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Summary:

Insufficient bandwidth has the potential to limit the cloud because it can take a long time to send large files over thin pipes. Amazon Web Services now addresses this problem with a new data delivery service called AWS Import/Export, which uses the postal system rather than […]

logo_aws2Insufficient bandwidth has the potential to limit the cloud because it can take a long time to send large files over thin pipes. Amazon Web Services now addresses this problem with a new data delivery service called AWS Import/Export, which uses the postal system rather than the Internet to deliver data. Yes, it means customers now have the option to send their data to Amazon’s cloud via the mail.

Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, explains in a blog posting that it would take up to 13 days to sling a terabyte of data across a 10 Mbps network, which is pretty darn slow. So Amazon is offering customers the chance to store their data on an external device, ship it via post, and Amazon will load it into S3. I outlined this problem of needing fat pipes to transfer our increasing loads of data back in April, but was hoping that instead of using FedEx, we’d have faster networks. Interestingly, Vogels doesn’t think our networks will keep up with our data generation — a feeling common also in the supercomputing and cloud storage world. Vogels writes:

No matter how much we have improved our network throughput in the past 10 years, our datasets have grown faster, and this is likely to be a pattern that will only accelerate in the coming years. While network may improve another other of magnitude in throughput, it is certain that data sets will grow two or more orders of magnitude in the same period of time.

I don’t want to believe that faster networks are a lost cause, or that we’ll have to resort to the mail for delivery to the cloud, but as a stopgap measure this offering says a lot about the state of our pipes. For reference, here’s Amazon’s cheat sheet for when it will be faster to  turn your packets into a package.

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  1. Makes perfect sense.. and in fact long awaited for.. Amazon showing itself as a serious cloud player and offering real solutions, applause!

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  2. sneakernet lives! though I guess it’s actually postalnet

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  3. mail -> great for first offsite back ups!! after that sysnc changes incrementally using some file sync protocol like rsync

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  4. Richard Smith Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Back in the days of BITnet (anyone remember that?) email would backlog between Canada and the US (we had one link, I think a 56k line to Columbia in NY) and so the mail would be spooled onto tape and trucked to Canada. This is in the 1980s, and I might have the details wrong, but it looks like we’re going back to the old days…

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  5. Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

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  6. What is wrong with sending satellites up in space and do the cloud stuff up there?? Military and scientists already have that… Why not the masses?

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  7. You can drive up to a local satellite center to pick up the data..

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  8. [...] (as I read at GigaOM), Amazon Web Services is now going postal, since snail mail is sometimes faster than the internet. [...]

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  9. I might consider moving to the cloud in 2020. Until then I’ll just keep using my faithful terabyte drives.

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  10. [...] is a response to the criticisms [1] [2] of Amazon’s new “mail your HDD of data to us for an AWS import” [...]

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