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What is AWS Snowmobile?

What is AWS Snowmobile?

Here is a list of the topics that we will be discussing in this blog:

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What is AWS Snowmobile?

AWS Snowmobile is an exabyte-scale data transfer service that is used to move large volumes of data to Amazon Web Services. Each Snowmobile allows transfer for up to 100PB of data. It is a 45-foot-long ruggedized shipping container that is pulled by a semi-trailer truck.

We can use Amazon Snowmobile to move large volumes of data to the cloud. This can include image repositories, video libraries, or data center migration. AWS Snowmobile is cost-effective, fast, and secure.

How Does AWS Snowmobile Work?

There is an initial assessment done before a Snowmobile is transported to data centers. Once the Snowmobile has reached the data center, AWS personnel configure it so it can be used as a target for network storage. When the Snowmobile is on the site, the AWS personnel start working with the team to connect a removable high-speed network switch from the Snowmobile to the local network. This initiates the process of high-speed data transfer. This can be done from various sources within the data center.

Once the data is transferred, the Snowmobile is taken back to AWS; there, the data is imported to Amazon S3.

Snowmobile brings in multi-layered security to protect data. This includes security personnel, alarm monitoring, GPS tracking, 24/7 video surveillance, and even an escort security vehicle, if needed. 256-bit encryption keys are used to encrypt all data. These keys can be managed through the AWS Key Management Service (KMS).

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Site Requirements for AWS Snowmobile

AWS Snowmobile needs physical access to the data center for ease of network connectivity. The Snowmobile contains a removable connector rack that has up to 1.24 miles of networking cable. The networking cable can directly connect to the network backbone of the data center.

The Snowmobile can be parked inside the data center, in a covered area. It can also be parked in an uncovered area, next to the data center that is close enough for the networking cable. The parking area will need clearance for a standard 45-foot container that is about 1.83 meters tall. The Snowmobile can work at a temperature of up to 85F before an auxiliary chiller unit has to be utilized. AWS usually provides the chiller unit, if needed.

What is an AWS Snowmobile Job?

A Snowmobile Job is the process of end-to-end data migration using a Snowmobile. It consists of five steps:

  • Site Survey: In this step, the AWS personnel work with the company to understand their migration objectives, the environment of the data center, and the required network configurations to help create a migration plan.
  • Site Preparation: In this step, the customer identifies and makes available the local services such as parking space, power source, etc.
  • Dispatch and Setup: This step involves the AWS personnel dispatching a Snowmobile to the site. The Snowmobile is then configured so that it can be securely accessed as a network storage target.
  • Data Migration: In this step, the data is copied from various sources in the data center to the Snowmobile.
  • Return and Upload: In this final step, the Snowmobile returns to a designated AWS region where the data is uploaded to the selected AWS storage device(s).

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Benefits of AWS Snowmobile

Let us now discuss some of the benefits of AWS Snowmobile:

  • Fast Transfer even at a Large Scale: It can take decades to transfer large amounts of data even with high-speed internet connections. AWS Snowmobile lets us move 100 PB of data in just a few weeks, plus the time taken for transport. If we had a direct connect line with a 1 Gbps connection, it would take more than 20 years to transfer this amount of data.
  • Strong Encryption: Your data can be encrypted, using the keys you have provided yourself, before it is written to the Snowmobile. All the data is encrypted with 256-bit encryption. You can manage all your encryption keys using AWS KMS. The encryption keys that are used by encrypting servers on the Snowmobile are not written to the disk. If there is ever a power cut, the keys are erased securely.
  • Rugged, Durable, and More Secure: Snowmobile is temperature-controlled, water-resistant, and tamper-resistant. The container the data is stored in is exclusively controlled by AWS personnel. It can be physically accessed only by security access hardware tools. The Snowmobile is protected by 24/7 video surveillance, alarm monitoring, and GPS tracking. There is also an optional layer of security available—the Snowmobile being escorted by a security vehicle while it’s on the move.
  • Customized For Your Needs: Different physical sites can have different migration needs. AWS works with the company to make sure all their specific needs are factored in before the Snowmobile reaches the physical site.
  • Massively Scalable: One Snowmobile allows the transportation of up to 100 PB of data in one trip. To do the same with AWS Snowball devices will require at least 1200 of such devices.
  • Easy Data Retrieval: A lot of companies are concerned that once they have moved all their data to the cloud, it will cost them a lot of time and money to retrieve the data when they need it. Snowmobile solves this problem by making sure the data is transferred quickly both in and out of AWS, ensuring a fast and inexpensive transfer of data.

AWS Snowmobile Specifications

Let us take a look at the major technical and physical specifications of a Snowmobile:

  • The Snowmobile is a 45-foot container, and it requires 1.83 meters of clearance. It has a curb weight of approximately 68,000 pounds.
  • The Snowmobile comes with a bunch of Snowball Edge devices that have 100 PB HDD storage.
  • The Snowmobile does not give usable RAM, vCPUs, or SSD storage.
  • The Snowmobile comes with a 6×40 Gbit network interface along with mobile connector racks that can be used to connect directly to the network backbone.
  • An auxiliary chilling unit can also be provided if the Snowmobile has to be parked in an uncovered area.

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Snowmobile Vs. Snowball

There are a few differences between AWS Snowmobile and AWS Snowball. Let us take a look at some of them:

ParametersAWS SnowmobileAWS Snowball
Use CasesHelps migrate large volumes of data—10 PB or more—stored in a single locationHelps migrate datasets less than 10 PB or datasets that are distributed in multiple locations
StorageCan store up to 100 PB of dataCan store up to 80 TB of data
SecurityAll data is encrypted using a 256-bit encryption key before writing new dataKeys are not permanently stored and are automatically deleted when the Snowmobile shuts downExclusively operated by AWS personnel—access to data containers is strictly controlled and hardware is protected by secure access control24/7 video and alarm monitoring and GPS trackingA special unlock and manifest code is created. This binds the Snowball to your account and the Snowball Edge deviceData copied to Snowball Edge is automatically encrypted and stored in pre-specified buckets

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AWS Snowmobile Pricing

AWS Snowmobile follows the use-based pricing model of AWS. Snowmobiles are priced according to the volume of data stored every month.

AWS Snowmobile can be used only in select AWS regions, if made available.

AWS Snowmobile costs $0.005/GB per month.

The pricing for AWS depends on various factors. Cloud storage, data transfer, and request prices also apply when the data is moved to AWS Cloud.


AWS Snowmobile is a necessity for companies that deal with large volumes of data. It helps make the process of data migration easier. AWS Snowmobile provides a convenient, secure, and inexpensive way of data transfer.

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