use the built-in E Ink shipping label to send the AWS Snowcone if your location has poor or no connectivity. Once your data uploads to the cloud, the device is sanitized of any customer information. The E Ink will then auto-populate with the customer’s return address and send the AWS Snowcone back as-is with no packaging. In both data offloading instances, the data is copied to a cloud-based Amazon S3 bucket where it is processed and verified. This process usually takes a single day. 

Wrapping up

Overall, the AWS Snowcone seems like a meaningful and needed addition to the AWS Snow Family lineup. Previously you could ship edge computing devices that were the size of a suitcase, but with the AWS Snowcone, you do edge computing and data transfer with a device that fits in a mailbox or attaches to a drone. This ultra-compact form factor allows AWS to collect and process data at the furthest edge of the cloud in the harshest environments. With this announcement, AWS is enabling cloud computing to take place from virtually anywhere in the world. Great job, AWS.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy researchers and analysts may have contributed to this article.