I’m not writing as much about Amazon Web Services as I once did – not because they are less interesting, but because they are so successful and well covered. Still, one thing that did catch my eye recently is the new import/export feature, now in beta. The idea seems contrary at first: deliver or export data from your Amazon internet storage using the latest variant of sneakernet – copy stuff to a drive, and take it physically to the destination.
The thing is, copying data over the Internet is relatively slow and expensive. Once the volume of data gets beyond a certain point, it is cheaper to transport a hard drive. I remember Sun telling me the same thing in relation to its data centers: for large volumes of data, the most cost effective way to shift it is on a truck.
Amazon’s system is not normally on that scale, but it is the same principle: you send them a portable hard drive. There’s even a handy chart explaining how much data you need for this to be worth doing:
|Available Internet Connection||Theoretical Min. Number of Days to Transfer 1TB at 80% Network Utilization||When to Consider AWS Import/Export?|
|T1 (1.544Mbps)||82 days||100GB or more|
|10Mbps||13 days||600GB or more|
|T3 (44.736Mbps)||3 days||2TB or more|
|100Mbps||1 to 2 days||5TB or more|
|1000Mbps||Less than 1 day||60TB or more|
The cost? $80 per storage device, plus $2.49 per data-loading hour.
Many home and small business users have ADSL with a maximum upload speed of 1Mb – slower than anything considered on the chart above. If you have a large database or media collection to put on S3, sneakernet soon makes sense.