Using an Amazon Snowball Edge Cluster - Amazon Snowball Edge Developer Guide
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Using an Amazon Snowball Edge Cluster

A cluster is a logical grouping of Amazon Snowball Edge devices, in groups of 5–10 devices. A cluster is created as a single job, which offers increased durability and storage capacity. This section provides conceptual, usage, and administrative information about Snowball Edge clusters, in addition to walkthroughs for common Snowball Edge procedures.


In January 2018, there was a feature update for clusters, making them leaderless. The cluster update is backward-compatible with older clusters. .

Clustering Overview

For the Amazon Snowball service, a cluster is a collective of Snowball Edge devices used as a single logical unit for local storage and compute purposes.

A cluster offers two primary benefits over a standalone Snowball Edge for local storage and computing:

  • Increased durability – The data stored in a cluster of Snowball Edge devices enjoys increased data durability over a single device. In addition, the data on the cluster remains as safe and viable as it was previously, despite possible Snowball Edge outages in the cluster. Clusters can withstand the loss of two nodes before the data is in danger. You can also add or replace nodes.

  • Increased storage – The total available storage is 45 terabytes of data per node in a cluster of Snowball Edge Storage Optimized devices. Thus, in a five-node cluster, there are 225 terabytes of available storage space. In contrast, there are about 80 terabytes of available storage space in a standalone Snowball Edge. Clusters that have more than five nodes have even more storage space.

A cluster of Snowball Edge devices is made of leaderless nodes. Any node can write data to and read data from the entire cluster, and all nodes are capable of performing the behind-the-scenes management of the cluster.

Snowball Edge Cluster Quorums

A quorum represents the minimum number of Snowball Edge devices in a cluster that must be communicating with each other to maintain some level of operation. There are two levels of quorum for Snowball Edge clusters—a read/write quorum and a read quorum.

Suppose that you upload your data to a cluster of Snowball Edge devices. With all devices healthy, you have a read/write quorum for your cluster. If one of those nodes goes offline, you reduce the operational capacity of the cluster. However, you can still read and write to the cluster. In that sense, with the cluster operating all but one node, the cluster still has a read/write quorum.

If two nodes in your cluster are down, any additional or ongoing write operations fail. But any data that was successfully written to the cluster can be accessed and read. This is called a read quorum.

Finally, suppose that a third node loses power. Then the cluster is offline, and the data in the cluster is unavailable. You might be able fix this, or the data might be permanently lost, depending on the severity of the event. If it is a temporary external power event, and you can power the three Snowball Edge devices back on and unlock all the nodes in the cluster, your data is available again.


If a minimum quorum of healthy nodes doesn't exist, contact Amazon Support.

You can determine the quorum state of your cluster by determining your node's lock state and network reachability. The snowballEdge describe-cluster command reports back the lock and network reachability state for every node in an unlocked cluster. Ensuring that the devices in your cluster are healthy and connected is an administrative responsibility that you take on when you create the cluster job. For more information about the different client commands, see Commands for the Snowball Edge Client.

Considerations for Cluster Jobs for Amazon Snowball Edge

Keep the following considerations in mind when planning to use a cluster of Snowball Edges:

  • We recommend that you have a redundant power supply to reduce potential performance and stability issues for your cluster.

  • As with standalone local storage and compute jobs, the data stored in a cluster can't be imported into Amazon S3 without ordering additional devices as a part of separate import jobs. If you order these devices, you can transfer the data from the cluster to the devices and import the data when you return the devices for the import jobs.

  • To get data onto a cluster from Amazon S3, create a separate export job and copy the data from the devices of the export job onto the cluster.

  • You can create a cluster job from the console, the Amazon CLI, or one of the Amazon SDKs. For a guided walkthrough of creating a job, see Getting Started.

  • Cluster nodes have node IDs. A node ID is the same as the job ID for a device that you can get from the console, the Amazon CLI, the Amazon SDKs, and the Snowball Edge client. You can use node IDs to remove old nodes from clusters. You can get a list of node IDs by using the snowballEdge describe-device command on an unlocked device or the describe-cluster on an unlocked cluster.

  • The lifespan of a cluster is limited by the security certificate granted to the cluster devices when the cluster is provisioned. By default, Snowball Edge devices can be used for up to 360 days before they need to be returned. At the end of that time, the devices stop responding to read/write requests. If you need to keep one or more devices for longer than 360 days, contact Amazon Web Services Support.

  • When Amazon receives a returned device that was part of a cluster, we perform a complete erasure of the device. This erasure follows the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-88 standards.

Related Topics

Beyond the content presented here, you can find other topics in this guide that are relevant to clusters:

  • Getting Started – Outlines how to get started creating your first job. The techniques in this section work for all job types, including cluster jobs.

  • Commands for the Snowball Edge Client – Contains a list of commands for the Snowball Edge client tool. These commands include the Snowball Edge administrative commands to unlock a cluster, get the status information for the nodes and the cluster as a whole, remove unavailable nodes, and add new nodes.

  • Administering a Cluster – Contains information about the administrative tasks you perform with a cluster, like adding and removing nodes, and includes helpful procedures.