AWS sent edgy appliance to the ISS and it worked – just like all the other computers up there

Congrats, AWS, you’ve boldly gone where the Raspberry Pi has already been


Amazon Web Services has proudly revealed that the first completely private expedition to the International Space Station carried one of its Snowcone storage appliances, and that the device worked as advertised.

The Snowcone is a rugged shoebox-sized unit packed full of disk drives – specifically 14 terabytes of solid-state disk – a pair of VCPUs and 4GB of RAM. The latter two components mean the Snowcone can run either EC2 instances or apps written with AWS’s Greengrass IoT product. In either case, the idea is that you take a Snowcone into out-of-the-way places where connectivity is limited, collect data in situ and do some pre-processing on location. Once you return to a location where bandwidth is plentiful, it's assumed you'll upload the contents of a Snowcone into AWS and do real work on it there.

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AWS sent this Snowcone aloft with the crewed Axiom Space mission to the ISS in April 2022. The four astronauts conducted a variety of experiments during their 17-day rotation, which stored data on the Snowcone.

AWS hardened the device to ensure it could survive the trip. Axiom and AWS were able to communicate with the device, which worked as intended and processed data it stored. The cloud colossus has hailed this achievement as proving that processing data on Snowcones can work even in edge locations as extreme as the ISS.

Which is true and yay and all. But let's not forget that the ISS houses myriad computers and has done for years. Running a computer up there does require a combination of rocket science and computer science, but humanity has already well and truly proven it can put them both to work on the space station.

Even for computers that are far more modest than an AWS Snowcone – such as the Raspberry Pi.

The Pi Foundation and the European Space Agency have sent several AstroPi machines to the ISS. Just like AWS, those units were prepared especially for the rigors of space travel and were used to run multiple workloads.

The Pi guys even revealed an updated design last year, and this week reported the two units sent aloft in late 2021 have now run 17,168 programs written by young people from 26 countries.

The Register leaves the decision about which is the more impressive and/or inspiring achievement to you. ®


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