I just returned from AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas and wow, it’s amazing to see how big AWS has become. The conference has 20,000 attendees. It took over the Sands convention center completely. When I walked into the main hall for the keynote, I was directed where to go as we snaked our way through the hall until we reached our seats. The hall had blocks of seating and was at least 1000 feet wide and 600 feet deep.
With so many people in the hall, the exodus started at the halfway point in each keynote and increased as the time got closer to the end of the keynote. I chatted with several people who were all the way in the back of the hall and waited until the end and it took them 25 minutes to exit the room. The escalators between floors were packed at every session break as people rushed to the next session. It was an experience and the sessions and keynotes were great learning opportunities.
My biggest take away from the event was that AWS wants us to focus on the tasks that we want to accomplish and less on the underlying architecture. This is a long running theme for them and something in 2006, they branded as undifferentiated heavy lifting. The concept of server-less architecture was big this year with improvements to Lambda.
The big theme this year was big business runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and they paraded various C level execs up in Andy Jasser’s keynote to talk about how they were using AWS. The Capitol One speaker seemed more interested in hiring people than convincing people how great AWS was, but that’s always an advantage of a home crowd. Werner’s keynote (embedded) was much more about using AWS and getting results. One great slide he had Gall’s Law. A great reminder about building simple systems that work.
The sessions were packed and this is one downside to the conference. Many sessions were standing room only and had lines waiting outside. The upside is that AWS puts all the session videos online for everyone to watch so the sessions that I didn’t want to stand in line for I still got to watch. If you go next year, think of 100 and 200 level sessions as introduction and success stories with whatever the session is about. 300 level classes are a bit technical and 400 level classes are truly technical and how to use the tool.
I spent time on the huge trade show floor. This is another place where there were a number of companies that were focused on hiring. Nike had a large booth on the floor just to print t-shirts for attendees and encourage them to come work in Beaverton. Lots of interesting vendors on the floor, many of them selling technology that aws duplicates, some selling technology for connecting AWS and other clouds.
In the back, Amazon had a bunch of fun toys like this 12 person Foosball table. It was packed everytime I went by so I didn’t get to try playing. They also had a staffed booth of AWS experts to get answers to questions which I took full advantage of while I was there to discuss the places that I was struggling with and get ideas for how to do things better to avoid the issues.
They also had a game as part of the mobile app for meeting other attendees and also visiting sponsors and sponsored areas. I tried my best and broke into the top 100 but realized midway through the second day that there was no way I could score enough points to make much more progress in the game. Next year I will start on day one and play the entire time if they have it again and that should allow me to score much higher.
No write up about AWS can be complete without talking about the replay party. It was hosted outside this year in a parking lot behind the Lynx hotel. The space was surrounded by shipping containers to create the space. Inside were drone races, tank wars projected onto a huge wall, many food options, and perhaps my favorite, the concert opened by Team EZY and then featured Zedd.
I started with a game of dodge ball and was the last man standing on the losing team. I explored the other options, but everything had long lines. I eventually found my way down to the front of the concert area where Team EZY was already playing and listened to him for the rest of his show. The Zedd show started at 10pm and went until midnight. Since I was already up front, I was in the best area and by the midway point, found myself all the way against the rail directly in front of the DJ booth.
rePlay is a great part of the event, but the technical education and chance to talk with many of the product managers and developers who create AWS makes the conference a worthwhile event to go to.