Jump to main content

English as a foreign language

Living as a German in an increasingly English-speaking world

Technology observations

2021-01-05: Data on trucks

You probably know the old quote attributed to Andrew S. Tanenbaum that you should “never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway”. The thought has been spun further before (for example by Randall Munroe of XKCD fame), but Amazon Web Services has taken the idea and run with it: forget your puny station wagon full of tapes, how about a big-arse 18-wheeler semi rig full of hard disks and networking gear?

So that’s exactly what they came up with: the Snowmobile. If you order one, a semi will pull up to your data centre, you can plug your power and network into it, and copy 100 Petabytes of data onto it, via NFS. With all stars aligned, this will take about ten days. It will then be driven to an AWS facility, guarded by a guy with a gun, and the data copied into AWS storage of your choice.

The only catch? You cannot get your data back this way. Snowmobiles are a one-way street into the ultimate vendor lock-in.

Update in 2024: the Snowmobile is dead. Amazon is discontinuing the service.