PT Barnum, AWS, and Egress

May 19, 2020

The case for planning ahead!

Recently (March 19,2020), The Register published an article about NASA and ‘surprising’ AWS egress charges. Apparently, even rocket scientists have a hard time figuring out AWS egress charges. According to the piece, current projections indicate that NASA will pay up to $30M per year by 2025 in AWS egress charges for the anticipated 247 petabytes of data (“rather more than the 32 it currently wrangles.”)

“Egress” charges bring to mind the stories I heard growing up, when barkers at PT Barnum’s circus would call out “This way to the egress!” So, at some level, I associate the word “egress” with being suckered.

The fees represent almost 50% of the $65M annual AWS contract that NASA negotiated.  Fifty percent. Amazing.  That makes me feel that “I am in good company” when I or my clients get ‘surprised’ by AWS egress charges. The article goes on to state “…(NASA) will have to pay as scientists download (Earth Science Data). That omission alone has left NASA’s cloud strategy pointing at the ground rather than at the heavens.”

Here’s a more down-to-earth example: If I want to stay overnight somewhere, I rent a hotel room.  If I want to stay somewhere for 3, or 5 or 10 years, I look into buying a house. Most people understand that there is a right time and situation for renting, and another for buying. Just do your homework so you understand the benefits of each. It’s a similar analysis for investments in the data center—especially today when computer hardware can last 5, 7, or 10 or more years and data may need to be available and secure for longer than that. Short term is one thing.  Long term is another. Unfortunately, according to the audit report: NASA “has not yet determined which data sets will transition to Earthdata Cloud nor has it developed cost models based on operational experience and metrics for usage and egress.”

There is a good lesson here: Be careful about the barkers from AWS or any other rental provider, touting their circus’ egress—or for that matter, lions, and tigers. You might be headed to an untimely and unexpected exit.

By: John Duffy, Chief Technologist and Strategist
CPP Associates