AWS re:Invent - 2016 Recap

This past week I had the opportunity to attend AWS’ 2016 re:Invent conference for the first time. It was awesome! The connections I made and the things I learned will definitely stick with me for a long time to come! This year’s conference had over 30,000 people, and while that probably sounds overwhelming, it was overall run very well.

AWS this year made it clear that they want to be your single source for all things cloud. With introductions of products such as AWS CodeBuild, AWS Systems Manager, and AWS X-Ray, they have made it clear they are willing to build anything to fill a gap in their offerings, so that customers have a 1 stop shop for cloud. This definitely has pros and cons, especially for the outside tools who base their entire businesses on creating some of these auxiliary products and tools for AWS.

All of the new products and services announced during re:Invent 2016.

Also announced were a bunch of data, analytics, and machine learning tools to more-or-less round out the BI/data/AI space for AWS. Going from the simplest, to the most complex data analysis use cases, can all be done now using tools within the AWS ecosystem. Amazon Athena is a game changer for customers who need to be able to quickly query their data without investing a bunch of time in building a full data warehouse, or other data store. Being able to quickly define a new catalog of data and then query that data, all while it just sits in files in S3, is really cool. I have already set it up to analyze CloudTrail logs for one of my accounts, and it definitely replaces a lot of complex data analysis tools, when running simple queries against it.

I’m really intrigued by the new Lightsail offering, as well. I would say that AWS was always a competitor with other VPS hosting companies, like DigitalOcean, but with a much higher barrier to entry. With Lightsail, AWS has basically eliminated that barrier to entry by making it very easy to create and manage dedicated servers in the cloud. I have already recommended the product to a couple friends who were previously using a shared web hosting provider — I’m super eager to see how it ends up working out for them.

Sessions

This year, there were hundreds of sessions to choose from! I wish there was some way to go to all of them, but luckily they are all posted on YouTube. I focused mostly on sessions that were themed around data/analytics and security. I definitely learned a lot of new things and am coming back to work with a bunch of cool stuff to try and hopefully implement to make life easier.

I have been spending a majority of this weekend catching up on the sessions I wasn’t able to attend.

There were 3 keynotes this year:
* Tuesday Night Live with James Hamilton
* Andy Jassy
* Werner Vogels

The sessions I did have the opportunity to attend were:
* Use AWS to Secure Your DevOps Pipeline Like a Bank
* Leading Enterprise Innovation at Startup Speed
* You Can’t Protect What you Can’t See: AWS Security Monitoring & Compliance Validation
* Securing Enterprise Big Data Workloads on AWS
* Monitoring, Hold the Infrastructure
* From Monolithic to Microservices: Evolving Architecture Patterns in the Cloud
* Serverless Architectural Patterns and Best Practices
* Amazon CloudWatch Logs and AWS Lambda: A Match Made in Heaven
* VMware and AWS Together — VMware Cloud on AWS
* The Future of Cloud: Building with Stateless Infrastructure on Amazon EC2
* NextGen Networking: New Capabilities for Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud

A few photos from slides I took during the sessions I attended

Networking

Sticker collection!

I think one of the main benefits of a conference like re:Invent is the opportunity to network with such a diverse group of individuals. With 32,000 people in attendance, you’re bound to find a lot of people who you can learn from and network with — and I definitely did! Walking around the vendor expo hall and getting to talk with hundreds of vendors not only helped to learn about their offerings, but also sparked conversations with others around those vendors and often turned into a longer conversation with those individuals about solving a common problem.

This year, there was also a certification lounge, which was not only a nice getaway from the craziness, but also an excellent opportunity to meet and socialize with the many other certified professionals within the AWS ecosystem. One of the best conversations I had in the lounge was about the new speciality certification exams, with some individuals who had completed those exams during the week. I was able to get some really good insights on the state of these beta exams, in order to help with my own studies. I also had the chance to talk with a couple of employees from a vendor whose product I have been actively investigating. It was great to get to talk one-on-one with them, outside of the expo hall, about our challenges and where the product can potentially fill some gaps.

Conclusion

The conference unofficially closed out with the re:Play party on Thursday night. What an awesome experience! Martin Garrix, apparently a very famous Dutch DJ absolutely killed it. The thought of throwing a party for 30,000 people seemed crazy to me, but AWS was definitely able to pull it off and I think everyone had a great time.

Thursday night re:Play party (video below, as well)

Video Clip

I walked 40+ miles during the week of the conference in Vegas. And I would totally do it all over again in a heartbeat! The AWS community only is getting bigger and better every year and I’m definitely proud to get to be a part of this movement towards public cloud, especially working with Amazon’s technology.