It’s an 1U rack-mountable device designed for edge locations, but customers don’t buy the hardware. Instead it has a pay-as-you-go model like other Azure cloud services. And it comes with local compute, a built-in storage gateway (and the ability to automatically transfer data between the local device and Azure cloud storage), and an Intel Arria field programmable gate array (FPGA) built for machine learning.
It’s also cloud-managed, which is another key edge consideration. Customers can order the device and manage these capabilities remotely from the Azure portal.
If this all sounds familiar, it is. Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its edge storage and compute device, called AWS Snowball Edge, in 2016. It also includes on-board storage and compute, and it allows customers to transfer data between the edge and the AWS public cloud.
Microsoft previewed Data Box Edge at Ignite in September. Since then, customers including retail giant Kroger and location information software company Esri have trialed the edge device in different scenarios, wrote Dean Paron, general manager of Azure Data Box, in a blog post. “Data Box Edge can be racked alongside your existing enterprise hardware or live in non-traditional environments from factory floors to retail aisles,” he wrote.
For example, Sunrise Technology, a wholly owned division of Kroger, plans to use the edge server to improve its retail platform with new features such as at-shelf product recommendations, guided shopping, and other personalized shopping capabilities. Additionally, the device’s live video analytics can help store employees identify out-of-stock items more quickly.
And Esri is looking to use the edge device to help first responders in disconnected environments. The goal is to improve response effectiveness at wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters. “Data Box Edge will allow teams in the field to collect imagery captured from the air or ground and turn it into actionable information that provides updated maps.” Paron wrote. “The teams in the field can use updated maps to coordinate response efforts even when completely disconnected from the command center.”