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It’s my third year running attending AWS Re:Invent and it’s still one of my favorite conferences. What makes it so good? For me it’s the breadth of content and the amount of people you can meet. Of course, there are always interesting announcements too. Let’s break these three apart.

aws reinvent keynote

Content-wise, it’s vast — unimaginably so. This year, there were over 2000 sessions — 2236, to be exact. This number only includes sessions you can book; it’s missing some of the external events and exhibit floor. It’s so large, there is no way to event read all the sessions.

Navigating Re:Invent

So, how do you find what’s good?

Sessions get grouped by level, with 100 being for beginners and 400 being for experts. If you’re technical already and or have used a service, stick to the 300 or 400 level talks.

After you’ve chosen your level, AWS conveniently splits things by track. There are tracks for almost everything. I attended talks from the Databases, Containers, Devops, Mobile and Serverless tracks. However, there are many, many tracks! Choose what fits you.

Next there is location; this year there were sessions at the Venetian, Encore, Aria, MGM, Mirage and LINQ. If you try and book things that are too far apart, you’ll get a warning — which is actually useful.

Networking at Re:Invent

Aside from watching the sessions, meeting people is by far the most useful part of Re:Invent. You will end up doing this at sessions, and also at lunch or breakfast. Sit with people, talk to them. Don’t hang exclusively with your team. If you’re solo, there are many others in the same boat. (Random tip: at lunch I’ll sit with one group, then get dessert with another to mix things up a little.)

Events during the evening are everywhere. From vendor events and random get-togethers through to the official parties. (Another tip: Check which of the vendors your company uses, as some of them will be attending and a lot throw parties. Expect to meet some sales and marketing folk if you go.)

A key thing I love to do is to meet the teams you work with. At Rainforest we’re close to the Mechanical Turk team, as well as the DeviceFarm team. If you’re a interesting use case, or big user of a service, reach out and say hi. Propose a talk, suggest a feature. Everyone I’ve met at AWS has been super friendly, curious and smart — plus fun to work with.

AWS Announcements

Announcement-wise; whilst AWS are always releasing things through out the year, they save the bigger things for Re:Invent. Why? Partly to get everyone excited, but mainly due to the hands-on-labs and training they do. After an announcement, there are usually extra sessions added for these things.

This year, the announcements I was most excited about were:

  1. Fargate. I love ECS, but I really don’t want our team to have to think about individual servers – it’s one of the reasons we use Heroku. Fargate changes that – offering both a managed ECS cluster and later a managed EKS (aka, Kubernetes) cluster. This is a big step forward for AWS, embracing serverless more.
  2. EKS. Managed Kubernetes clusters. This is massive; AWS is getting behind the Kubernetes standard and making it easier for everyone. 3. Mechanical Turk Single-Purpose APIs. The Mechanical Turk team soft-launched this before the conference. This abstracts away a lot of the difficulty of using Mturk; you make a request and get answers. Simple and easy to use.
  3. Bare metal EC2 instances. Also, amazing for some use-cases. At Rainforest we virtualize a lot of things; inside classic EC2, this is generally too slow.
  4. Aurora Serverless. Finally, no more thinking about or managing servers. This is Aurora that self adjusts capacity based on what you need / are using. It’s in preview now.
  5. S3 Select. This lets you filter objects before retrieving them based on what’s inside. Before this, you’d generally have to retrieve them all, then discard what’s not needed.

There were many more announcements made – the official list can be found here: https://aws.amazon.com/new/reinvent/.

I’m super excited about the trends I see here. The major underlying single trend is making things easier for us — the customer: I love this. If you’re thinking of going to Re:Invent, do it: plan your time there out, be social, get prepared to walk a lot and you’ll have tons of fun.

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Russell is the CTO & Co-Founder of Rainforest QA. Previously, he provided consultancy for startups & companies around development, ops, architecture design and capacity planning.