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InfoQ Homepage News Microsoft Introduces New Option for Cloud Data Import

Microsoft Introduces New Option for Cloud Data Import

During the recent Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft introduced a public preview of a new option for moving large volumes of data to the cloud. Microsoft Azure Data Box provides a way to move data in a device that you can ship directly to a data center.

The rugged, tamper-resistant boxes support data volumes up to approximately 100TB and are shipped to the customer ready to be filled. Customers can plug the devices, which support standard NAS protocols such as SMB and CIFS, into their networks. The device uses 256-bit AES encryption to protect the data and once copied at a data center, Microsoft will securely wipe it. To make shipping easier, the device has a built-in E Ink display that acts as a return label.

Previous options for moving data to a Microsoft Azure data center are working with an ISP for a short-term more-robust connection, or using something like Microsoft ExpressRoute to create a more permanent connection to Microsoft Azure.

An alternative is to copy the information to a standard hard disk and ship the disk to Microsoft who then load the data to a Microsoft Azure storage account at the chosen data center.

These options have been available for some time and used by customers to shift both data, backups and virtual machine images, and have provided a mechanism to move to the cloud without having to use a current internet connection, which may be slow or unpredictable.

Several customers have been testing Azure Data Box prior to the public preview and some partners already provide solutions that work with it, such as Veeam, Commvault and Veritas who provide backup and data management services.

Microsoft is not alone in offering a device to move data to the cloud. Amazon has had their Snowball device for some time and it supports data volumes of either 50TB or 80TB, and like Azure Data Box supports 256-bit encryption, secure erasure and includes a shipping label in the form of an E Ink display. Amazon also has an offering that is capable of supporting 100TB and provides a degree of local compute on the device (Snowball Edge) and another for very large volumes of data that is a shipping container capable of handling volumes up to 100PB (Snowmobile).

Discussing moving large volumes of data using devices rather than a fast internet connection, Barb Darrow recently noted in Fortune:

When Snowmobile debuted, for example, Amazon said, excluding travel time, it could move 100 PB of data into Amazon servers in a few weeks. That may not sound very fast, but moving that same amount of information over a single 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) line would take 20 years.

Google recently introduced a public beta of their own device, the Google Transfer Appliance. There are two versions of the device, one for volumes up to 100TB and the other for volumes up to 480TB. The devices are rackable and support compression with the larger one able to handle a total volume closer to 1PB.

Microsoft is looking for additional customers to help test and provide feedback on Azure Data Box. It is currently only available in the United States and can be ordered via the Microsoft Azure Portal. The portal also provides information to help track the device and monitor the data load progress once the device is returned.

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