One of the ironies of cloud computing is that while data flows to and from various data centers over the Internet, the best way to move large amounts of data is often to physically ship it—as in via Fedex or UPS.
That’s why Google just launched the Google Transfer Appliance, a piece of hardware that ships to a customer site where it is filled with data and then shipped back to the Google (GOOG) mothership.
The smaller appliance holds 100 terabytes of raw data (or 200 TB compressed), while the larger unit handles 480 TB of raw data (or one petabyte compressed).
Physical shipment of data to the cloud is not new. In late 2016, Amazon announced its latest take on this “get your data to the cloud” with Snowmobile, an actual big-rig truck that carries up to 100 PB of data to Amazon (AMZN) Web Services data centers. Amazon already offered smaller “Snowball” devices for lesser amounts of data.
Customers could already ship disks and tapes to Google’s cloud using Google partner services , but that was more for piecemeal moves. Google knows it has to offer bigger, easier options. The search giant is playing catch up with AWS and Microsoft Azure in this competitive public cloud space in part by making its technology more attractive to mainstream, older companies as well as startups. And older companies have lots and lots of data.
“We need to meet customers where they are,” Dave Nettleton, lead product manager for Google Cloud Storage tells Fortune. “We’re great with companies like Snapchat (SNAP) and media companies, but we’re reaching out more to enterprise companies. And one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is that bringing data to the cloud is really important.”
If a customer has 10 PB of data internally, it can take between three and 34 years to transfer that to the cloud, depending on available bandwidth, according to the Google blog announcing this news on Tuesday.
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By moving data to a vendor’s cloud, companies can free up their own data center infrastructure for other things or shut down some of it. Once the data is in Google Cloud, customers can apply Google analytics and machine learning capabilities to it, Nettleton said.
Google designed the hardware to fit into the standard 19-inch data center racks that most companies use to stack their storage and server hardware. The hardware will come in Google’s four “core” colors: blue, red, green, and yellow. “It may be a box, but it’s a colorful box,” a Google spokeswoman says.
The larger appliance holds up to 480 TB of data—roughly the equivalent to 1.68 billion MP3 audio files—assuming average file size is 3.5 megabytes.
The 100 TB appliance costs $300, plus FedEx charges of about $500. The 480 TB model costs $1,800, plus approximately $900 for shipping. It’s similar to a lending library model: Companies have 25 days to load up their device and return it or incur a small additional fee.