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AWS Big Data

AWS Snowball Edge: Data Shipping and Compute at the Edge

What is AWS Snowball Edge?

AWS Snowball Edge is a data transfer plus edge computing device managed by the AWS Snowball service, offering both compute and on-board storage—so that you can utilize AWS services in edge locations. Snowball Edge features two options, Compute Optimized and Storage Optimized, to support local data collection and processing in disconnected environments. Including construction sites, remote factories, oil rigs, and ships.

AWS Snowball refers to the service in general, and Snowball Edge is the primary device currently offered by the service. Initially, early Snowball hardware designs were for information transport alone. Snowball Edge has the added ability to execute computing locally, even if there is no active network connection.

This is part of our series of articles about AWS big data.

In this article:

Snowball Edge Use Cases

Edge Computing

You can use Snowball Edge Compute Optimized to collect information, process it, gain real-time insight, and then move the information to AWS. Snowball Edge lets you transfer information continuously produced by machines or sensors at factory floors, hospitals, ships, or other edge points to AWS.

Data Transfer

Use Snowball Edge Storage Optimized to accelerate bulk transfer of information from or to Amazon S3 storage. Snowball helps you transfer information in cases where you have bandwidth constraints, connectivity limitations, legacy environment challenges, network connection costs, or when you gather data in remote locations.

Each Snowball device can transfer multiple terabytes of information, and you can use several devices clustered together or in parallel to transfer petabytes of information to or from AWS.

Related content: Read our guide to the AWS Snowball family of products

How Does Amazon Snowball Edge Work?

You begin by requesting one or several Snowball Edge Storage Optimized or Snowball Edge Compute Optimized devices via the AWS Management Console. Determine the number and type of Snowball devices according to the amount of information you need to transfer, and whether compute is required for local processing.

The data, Amazon EC2 AMIs, buckets, and Lambda functions you choose are automatically encrypted, preinstalled, and configured on your devices before Amazon ships the device to you.

After a device arrives, you set up a connection with your local area network and automatically establish the IP address with DHCP. Then utilize Snowball Edge client software, job manifest, and unlock code to check the Snowball Edge cluster or device's integrity and unlock it. Snowball Edge uniquely generates the manifest and cryptographic unlock code.

Amazon ships the Snowball Edge to you; you cannot use it together with other devices. Snowball Edge automatically encrypts and stores the data copied to it in the buckets you state. Once the device finishes copying, and you wish to send back the device, the E Ink shipping label automatically updates the return address, ensuring that Amazon ships the device to the appropriate AWS facility.

After the device is transported, you will receive tracking status through emails or text messages created by Amazon SNS, or directly via the Amazon console.

Related content: For very large data transfers, learn about the AWS Snowmobile service

Snowball Edge Tools

Snowball provides the following tools that can help you leverage Snowball Edge devices and perform data transfer and edge computing operations.

Snowball client

  • You may download then install the Snowball client via the AWS Snowball resources site.
  • You use the client to unlock Snowball Edge devices. It does not transfer data.

AWS OpsHub for Snow Family

  • An easy-to-use tool that allows you to manage local AWS services and on-premises devices.
  • Provides access to AWS OpsHub via a client computer to carry out tasks, including configuring and unlocking clustered or single Snowball devices or moving files.
  • OpsHub lets you launch compute instances via Snow Family devices.

Amazon S3 Adapter for Snowball Edge

  • The Amazon S3 Adapter comes installed on the device by default.
  • Transfers information to and from Snowball Edge.
  • Encrypts information on Snowball Edge while the information is transferred to Amazon S3.

Snowball Edge file interface

  • The file interface comes installed on Snowball Edge by default. You don’t need to download or install it.
  • Transfer information by dragging and dropping files of up to 150 GB in size from the device to buckets on Snowball Edge via a simple-to-configure NFS mount point.
  • The file interface encrypts information on the Snowball Edge as the information is moved to the device.

AWS Snowball Edge Pricing

Service Fee Per Job

You will be charged a one-off setup fee per job ordered, either via the Snowball console or for jobs ordered through JMAPI (API) via the command line service (CLS). Amazon gives you ten days to use the device, and shipping days do not count. You will be charged only for the full days the device is present at your physical location. You do not pay for the day the Snowball Edge arrives or the day you return it to AWS.

Per-Day Fee

You will be charged a service fee for the first ten days of onsite usage. If you keep the device for more than ten days, you will need to pay for each added day that you retain the device.

Committed Upfront Fee

If you expect to use a Snowball device for between one and three years and wish to pay the device costs up-front, you receive a discount (up to 62%) in comparison to on-demand pricing. Amazon will charge the upfront fee when you receive your Snowball device, and you won’t need to pay any added per-day fees or service fees for that device during the prepaid term.

Data Transfer

Data transfer into Amazon S3 is free (except in the case of small files). Amazon charges for data transfer out of Amazon S3 according to region.

Workloads with millions of small files (equal to or less than 1 MB) can experience higher Amazon S3 charges (S3 GET costs for S3 export tasks, or S3 PUT costs for S3 import tasks).


Amazon calculates shipping charges according to the standard carrier rate for the shipping option you select (overnight or 2-day) and the shipping location.

Other AWS Service Charges

Amazon will charge you for storage, standard requests, and data transfer rates to write to and read from AWS services, such as AWS Key Management Services (KMS) and Amazon S3.

For S3 import tasks, Amazon will charge you at standard S3 charges (for example, S3 PUT costs and S3 capacity costs) for the information you transfer from your Snow Family device to S3. Amazon also charges standard rates for Amazon CloudWatch Metrics, Amazon CloudWatch Logs, as well as Amazon CloudWatch Events.

Related content: Read our guide to AWS Snowball Pricing

AWS Storage Optimization with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP capacity can scale into the petabytes, and it supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

In particular, Cloud Volumes ONTAP assists with lift and shift cloud migration. Download our free guide The 5 Phases for Enterprise Migration to AWS to learn more.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP also provides storage efficiency features, including thin provisioning, data compression, and deduplication, reducing the storage footprint and costs by up to 70%. Learn more about how Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps cost savings with these Cloud Volumes ONTAP Storage Efficiency Case Studies.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager