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Amazon Unveils Snowmobile – A 45 Foot 18 Wheeler To Move Exabytes Of Data To The Cloud, AI Products, And More

Amazon Unveils Snowmobile – A 45 Foot 18 Wheeler To Move Exabytes Of Data To The Cloud, AI Products, And More

At the 2016 Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, besides unveiling new updates to the cloud provider’s portfolio of services, CEO Andy Jassy also announced the first three services of the Amazon AI portfolio – clearly hinting that Amazon is making a big bet on next-generation technology.


The new Amazon Rekognition platform enables developers to quickly and easily build applications that analyse images, and recognise faces, objects, and scenes. It uses deep learning technologies to automatically identify objects and scenes, such as vehicles, pets, or furniture, and provides a confidence score that lets developers tag images so that application users can search for specific images using keywords. With Amazon Rekognition, the user pays  for the images they analyse and the face metadata they store. There are no minimum fees and there are no upfront commitments.


                             Image Source: AWS Blog

Amazon Lex is a new service for building conversational interfaces using voice and text that is built on the same automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and natural language understanding (NLU) that powers Amazon Alexa. Amazon Lex makes it easy to bring sophisticated, natural language capabilities to virtually any app. Developers can build and test conversational bots directly from the AWS Management Console.

Bots built using Amazon Lex can be used anywhere: from web applications, to chat and messenger apps like Slack and Facebook Messenger, or through voice in apps on mobile or connected devices. As a fully managed service, Lex scales automatically, so one does not need to worry about managing infrastructure.


                            Image Credit: AWS re:Invent Twitter account

Amazon Polly is a text-to-speech (TTS) service that is powered by deep learning. It takes a text input and returns an MP3 stream that is altered to sound more like actual conversation. The service supports 47 voices and 27 languages. As per AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr’s blog post, it’s free to process up to 5 Mn characters a month, and after that it costs $0.000004 per character.


                            Image Source: AWS Blog

With Polly, a user  only pays for the number of characters they convert to speech, and they can save and replay Polly’s generated speech. Polly’s low cost-per-character-converted, and lack of restrictions on storage and reuse of voice output, make it a cost-effective way to enable Text-to-Speech everywhere.

In the area of analytics, AWS launched Amazon Athena, a server-less query service that makes it easy to analyse data directly in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) using standard SQL. With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can point Amazon Athena at their data stored in Amazon S3 and begin using standard SQL to run queries and get results in seconds.


                            Image Credit: AWS re:Invent Twitter account

Compute Updates And Lightsail

At the conference, Andy also announced a slew of new compute instances and features to its portfolio of cloud services as well. Optimised to deliver the right combination of CPU, memory, storage, and networking capacity for a wide range of applications, the next-generation of AWS’s Memory Optimized, Compute Optimized, and High I/O instances include the latest processors and storage technologies.

AWS also added two new hardware acceleration options to its range of compute services. The new F1 instance is the cloud’s first customer-programmable, hardware-accelerated compute instance with Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Amazon EC2 Elastic GPUs allow customers to easily attach low-cost, professional grade graphics acceleration to Amazon EC2 instances.

AWS also announced Amazon Lightsail, a new way to get started with AWS that makes it easy to spin up powerful virtual private servers (VPS) that have bundled storage and networking with simple, monthly pricing. Sometimes, developers just want a server in the cloud to deploy their code or run their software, and Amazon Lightsail provides the easiest way for them to launch a VPS with just a few clicks.


Amazon Lightsail includes everything customers need for projects such as web sites, blogs, custom applications, or development servers. Amazon Lightsail runs on the AWS Cloud, making it easy for customers to connect to the more advanced services when they are ready. Amazon Lightsail is available immediately, and customers pay a simple monthly fee for each virtual private server, starting at $5 per month. With Lightsail, now AWS is directly going after DigitalOcean’s offerings in cloud infrastructure.

Greengrass, Snowball, And A Truck To Move Your Data

  • AWS also announced it has added full PostgreSQL compatibility to Amazon Aurora, the AWS database engine that combines the speed and availability of high-end commercial databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.
  • Also announced was the AWS Greengrass software which allows customers to run AWS compute, messaging, data caching, and sync capabilities on connected devices. With AWS Greengrass, devices can run AWS Lambda functions to perform tasks locally, keep device data in sync, and communicate with other devices while leveraging the full processing, analytics, and storage power of the AWS Cloud.
  • AWS also announced a new Snowball data transfer appliance, the AWS Snowball Edge that can transport two times more data than the original AWS Snowball (up to 100 TB). AWS Snowball is a petabyte-scale data transfer service that uses secure appliances to allow customers to transfer large amounts of data to and from AWS at as little as one-fifth of the cost of using high-speed internet connections. Since AWS introduced the AWS Snowball data transfer service in October 2015, customers have sent AWS Snowball devices a distance equal to circling the world more than 100 times.


  • For companies that have exabytes of data — of which there are a lot, according to Andy  — AWS is introducing a full-size truck containing a 45-foot shipping container in which customers can load data. Snowmobile makes it easy to move massive volumes of data to the cloud, including video libraries, image repositories, or even a complete data center migration.


All data is encrypted with 256-bit encryption and you can manage your encryption keys with AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS). Snowmobile includes GPS tracking, alarm monitoring, 24/7 video surveillance, and an optional escort security vehicle while in transit.