Wow, so the end of the year has quickly run up and I’ve finally found some time to write this up. While re:Invent was a few weeks ago, I took a few days vacation on my way home and then it’s been busy busy busy since. So, in the lead up, I’d watched the “How to re:Invent” videos and had advice from our senior AWS guy, Matt. I’d say the advice was pretty good and I made the most of my time.
The saying is, it’s always Day 1 at AWS, but for this blog, it actually started at Day 0. This is my first re:Invent and I think it’s safe to say that I’m pretty excited. The day started with the long 14hr+ flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles. Then the domestic flight to Las Vegas, arriving around 9:30am.
Once I got through to the baggage carousels, that’s where my first sight of re:Invent related activities was. While there wasn’t much AWS related signage, the baggage hall was covered in vendor signage.
What was there for AWS were registration desks. There was one desk right near my carousel and I was able to get registered before my bags even came out. I then waited for a short while until a Sydney colleague, Michael, arrived. Once he got his bag we jumped into an Uber and headed to our hotel, the New York New York.
After checking in, we caught up with Matt and headed to the Venetian to register Michael & grab swag.
Following that, we did a little shopping (I had a list from my daughter) then went to just chill out after the long flight. We were in no state for Midnight Madness.
Monday sessions started reasonable late so it was a chance to grab some breakfast and then find my way around. The first session was not too far from my hotel, but once I got to the Aria, it was chaos. Trying to find my way through the casino to the conference center and then trying to find my way around, but I got there. This first session was a builders one, Adopting Infrastructure as Code for existing environments. This was basically an overview on the new Cloud Formation feature for using existing resources. While the session itself didn’t go into heaps of detail, it definitely gave me an enough to get started with. There will certainly be a follow up blog on this one.
I grabbed some lunch at the Aria meal hall, then onto my next session at the Venetian. The shuttle buses worked quite well and I was there well in time for my session on “Building reusable AWS Cloud Formation templates”. You may be starting to see a bit of a theme here. This was a 2hr workshop and covered writing good CFN templates. Probably a bit basic for the level it was advertised at, but I did pick up some things.
After that it was the first of the networking sessions. An AWS hosted event for A/NZ attendees. One of the things I came to learn was that re:Invent is a valuable source of networking.
This was the day I allowed some time to have a look around the Expo hall and see what there was to see. Unfortunately I’d missed out on a seat for Andy Jassy’s keynote, but with everyone there, the hall was fairly quiet. I had a chance to look around and found some vendors I’ll be following up on later.
It was then time to jump on a shuttle to the next venue and get ready for my session. Another workshop and time to brush up on my Python skills. Again, this was mostly a session on rails and not really a chance to get in deep, but it did show me a few things, gave me some tips and the session exercises will be available for a few weeks so I can go through at my leisure.
The Tuesday night led to a series of evening events, and this is where the networking really started. The parties themselves were great fun, but I made some good contacts for some issues we’ve got and looking forward to seeing where that takes me.
The morning started with a vendor meeting I’d organised ahead of time. At Telstra Purple we use N2WS Backup & Recovery, and the new v3.0 is looking really good (I’d gotten a sneak peek). It will be releasing early Jan and be prepared for a blog on this one. The new UI is so much better and fixes a heap of small issues, along with some other feature enhancements. All this will be revealed later.
Following the meeting were more tech sessions, then back to the room to drop off my stuff for the night’s festivities. That started with a reception for AWS Certified people and what looked like the entire A Cloud Guru team, including Ryan, Sam & Faye. (Pretty sure they were one of the sponsors of the night.) After that, it was off to a dinner hosted by AWS for A/NZ media & telcos. This was a great opportunity to talk to some of the AWS people looking after our industry, but also some of the wider Telstra team.
In general, Wednesday was another day more focused around building relationships, with a little tech learning thrown in.
Thursday started off with Werner’s keynote, then continued just across the road at the MGM Grand for the rest of the day. I started off with a preview of the AWS CLI v2. This is still in beta, but well worth a look. Lots of new features that will make things easier for anyone who uses the CLI regularly. I then followed up with a couple of sessions around security.
Thursday finished off early to allow everyone to head back to their rooms and get ready for re:Play, the main party of re:Invent. The night started with a dinner for the Telstra team, both Telstra Purple and Telstra.
Then off to re:Play. This was massive with food, drink, music acts and capped off with a drone display.
Friday finally rolled around with a couple of sessions scheduled. No workshops, just breakout sessions that will be released for later viewing. As I had to do checkout and related things, I missed my first session, but headed up and caught my final one. This was a deep dive on EFS and some of the new features coming.
And so, re:Invent was done and dusted. Wow! What a massive week. I was told that re:Invent wasn’t just about the conference content, but the networking. How true that was. Hopefully I get to go again and be better prepared. If you just attend the sessions, you miss half the value. This really was the best conference I’ve been to.
What’s my advice to other newbies?
- Carefully choose the sessions you want. Breakout sessions are recorded, so you can easily catch up on those you missed, but if you go to them, you have a chance to chat to the presenters after. Something you don’t get with the YouTube sessions.
- Workshops run for a couple of hours, but these really aren’t deep dives. You can use the info to go over it again at your own pace though. I still found them worthwhile, but they weren’t really what I was expecting.
- Builders sessions are great. Smaller groups giving you more change to ask questions around the topic. I’ll definitely be looking into more of these next time.
- Allow time to cruise the expo halls. Not only are there vendors with interesting products (and swag), but AWS also has a big presence with “talk to the expert” opportunities.
- Network! This is a great place to network. Whether it be vendors, other AWS professionals, or AWS staff. Go out to the events and parties, but use it as an opportunity to expand your circle.
- Oh yeah …. the big one is, ensure you prepare your desired sessions prior to release and jump on them as soon as session registration opens. For me, that was 4am, and I found some were booked out by 4:15am!