What's the Difference: AWS Outpost, Wavelength, Snowball Edge?

AWS Feb 1, 2021

As most of us for a while know that AWS is one of the 3 HyperScalers of global public cloud vendor offing a Edge Solution. But much more, this post looks at three services that allow you to run AWS hardware on the edge, on-premise, managed in various co-locations, or any combination. We also will look at the recently launched ECS / EKS Anywhere offering which enables AWS managed containers at the edge. You can gain a majority of the AWS cloud benefits already today but at the edge. We'll look at the different use cases, their objects, technical differences, and advantages, That Snowball Edge, Outpost, and Wavelength have to offer. Adding to that we will also look at ECS and EKS at the edge.

Which one do I need? The short answer at some point, you'll need all 3 - At some point in your Cloud Journey

Let's look at each offering, their technical details, offering, and what problems and use cases they are solving, along with the integration of both.

Snowball Edge

One of AWS's earliest edge products has been Snowball. Introduced in 2017, to solve massive one-shot data ingress, It comes in two variants, Storage Solution and a Storage + Compute solution. Targeted at a semi-offline device, it enables the transport and ruggedized safe storage of data which initially thought to be transported to a AWS datacenter facility. The product later saw use cases as a compute on the edge. Given that you may want to copy and manipulate and secure/encrypted the data, Snowball required compute to do such that. The size varies, as of April 2020 you can get up to x4.large (64GB RAM and 16vCPU) storage instances size out of the 40 vCPU and 80GB RAM devices. and 100Gbit/s QSFP28 network adaptor to facilitate that super fast network access.  Services such as OpsHub, IAM and AWS System Manager are used to manage your Snowball devices.


We wrote about this earlier this year and how we see hosting outposts in co-location centres.

Hosting AWS Outpost for you
Do you need AWS services locally in Switzerland? Together with AWS we areoffering a Managed AWS Outpost deployment(s) with direct connectivity back to anAWS Region (currently Frankfurt, eu-central-1, soon Ireland). What does AWS outpost provide?As many companies and ISV’s various requirements to…

The AWS Outpost focus is to bring AWS technologies to the edge in a larger scale by providing a rack based solution to install in your datacenter or co-location facility.  There are two primary reasons; first technical and second more human related. As software running in the cloud becomes ever more complicated and the networking to the services does too, so does the management of such environments. Its critical people minimise the "operations fatigue" associated with managing multiple tools across various vendors. One of the key advantages of Outpost is the control plane, and API is the same as you have in the region.

Technology benefits

In our Outpost Deep Dive post, previously shared in January 2020 we share a deeper understanding and share some interviews: https://blog.56k.cloud/aws-outpost-deep-dive/

Wavelength Zones (MEC)

Wavelength is similar to Outpost in many ways, firstly physically as it gives you compute at the edge access, but in a different way and for addressing different use cases then outpost that we saw earlier. The Main objective of Wavelength is an extension of it's home region, like availability zone, wavelength zone is much similar in that you don't need to physical buy and place compute in your datacenter, but it's provided for you on a the mobile operator, in this example, Verizon. The infrastructure is shared with CSP and you have a Carrier Gateway which interfaces to the mobile network at geographical area giving increased access and lower latency to the users you would serve on that network. This is what is known as "Multi-Access Edge Compute" MEC. To gain the ful use of this, you need to couple a few other global AWS servers, CloudMap and Route53 so if your application serves out of multiple regions and wavelength zones, you want the traffic to arrive at the closest wavelength zone to that user.

I joined recently the Verizon Wavelength Immersion day, to checkout how that was, please find here a dedicated blog post just on that topic.

A subnet of Edge Zones is Local Zones, Local Zones are again extension of availability zones but the breakout to the user is over the normal internet,

But how does Wavelength and Outpost complement each other, well different use cases. Given the situation where a 5G operator and it's network, Wavelength is focus on supporting at scale applications built on 5G and are geographically nation-wide, Outpost is for hosting the infrastructure to enable the 5G network. Below is a reference architecture showing how AWS Outpost and Wavelength complement each other.

Outpost and Wavelength together: 5G Application Use Cases

Local Zones are closer to the region but still co-located at concentration of geographical centres where a IX (internet exchange point) exists and are in or very close to a large city and populated area. Take for example Oregon (us-west-2), on the west cost, a customer can extend there VPC availability zone out into Los Angeles (us-west-2-lax-1). Customers access the application from either a Direct Connect (DX) and/or from a Internet Gateway (IGW) deployed in Local zone

AWS Example of Local zones

If you'd like to know more about Local Zones, opt-in to using a location, more information can be found here:

AWS Local Zones - Amazon Web Services
AWS Local Zones is a service that enables you to run latency-sensitive applications closer to end-users.

To wrap up, here'a summarise of the differences:

In short, depending on your need, there is some overlap, but the each product as specifically

Application Use cases:

  • Active Migration and Transportation of Large data (Snowball)
  • Low-Latency sensitive Gaming applications (Region, Local Zones)
  • 5G Modernisation (MEC): (Region, Outpost, Local Zones, Wavelength)
  • Distributed Edge Applications Built on 5G (Region, Wavelength)
  • Dedicated, Industrial Edge Applications (Outpost)

Recap of Edge and Hybrid Cloud sessions

AWS re:Invent 2020-2021: data transfer, hybrid cloud, and edge computing sessions | Amazon Web Services
The biggest cloud computing event of the year has begun! As you’re most likely aware of by now, re:Invent 2020-2021 is a FREE, 3-week virtual conference taking place from Nov 30 – Dec 18 and Jan 12 – 14. We wanted to make sure we ended 2020 offering you a ton of educational AWS content […]


Find out more about 56K.Cloud

We love Cloud, IoT, 5G, Containers, DevOps, and Infrastructure as Code. If you are interested in chatting connect with us on Twitter or drop us an email: info@56K.Cloud or book a call with your team We hope you found this article helpful. If there is anything you would like to contribute or you have questions, please let us know!


Darragh Grealish

An Engineer by heart, I enjoy pushing the limits of technology and helping people to better understand the potential of technology in today's world, As Co-Founder of 56K.Cloud, I work on #Cloud #5G

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