AWS re:Invent 2017 Conference Reflections Part 1

Introduction

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The session halls are rather big.

I describe in this blog post some reflections regarding the I am attending with my colleague Timo Tapanainen this year in Las Vegas. Hopefully you will get some ideas how to make your first visit to the next AWS re:Invent conference a memorable one.

Preparations

Reserve your conference and hotel well beforehand since the conference is pretty popular (some 40.000 attendees in 2017).

And now comes the most important piece of advice. Check out the session catalog well beforehand the actual booking for sessions begins, and make a note to your calendar the date and time for the session bookings. When the session booking starts (this year midnight in Helsinki time), book a seat for all sessions you definitely don’t want to miss. The most popular sessions will be booked in minutes, so you have to be fast.

In the conference there are some 25% of the seats reserved for walk-ups but there could be a very long queue and you might have to come to the walk-up queue some 50 minutes before the session starts to get in. So, make sure you book reserved seats for those sessions you don’t want to miss.

When to Arrive and Where to Stay?

I strongly recommend to arrive at least on Sunday — this way you can get your conference badge without needing to queue the badge on Monday morning and possibly miss some morning sessions (the queue on Monday morning was really long).

I recommend either or (we stayed at Aria). Those are the biggest hotels and at least in this year the most interesting sessions and side activities seemed to be in those venues (Squad area at Aria, Expo at the Venetian).

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Nordic travelers having good time under the palm trees.

If you can take a few days off before the conference why not come a bit earlier and walk in the city and check out the luxurious hotels and spend some time at the pool.

Conference Mobile Application

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The AWS re:Invent Mobile Application.

The AWS re:Invent mobile application is just great. You can browse the session catalog, mark sessions you are interested in and book reserved seats. In your planner you have a good view to your day’s program — times, venues etc. The mobile app also shows all kinds of other information regarding the conference, your points in scavanger hunt etc.

Sessions

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Attending one of the some 1000 sessions.

The sessions are great. You can easily see that this is one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — presenters are professional speakers with very good material and demonstrations. The main problem is the sheer abundance of the sessions — more than one thousand different events. So, make your preparations before the conference carefully, check the most interesting sessions in the catalog and book reserved seats for them.

One more thing when you create a conference plan for your sessions. Try to schedule morning / afternoon sessions at the same hotel. Traveling between hotels consumes precious time that you could use attending sessions.

I’ll write another blog post regarding some interesting sessions later, so stay tuned!

AWS Certified Lounge

If you are an AWS Certified specialist don’t miss the AWS Certified Lounge. You will get “AWS Certified” sticker to your conference badge which will give you some extra benefits in the conference premises.

Funny Things

There are a lot of funny activities in the conference you can attend, e.g. building mechano legos, broomball competition, robocar rally, scavanger hunt to earn points you can use to purchase AWS products at Swags etc. I visited the Alexa Booth which was a bit like a closed phone booth with AWS Alexa inside. You could ask anything from .

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Alexa booth.

Here is my conversation with Alexa:

Me: Hi Alexa, can you hear me?
Alexa: Yes, I can hear you.
Me: What is the meaning of life?
Alexa: .
Me: Why 42?
Alexa: According to Douglas Adams the answer is 42. There is no deeper meaning in that.

A bit strange to have a conversation with a machine whose voice was very natural and who could give pretty good answers to your questions. Note that in the third answer Alexa correctly interpreted the question in the context of the second question. And obviusly Alexa also has some sense of humour.

Conclusion

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Nordic travelers — the appearance is ragged but the spirit is high. (Note the AWS Certified stickers on the badges.)

Why bother the long flight from Finland to Las Vegas if you can watch the sessions for free in youtube after the conference? After working with AWS technology a couple of years it is a great chance to attend the huge AWS conference and to walk from one session to another and check out all new cool ways AWS services are being used, and get ideas for your next project. You can fully concentrate in the sessions for one week. Walk in the Squad area and have discussions with guys who have prepared interesting demonstrations using AWS services. Walk in the Expo area and check out companies using AWS to build all kinds of systems you just couldn’t imagine before cloud era. My recommendation is not just to choose sessions regarding AWS services you already are familiar with but boldly go to check new AWS services you haven’t used before. You’ll get a big picture of the vast AWS ecosystem and how different AWS services can be used together to create new exciting systems for your clients.

Written by

I’m a Software architect and developer. Currently implementing systems on AWS / GCP / Azure / Docker / Kubernetes using Java, Python, Go and Clojure.

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