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How Could Amazon Web Services Help Migrate Big Data to Cloud?

Moving big data to a cloud can take years, then the Amazon cloud provider have come up with special purpose products called the Snowball and the Snowmobile to solve this problem.
By Brian Tran | 7 min read
on June 26, 2020
Image credit: Press associate

Cloud computing is a flourishing industry and is likely to continue accelerating as faster data speeds such as the fifth generation of wireless technology (5G) allow companies to move of their computing power to the cloud.  While other tech giants Google, Microsoft, and IBM are endeavoring to be the go-to providers, Amazon's cloud business is the biggest company in the industry, the undisputed leader. Amazon depends much more heavily on the cloud for its corporate growth. The cloud represents nearly 60% of Amazon’s total operating income of USD12.4 billion in 2018, while sales representing 11 percent of the company’s total revenue. 

What Is AWS-Amazon Web Services and How Does It Work?

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud platform designed by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN), has become a gigantic component of the e-commerce giant's business portfolio. Amazon Web Services is behind much of the technology people use every day, from streaming their favorite shows on Netflix to calling a car from Lyft. AWS has been one of Amazon’s most profitable business endeavors as companies abandon their own data centers for Amazon Web Services. Amazon said it has more 4,000 government contracts as well.

AWS has 76 availability zones in which its servers are located. These serviced regions are divided in order to allow users to set geographical limits on their services (if they so pick up), but also to provide security by diversifying the physical locations in which data is held. Overall, AWS spreads 245 countries and territories.

Amazon web services provide a set of primitive abstract technical infrastructure and distributed computing building blocks and tools. AWS is made up of so many different cloud computing products and services. One of these services is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which allows users to have at their disposal a virtual cluster of computers, available all the time, through the Internet. AWS's version of virtual computers emulate most of the attributes of a real computer, including hardware central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) for processing; local/RAM memory; hard-disk/SSD storage; a choice of operating systems; networking; and pre-loaded application software such as web servers, databases, and customer relationship management (CRM).

The AWS technology is implemented at server farms throughout the world and maintained by the Amazon subsidiary. Fees are based on a combination of utilization, the hardware/ OS/ software/ networking features picked up by the subscriber, required availability, redundancy, security, and service options. Subscribers can pay for a single virtual AWS computer, a dedicated physical computer, or clusters of either. As part of the subscription agreement, Amazon provides security for subscribers' systems. AWS operates from many global geographical regions including 6 in North America.

In 2020, AWS comprised approximately 212 services including computing, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, deployment, management, mobile, developer tools, and tools for the Internet of Things. The most popular include EC2 and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Most services are not exposed directly to end users, but instead offer functionality through APIs for developers to use in their applications. Amazon Web Services' offerings are accessed over HTTP, using the REST architectural style and SOAP protocol for older APIs and exclusively JSON for newer ones.

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Amazon markets AWS to subscribers as a way of obtaining large scale computing capacity more quickly and cheaply than building an actual physical server farm. All services are billed based on usage, but each service measures usage in varying ways.

AWS is so large and present in the computing world that it is far outpaced its competitors. In the first quarter of 2020, AWS brought in a record $10 billion of revenue, accounting for 13.5% of Amazon's total revenue and AWS has over a third of the market at 32.4%, with Azure following behind at half that amount 17.6%, and Google Cloud at 6%.

Why Would A Company Need to Deploy Data Cloud Migration by AWS?

The shift for businesses to use cloud computing has not come straight away, but that is simply because many organizations have not yet been faced with a server refresh. Typically, a server refresh – replacing servers that are out of warranty – happens every five to seven years. Before warranty is up, it may not immediately appear to make sense to migrate to the cloud and waste that huge investment.

For others, they do not look for alternatives to on-premises or private cloud until they have to, because their operating system has had its support discontinued. For instance, if you have the operating system Windows Server 2008 on-premises, by 2020 Microsoft will no longer support that product, so any vulnerabilities will remain and put businesses at risk of certain exploits or vulnerabilities.

Businesses come to us at Perfect Image with the issues they are experiencing with their on-premises or private cloud infrastructures. They want a solution that can lower costs, improve productivity, increase scalability, boost business growth, etc. It is discernibly recognized that cloud or hybrid is the solution they need.

Building up The Best IT Talents

Having a small IT team means placing reliance on individuals for the management of on-premises IT infrastructure.  In many cases, when an employee takes annual leave or has to take time off unexpectedly, and others in their team do not know how to pick up their workload and certain tasks are left undone. With traditional infrastructure, there are three core areas: storage, virtualization and networking. To be qualified to the most basic level in that whole stack would take years and cost thousands of pounds in total.

Public cloud ensures that this reliance is instead on dedicated providers who have the means to invest in the best and most expensive IT experts in the world to optimally manage cloud environment. As a result, internal IT staff can on more value-add tasks to streamline organization.

Another helpful option can be working with a Managed Service Provider like Perfect Image. Cloud experts, certified in a wide range of cloud proficiencies, can become an extension to individual internal IT team, to fill in the gaps in resource or skills for more complicated tasks. Or if it is more convenient, business owners can look to a partner that can take over the whole responsibility of looking after their cloud environment.

Meeting Security and Privacy Needs

Amazon Web Services is much more secure than a company hosting its own website or storage. AWS currently has a plethora of data centers across the globe which are continuously monitored and scrupulously maintained. The diversification of the data centers ensures that a disaster striking one region does not cause permanent data loss worldwide. Imagine if Netflix were to have all of its personnel files, content, and backed-up data centralized on-site on the eve of a hurricane. Chaos would happen.

With on-premises servers, it can take a lot of hard work and continued effort to be, and remain, compliant. There is a long list of even seemingly harmless things that can invalidate compliance. Public cloud mitigates that risk and ensures you maintain your compliance. For example, if you have financial data, you need to be PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant. There is a plentiful list of required compliances, but public cloud enables you to meet these requirements as their data centers are already accredited.

WS has tried to keep its data centers as hidden as possible, locating them in out-of-the-way locations and allowing access only on an essential basis. The data centers and all the data contained therein are safe from intrusions, and, with Amazon’s experience in cloud services, outages and potential attacks can be quickly identified and easily remedied, 24 hours a day. The same cannot be said for a small company whose computing is handled by a single IT specialist working out of a large office. 

A lot of huge companies are already taking advantage of the big cloud providers, Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), including Netflix It is great as you can be a small business and pay a fraction of the price to get the same level of security that they have on these huge enterprises.

Accelerating Business Growth with Agile Infrastructure

Since AWS’s cost is modified based on the customers’ usage, startups and small businesses can see the obvious benefits of using Amazon for their computing needs. In fact, AWS is great for building a business from the bottom as it provides all the tools necessary for companies to start up with the cloud. For existing companies, Amazon provides low-cost migration services so that your existing infrastructure can be seamlessly moved over to AWS.

As a company grows, AWS provides resources to aid in expansion and as the business model allows for flexible usage, customers will never need to spend time thinking about whether or not they need to reexamine their computing usage. In fact, aside from budgetary reasons, companies could realistically “set and forget” all their computing needs. 

The service gives you and your employees the flexibility to work from any location. Employees can complete their tasks at home or from the field. You can reduce the number of workstations in your office and allow some employees to work from home to save costs further. Cloud computing enables you to monitor the operations in your business effectively. You just need a fast internet connection to get real time updates of all operations.

Reducing Operational Costs and Increasing Profit Margins

Traditionally, companies looking for large amounts of storage would need to physically build a storage space and maintain it. Storing on a cloud could mean signing a pricey contract for a large amount of storage space that the company could grow. Building or buying too little storage could be disastrous if the business took off and expensive if it did not.

The same applies to computing power. Companies that experience surge traffic would traditionally end up buying loads of power to sustain their business during peak times. On off-peak times—May for tax accountants for example—computing power lays unused, but still costing the firm money.

With AWS, companies pay for what they use. There is no upfront cost to build a storage system and no need to estimate usage. AWS customers use what they need, and their costs are scaled automatically and accordingly.

The cloud was going to be much more manageable low-cost monthly payments for what companies needed, and after a quick build and migration, that expense includes everything – upgrades, support, maintenance, patching, etc. However, the real value of the cloud is not just cost savings; it is the competitive and strategic advantages you get from having a flexible, innovative and future-proof infrastructure.

Improving Workforce Productivity

Business owners are always looking for ways to boost individual and team performance. It can be hard to access company files outside of the office if that is where your servers are, but in today’s fast-moving business landscape, employees need access to files and documents at all times. To do this with on-premises servers you would have to connect to your server remotely, but this fully relies on having an internet connection and it can be difficult to do securely and quickly. Whether employees are part of a mobile workforce or simply out of the office for business, on-the-go working is secure with the public cloud. If a laptop is lost, then it can be remotely wiped. Cloud computing exists to make every workplace more flexible so that their staff and clients and suppliers can take advantage of connected devices.

Cloud computing is among the most effective ways of improving team performance. Employees can easily share data and collaborate to complete projects even from different locations. Field workers can easily share real time data and updates with those in the office. In addition, cloud computing eliminates redundant or repetitive tasks such as data re-entry.

There are other additional services that can boost productivity that has made possible by the cloud, such as scalable AI, rapid and secure DevOps of applications, integration of applications and services, and databases (to store and retrieve data from the cloud). They were previously only accessible to enterprise-sized organizations but with public cloud, they are now highly available to businesses and can be valuable when integrated into your cloud solution.

How Amazon Helps A Company Transfer Heavy Data Loads to The Cloud?

For many organizations, cloud computing is now a fact of life. Over the years, it is established a reputation as the key to achieving agility, flexibility and scalability. The benefits of cloud technologies like big data are well documented. Organizations that adopt them are able to scale up and scale down their data storage and compute capacity as needed. This provides a new level flexibility for dynamic workloads, enabling the business to take advantage of new data types or new business opportunities, without making huge commitments to infrastructure. 

Many organizations are already experiencing the benefits of migrating their data to the cloud, some are thinking about how to take it up a notch by introducing big data into the cloud. But for an organization that wants to migrate its massive data to the cloud, big data cloud migration is phenomenally challenging.

For some perspective and how big that is, an average MP3 song is about three megabytes. A gigabyte is about 1,000 megabytes, or around 300 songs. A terabyte is about 1,000 gigabytes, or 300,000 songs. Petabytes is 1,000 terabytes, or 300 million songs, and an exabyte is around 1,000 petabytes, or 300 billion songs. A single MP3 file might take a few seconds to transfer over the internet. 300 million or billion, however, might take a while. 

Amazon has tried to solve this problem of cost and time by creating tough hardware, called Snowballs, which people who operate data centers can connect their infrastructure to. Make copies of the data and then send those snowballs to AWS data centers so that the data can be moved more quickly. 

Amazon Web Services Snowball

AWS Snowball accelerates moving large amounts of data into and out of AWS using secure Snowball appliances. The AWS Snowball appliance is purpose-built for efficient data storage and transfer. It is rugged enough to withstand a 6 G shock, and, at 50 pounds, it is light enough for one person to carry. It is entirely self-contained, with 110-volt power and a 10 GB network connection on the back, as well as an E Ink display and control panel on the front. Each AWS Snowball appliance is weather-resistant and serves as its own shipping container. The AWS Snowball appliance is available in two capacity models (as of this writing) which can store either 50 or 80 terabytes of data. If you want to transfer more data than that, you can use multiple appliances. For Amazon S3, individual files are loaded as objects and can range up to 5 TB in size. There is no limit to the number of objects you can place in Amazon S3, and the aggregate total amount of data that can be imported is virtually unlimited. 

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AWS transfers your data directly onto and off of AWS Snowball storage devices using Amazon’s high-speed internal network, bypassing the Internet. For datasets of significant size, AWS Snowball is often faster than Internet transfer is and more cost-effective than upgrading your connectivity. AWS Snowball supports importing data into and exporting data from Amazon S3 buckets. From there, the data can be copied or moved to other AWS services such as Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) and Amazon Glacier. 

AWS Snowball is ideal for transferring large amounts of data, up to many petabytes, in and out of the AWS cloud securely. This approach is effective, especially in cases where you do not want to make expensive upgrades to your network infrastructure; if you frequently experience large backlogs of data; if you are in a physically isolated environment; or if you are in an area where high speed Internet connections are not available or cost-prohibitive. In general, if loading your data over the Internet would take a week or more, you should consider using AWS Snowball. 

Common use cases include cloud migration, disaster recovery, data center decommission, and content distribution. When you decommission a data center, many steps are involved to make sure valuable data is not lost, and Snowball can help ensure data is securely and cost-effectively transferred to AWS. In a content distribution scenario, you might use Snowball appliances if you regularly receive or need to share large amounts of data with clients, customers, or business associates. Snowball appliances can be sent directly from AWS to client or customer locations. 

Amazon Web Services Snowmobile

AWS was the first public cloud provider to make hardware like this for data transfer, but competitors have since developed similar products. 

Microsoft is the number two player in the public cloud market, behind AWS. It has Data Box products that have room for 1 petabyte of data, making it larger than what Google and IBM offer today. The Google Cloud, which is behind AWS and Microsoft Azure, has Transfer Appliance products. Which are storage servers that you can install inside a rack in your data center. But it is not as popular as the one that AWS is offering today. However, AWS is the only corporation that felt like it needed to go even bigger.

It is long been known that the fastest data transfer rate can be physical media delivered by courier. Amazon has taken this to an extreme, by announcing Snowmobile, an 18-wheeler semi-trailer truck that will carry 100 petabyte (100PB) in a shipping container from the customer premises for upload to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

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The Snowmobile truck, which comes with optional security guards. It extends last year’s announcement of Snowball, a 50TB storage unit in a rugged, tamper proof box, with which businesses can send large chunks of data to the AWS cloud by post. Jassy also announced Snowball Edge, a 100TB upgrade to Snowball which can be clustered, and rack mounted.

Many companies have more than exabyte (1000PB) in their data centers, and they are clamoring for faster ways to move this data. Sending an exabyte of data to AWS using a 10Gbps network pipe would take some 26 years, but this drops to less than six months with a fleet of 10 Snowmobiles.

Like the original Snowball, the Snowmobile shipping container itself is ruggedized and temper resistant. Powering up the Snowmobile and its built-in climate-controlled equipment requires around 350kW of AC power, though AWS says it can arrange for a generator if there is insufficient capacity on site. Once in place, the Snowmobile is hooked up to the data center using fiber optic cables, where it appears as a local, NSF-mounted volume, explained AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog entry, which also included a demonstration of Snowmobile at work - built in Lego.

Existing backup and archiving tools can be used to shunt data over to the Snowmobile, and when it arrives at an Amazon facility, it can be ingested into Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) or Amazon Glacier.

Multiple mechanisms ensure that the data on the Snowmobile is protected, including chain-of-custody tracking, video surveillance, GPS tracking, and cellular or satellite connectivity back to AWS.

A security vehicle escort will be arranged when the Snowmobile is in transit, and dedicated security guards can also be arranged when it is on-premises. The Snowmobile will take Digital Globe’s entire archive to an Amazon Glacier vault, from where the company will be able to provide time-lapse imagery of Earth’s surface, and let customers access massive data sets, using AWS’ elastic computing platform

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