Touch the Cloud



Let’s talk about the physical side of AWS. So often we talk about Cloud, Cloud Providers, Cloud Services and take it for granted all the physical technology that AWS has developed. Let’s take a tour and see what’s at the edge!


AWS to the Edge


Trans-Oceanic Cables


AWS re:Invent 2016: Amazon Global Network Overview with James Hamilton


Why did I (Jorge) focus my career on AWS? In short, it was seeing this video during an Immersion Day hosted by AWS and CloudHesive. Building private networks and deploying instances from a web browser was impressive, and what really intrigued me was seeing the scope and power of AWS, laying durable fiber that crosses the Pacific Ocean to connect and power their infrastructure blew me away. It was then and there that I saw that AWS was changing the technological landscape, and I had to be a part of it.


What we are looking at in the above screenshot is data flowing across AWS regions via a single operational and administrative domain. All of this is owned and controlled by AWS. To ensure speed and quality of service, multiple parallel 100 gigabit links are used crossing the world’s oceans. A single link cut will not impact operations.


Submarine-Cables used in Inter-Region connectivity for the AWS Network, AWS re:Invent 2019


  • SL17 Lightweight: This type of cable is buried in the ocean and used where there are minimal risks to a link-cut
  • SL17 SPA: Definition: Protects against light abrasion – also known as ‘Fishbite’ protection
  • SL17 – Light Wire Armor: Definition: Protects against harsher abrasion than the SL17 SPA – such as fishing and anchors
  • SL17 – Double Armor-HS: Definition: Higher grade of protection guarding against greater hazards than SPA and LWA


For a deeper dive into cable specifics, see Basics of Submarine System Operation and Installation


These undersea cables run through repeaters, which supply electrical power 3 miles under the sea and are supposed to last 20 years. In the event of a link cut due to a fishing trawler accident or something to that effect, the voltage is double on the non cut cable while the link is serviced. Seawater is used as a ‘third cable’, keeping the link operational while the damaged link is repaired. This equates to no loss of service for the AWS region.


AWS Custom MACSEC Switch, re:Invent 2021


This is a custom Network switch for AWS used to encrypt traffic leaving Amazon buildings. All customer data is secure and isolated from other AWS customers. MACSec is an IEEE Standard that ensures confidentiality, integrity and authenticity of your data. This can be used in Direct Connect connections from your corporate data center, to AWS Direct connect, to an AWS region and VPC. For more information on this, see MAC Security – AWS Direct Connect.


AWS Direct Connect


Speaking of AWS Direct Connect, AWS allows customers, via Direct Connect, to create private, physical connections to AWS Points of Presence globally, which provide a direct path between AWS and customer facilities where consistent, dedicated connectivity may be preferred over Internet based connectivity.


AWS Private 5G


Moving on from the sea to the Air, AWS Private 5G allows site-wide deployment of wireless networks based on the 5G standard, in areas not otherwise covered by a mobile network operator and/or in environments in which WiFi is not feasible (such as large equipment and container yards that are a critical component to our global logistics health). The AWS Private 5G service includes the radios, software, SIM cards and supporting infrastructure to deploy a private 5G network at your locations. All you need to do is provide power (even PoE works!), Internet, spectrum and utilize a certified professional installer.

Amazon Project Kuiper


And finally, from the Air to the Sky, Amazon Project Kuiper will create a constellation of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites with the goal of providing low latency, high throughput Internet service to underserved communities of the world, connected via AWS operated Ground Stations.


AWS Ground Station


Available independently from Project Kupier, AWS Ground Stations can be used to retrieve data from satellites or send command and control signals to them, through pre-arranged timeslots on an on demand or committed consumption based price. Ground stations are deployed globally, support Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Non-Geostationary Earth Orbit (NGSO), and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites operating at S and X Bands.


AWS Local Zones


AWS Local Zones offer a subset of the AWS services and can be found in regional metropolitan areas, intended for low latency applications or applications with specific data residency requirements.


AWS Wavelength


Like AWS Local Zones, AWS Wavelength (Zones) offers a subset of the AWS services and can be found in regional metropolitan areas, co-located with popular 5G carriers, providing low latency, high throughput access to services from mobile devices connected to 5G networks.


AWS Outposts


Probably one of the most direct forms of physical cloud are AWS Outposts. What are they? At first glance, it’s a physical server delivered to you, running AWS. It is that, yes, and more. This is the answer to several questions: One being, what if the nearest public cloud servers are not near enough? When extremely high performance is needed (think single-digit millisecond latency) – Outposts can be used here. This has applications in Medical, Gaming, Manufacturing and Logistics, particularly Maritime. They are also very useful when dealing with strict data residency requirements and you want 100% control of where your data resides.


As a practical example of a few of the above points, see the following  AWS Blog – in it a single-region disaster recovery solution is built using AWS Outposts and helping to fulfill data residency requirements under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Where it really shines is that once you rack and stack AWS Outposts, the services are fully managed by AWS, giving you the same benefits of reducing operational overhead, including physical support. All the same tools and APIs you use with AWS Cloud you can use with AWS Outposts.



AWS Outposts Rack (42U) – re:Invent 2021


AWS to the Consumer


The AWS SNOW Family


The AWS Snow family, consisting of the Snowcone, Snowball, and Snowmobile and devices used to facilitate small and large scale data transfer, along with providing compute on a number of these devices. Here at CloudHesive we have used the SnowCone along with a running instance of the AWS DataSync agent to persistently synchronize data from logistics warehouses to AWS, providing just-in-time, catalog quality images of new inventory. Snowcone is a small, sturdy computing device, so sturdy in fact that AWS sent one into orbit on the International Space Station. Snowcone appears to have fallen in favor over utilizing the AWS Storage Gateway Appliance.


AWS Snowcone on the ISS
AWS Snowcone on the ISS – Source: AWS Blog


For larger workloads, AWS provides Snowball and Snowball Edge. The Edge device provides its own local compute and integrates with AWS Lambda and Amazon S3. With it’s own local compute, it can be used in situations where Internet connectivity can be difficult, such as trans-oceanic flights aboard aircraft to collect telemetry data or in cases where it makes sense to pre-process the data ahead of transfer.


AWS Snowmobile provides the largest data transfer capability, in the exabyte range – which comes in a shipping container pulled by a very large truck.


AWS re:Invent 2016: Move Exabyte-Scale Data Sets with AWS Snowmobile


AWS DeepRacer


AWS DeepRacer is a very accessible entry point to get started with machine learning. We have one here at our Fort Lauderdale Headquarters. AWS offers AI/ML scholarships and a DeepRacer league. You can get started here. Each year the professional league championships are held at re:Invent. More recently support for LIDAR support has been added.


AWS DeepRacer at CloudHesive Fort Lauderdale Headquarters


AWS DeepComposer

Like DeepRacer, AWS DeepComposer is another gateway for developers to start with machine learning. It is a creative and fun way to get started with a real musical keyboard. Generative melodies are constructed via your input blended with artificial intelligence to create unique melodies.


DeepComposer – re:Invent 2019

AWS DeepLens


DeepLens is a wireless and programmable camera that can be used for image detection and deep learning. In 10 minutes you can start your first deep learning project. This integrates with Sagemaker to create your own machine learning models, or you can use pretrained ones. Of the three products (DeepRacer, DeepComposer, DeepLens) this was the first one introduced to the market. It also runs Amazon IoT Greengrass, one of a few purpose built operating systems (including FreeRTOS) intended for IoT and IoT-like devices.



AWS DeepLens
AWS DeepLens


AWS IoT Button


The AWS IoT Button is a WiFi connected, embedded IoT device comprised of a button, an LED, a power source (non-rechargeable) and has simplistic setup for provisioning and developing basic AWS-based IoT applications.


AWS IoT EduKit


The AWS IoT EduKit builds on the concepts of the AWS IoT Button and provides a complete hardware platform with I/O, LEDs, Touchscreen, Haptic feedback (vibration motor), IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), Temperature sensor, microphone/speaker and embedded Power (rechargeable) on an ESP32 compatible CPU with built in Flash and RAM and SD Card Slot.


Amazon Alexa


Amazon Alexa, introduced in 2014 combines the power of Cloud, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and purpose-built hardware (built by Amazon, Partners, or even build-your-own AlexaPi: In addition to the hardware devices, developers can build apps, referred to as skills, host their backend on AWS (serverless!) and publish to a marketplace – Amazon Alexa Voice AI – Developer Official Site. A related engine, Lex, is available as a standalone AWS service that can be used to power Contact Center platforms including Amazon Connect or build your own with the Amazon Chime SDK. Alexa is well integrated to many home automation devices (Build the future of the connected home with AWS IoT and Amazon Alexa) and can be integrated into office environments via Alexa for Business, integrating with office systems such as Chime or room/resource schedulers.

Amazon Monitron


Amazon Monitron is used for Industrial equipment monitoring via AWS. CloudHesive worked with Tidewater Block – a family-owned manufacturer and distributer of building and masonry products – to deploy an AWS solution called Monitron. Monitron uses sensors to capture vibration and temperature data from equipment, a gateway device to securely transfer data to AWS, and the Amazon Monitron service that analyzes the data for abnormal machine patterns using machine learning, and a companion mobile app to set up the devices and receive reports on operating behavior and alerts to potential failures in their machinery. The Amazon Monitron condition monitoring system scale from ‘mom and pop shops’ to large enterprises with the ability to predict failures of their equipment before a system failure. This will allow for a scheduled repair of failing equipment before it breaks down. Full Case Study: Tidewater Block | CloudHesive



AWS Panorama


AWS Panorama does for Computer Vision what Alexa does for Natural Language Understanding, and comes in two flavors – a dedicated appliance capable of taking video stream data from IP cameras or an embedded device, produced by third party partners that includes both the camera and embedded software/hardware. AWS Panorama leverages machine learning on AWS to perform high speed local predictions in milliseconds and has applications in manufacturing, industrial automation, logistics and more.



AWS Elemental Appliances


In 2015 AWS acquired Elemental Technologies, which produced creates software that performs video encoding, decoding, transcoding, and pixel processing tasks on commodity hardware for adaptive bitrate streaming of video over IP networks. This software, traditionally bundled with hardware was made available via typical cloud service/consumption models but appliances are still available and have a use in studio or other settings where local processing is preferred. A more recent appliance, Elemental Link, provides a simple plug and play appliance and integration/provisioning of AWS Media Services.




In conclusion, while AWS provides truly hyperscaled public cloud services, it’s building blocks, connectivity and over a dozen services have a physical component involved – many that truly allow you to reach out and touch the cloud.


-Jorge Rodriguez, Senior Lead Cloud Engineer, CloudHesive and Patrick Hannah, CTO, CloudHesive

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