2013 AWS re:Invent retrospective 2

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was fortunate enough to have my employer send me to the AWS re:Invent conference that took place in Las Vegas.  This was my first time attending this conference and I really had no idea what to expect.  I quickly learned that this was only the second annual re:Invent, and in my opinion the infancy of the conference surfaced at times.

During my first day of the conference, I attended a training boot camp session titled, “Taking AWS Operations to the Next Level”.  This was a very good session, as it covered designing, building, and deploying applications using CloudFormation scripts in a version controlled and very DevOps based fashion.  The session ultimately finished with utilizing OpsWorks to manage the ongoing configuration of these applications.  The presenter was excellent and I learned a lot of new tips and tricks and a new mindset to use when looking to deploy an environment on the AWS platform.  One problem, however, was that the lab environment (based on AWS) was terribly slow.  At one point it took over an hour to deploy a simple MySQL RDS instance.  It was announced though that this was a lab account issue and not an issue with AWS itself (think API throttling).

The next few days of the conference included keynote sessions that not only introduced new AWS technologies, but also showcased a lot of success stories from customers using AWS (both big enterprises and small start-ups).  While there was nothing earth-shattering announced here I feel that there is one underlying message that was made very clear.  That is that Amazon actually listens to its customers and reacts appropriately.  To me, that fact is huge, and shows that Amazon is serious in pursuing constant innovation and keeping its customers happy.

The breakout sessions offered throughout the conference were rated on a scale from the 100 series to the 400 series, with the 400 series offering the most technical content.  In my schedule I had a mix of sessions from within the 300 and 400 series.  I found myself leaving the majority of the sessions with a feeling of disappointment, as I felt the content was more elementary than advertised.  I made these opinions known by leaving honest feedback via the surveys for each course.  With that said, a few of the 400 level sessions were very worthwhile.

While at the conference, I made the time to take a certification exam.  To make a long story short, I am now an AWS Certified Solutions Architect.  This exam was challenging, yet fun.  I love a good challenge and I feel that this exam was at the right level of difficulty and covered a lot of content.  I had prepared for this exam by utilizing this training course offered by Udemy.  The training course was very worthwhile to me, as I could skip over sections that I felt I had already mastered and zero in on areas I had not worked with before (for me this was SQS and SNS).

I also had the privilege of sitting in on a few executive briefing sessions on which our company was given insight into some of the future plans that AWS has in store that would directly benefit us.  Unfortunately I cannot share that information with you as it is all under NDA (and do not ask me to disregard that fact because my lips are sealed).

At times there were some logistical issues encountered when trying to get from session to session.  I am not sure if this is due to the schedule between sessions being tight or if the conference is starting to outgrow the venue (the Palazzo / Venetian conference center).  There were a lot of traffic jams and people left standing inside of sessions.

All in all, I feel that Amazon is on the right track with this conference.  I would imagine that it will only continue to get better as the years go on.  Hopefully this post is not too negative, as I am optimistic that Amazon will listen to the feedback received.  It was definitely a worthwhile trip for me and I will likely be there again in the future.