IBM packs 120TB into a carry-on bag, for snow-balling cloud uploads

Whither the rapid file transfer app Aspera that Big Blue acquired in 2014?


IBM has decided to join AWS and Google in the appliances-to-haul-data-into-the-cloud market, by launching an appliance called “IBM Cloud Mass Data Migration”.

Readers familiar with AWS' Snowball or the Google Transfer Appliance already know what this box is all about: there's 120TB of disk inside, a couple of Ethernet ports, and the plan is you'll hire one from Big Blue and fill it with your stuff.

The appliance uses AES-256 encryption and RAID-6 data protection, so your data should survive the overnight UPS trip from your premises to IBM's nearest cloud data centre. Once it arrives, Big Blue will upload it all into the cloud rather faster than would be possible if you tried to upload it over your internet connection.

At US$395 per hire, it will also likely be rather cheaper than wide-area-over-the-wire transfer. It's a US-only offer for now, but IBM promises “regional and global expansion coming soon in the EU.”

Which sounds great.

But there's one wrinkle: in 2014 IBM acquired Aspera, a company that offered software to run high-speed data transfer service between your shop and the cloud. IBM spruiked Aspera as the secret sauce of a new, free database lift and shift product it launched in February 2017. The company has also previously told your correspondent Aspera is a fine alternative to physical data transfer services, as it can reduce “... a 26-hour transmission of a 24 gigabyte file, sent halfway around the world, down to just 30 seconds.”

Those words come from Big Blue's 2014 press release announcing its acquisition of Aspera.

In 2014, 24GB sounded like a lot. But in 2017, Aspera would take 25 minutes to upload a terabyte and about 60 hours to shift the new appliance's 120TB capacity. Such a monster transfer would not be pleasant or cheap, so a kind interpretation of the situation would suggest that IBM's now covered two cloudy transfer options rather than finding Aspera's day has passed. ®


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