Snowmobile, Amazon's truck-powered migration service, reaches the end of the road

Demand for bulk storage on wheels turned out to be wan

Amazon Web Services is abandoning its fleet of Snowmobile data haulers, the trucks packed with petabytes of spinning disks designed to get large enterprises into the cloud.

Introduced in 2016, Snowmobile offered a way to transfer very large amounts of information into the public cloud, recognition that it’s hard to shift exabytes over a wide-area network.

AWS proposed driving a Snowmobile, a 45-foot-long climate-controlled shipping container filled with 100 petabytes worth of hard disk storage, to customers’ datacenters, migrating the data to that container using a 1Tb/s link, then physically transporting it to the nearest AWS region. Once the Snowmobile parked, the data it trucked in would be imported to the Amazonian cloud.

This was hoped to be more efficient or practical than transferring it electronically.

Eight years later, and the service has disappeared from AWS website with all links redirecting to its Snowball service, which does more or less the same thing albeit with a briefcase-sized device that can be returned by mail.

Why? Apparently because AWS has come up with better, most cost-effective ways of getting your data into its cloud datacenters that don't require hiring drivers, guards, fuel, and a security escort.

"Since we introduced Snowmobile in 2016, we've released many other new services and features which have made migrating data to AWS even faster and easier for our customers," the tech titan told CNBC in a statement.

It also appears that the service just wasn't that popular, with an Amazon spokesperson saying clients generally found it to be less expensive to upload their data than hire a Snowmobile. It probably didn't help that Snowmobile was kind of a one-and-done operation, making it a bit of a niche offering tailored toward mass migrations.

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Power crunch could prompt AWS to ration compute resources


The decision to shutter the service comes just weeks after AWS announced another round of layoffs affecting hundreds of employees.

Over the past year, Amazon – which employs over a million people worldwide – has waved goodbye to more than 27,000 workers amid sweeping staff redundancies across the broader tech sector. The e-commerce giant has also eliminated other products and technologies, including automatic grab-and-go systems at its grocery stores.

Meanwhile, CEO Andy Jassy talked up increased use of AI models and applications inside Amazon to boost the efficiency of its workforce in his annual shareholder letter last week. Trucks, it seems, aren't a part of that. ®

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