Microsoft Unveils 'Azure Data Box' for Heavy-Duty Data Transfers

On the heels of rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft is developing an appliance to physically transfer large volumes of data from customer environments to its cloud.

Unveiled last week at Microsoft Ignite, the new Azure Data Box appliance is now available in public preview for both customer organizations and Microsoft ISV partners based in the United States.

The Azure Data Box is a ruggedized appliance that companies can use as a kind of digital briefcase to transfer large amounts of data from their on-premises datacenters to the Azure cloud. Users rent an appliance from Microsoft, connect it to their network, transfer their data into the appliance and ship it back to Microsoft, which then uploads the data to Azure.

The entire process is designed to reduce the time it takes to migrate terabytes or petabytes worth of data to the cloud, which can take months when done over the air, according to Microsoft's announcement.

"Customers are asking for another option: a secure, human-portable, and easy-to-get Microsoft appliance that enables the offline transfer of large data sets to the Azure cloud," the company said.

Each Azure Data Box weighs 45 pounds, supports 256-bit AES data encryption and has room for up to 100TB of data. It also integrates with solutions from several Microsoft partners, including Commvault, Veeam, Veritas and NetApp.

"We also know that our customers store their data in conjunction with a myriad of applications and solutions. So, we've also been working closely with many of our partners to make sure that the Azure Data Box integrates directly with their products to seamlessly leverage offline transport to the cloud," Microsoft said.

The Azure Data Box opens another front in the competition between Microsoft and AWS, which launched its own cloud migration appliance, dubbed Snowball, back in 2015. The original Snowball appliance comes in 50TB and 80TB configurations and is capable of both data transfers and exports to and from the AWS cloud. AWS beefed up the product late last year with the introduction of Snowball Edge, which has capacity for 100TB of data, and the truck-sized Snowmobile, which is essentially a shipping container that can move 100PB of data.

GCP also has its own physical data transfer service called Transfer Appliance, which it introduced this past July as a beta. A single Transfer Appliance comes in either 100TB or 480TB configurations.

Microsoft said it will eventually open the Azure Data Box preview to markets outside of the United States. Appliance availability may be limited at the outset, the company warned, but added that it is "continually expanding and adding more systems to the fleet."

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of, and, and the editorial director of Converge360.


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