The Conference Hall Entrance

AWS Re:Invent 2013: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I wanted to give it a few days after I got back from AWS Re:Invent 2013 before I recollected on the different events. Being in Las Vegas for a week straight is a feat in itself. Attending an 8 hour bootcamp and 1 hour sessiosn for the entire week is mentally and physically exhausting. Nonetheless, it was a privelage to be able to attend accompanied by my CTO and CIO.

The Good

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since I had never attended a conference of this size and magnitude, but I was impressed with the organization of all the events throughout the entire week. All meals, bootcamps and sessions were  very well organized.It never once (aside from the keynote) felt like there was 10,000 poeple attending the same conference.

One of the surprises that caught me off guard was the “office hours” provided by the Solution Architects and AWS Experts throughout the week,. I was not expecting to be able to interact one-on-one with such ease with experts in one of the main respective product domains such as the following:

  • Deployment
  • Management
  • Database
  • Storage
  • Network

It was a good opportunity to be able to pick the brains of some of the more intelligent poeple responsible for some of the most sophisticated products available. Atthough I do not specifically remember the names of any of the experts I spoke with, this was easily one of the biggest benefits of the conference and makes me want to go back next year.

Lastly, the AWS Re:Play party was pretty well done. A Surprise set by Deadmau5 was the icing on the cake. Although, it is hard to go wrong with a laser obstable challenge, a helicopter course, 50+ bars and buffet style tables and a full fledge techno concert with a bunch of programmers. Well played Amazon…well played…

The Bad
Without getting to the complaining yet, there was some parts of the conference that I think should be improved.

Diversity of the breakout sessions was minimal-to-none. At a certain point, my CTO whispered to me in between sessions that he didn’t know if he could attend another session because he was “too databased out”. This was something that came as a surprise to me since he is a self proclaimed enthusiast on new and improved database technologies.

The experience level of the breakout sessions was hard to determine and was often misleading from their title and description. The result of this was poeple often walking out after discovering they were attending a high level overview of topics they were already familiar with. One person in particular this impacted was or CIO who seemed to have the worst luck when picking sessions. Too frequently between sessions he displayed his dissaproval of the bootcamp sessions.

One thing that left me dissapointed after the conference was that I had only heard of solutions of successful migrations of infrastructures to AWS. During his keynote speech, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels claimed that the point of AWS Re:Invent was to “learn”. This made sense at the time.

Unfortunately, after the bootcamps, breakout sessions and keynotes, I had really only learned of the many startups that had storybook tales to tell of their migrations to AWS. What I did not hear much about were the failures of moving to the cloud and AWS. This was quite ironic to me considering a metaphor that was given during one of the keynote presentations involving a car being painted.(You would know if you heard the metaphor). I will try to find the slide once they become available with the quote on it, but to paraphrase, it said “Do not tell me what is working as it does not accomplish anything. Tell me what is not working. That is how things progress.”

The Ugly
Now for the complaining! I will try to keep this short and sweet.

One of the problems that seemed to persist throughout the entire week was technology failure in bootcamps and breakout sessions. Of course it is hard to cater to 10,000 plus poeple, but as a company who is exposing ‘scalable’ services, it seems that this would be a top priority. Too often, our labs and breakout sessions were interrupted by technology problems. For some, this was a problem more than others. Fortunately, AWS was nice enough to keep open the bootcamp labs for weeks following the conference since so many poeple experienced technical issues.

The time schedule of bootcamps and breakout sessions struck the wrong chord with me. Maybe it is just me, but I was not too fond of having an eight hour bootcamp and having only one hour breakout sessions. It seemed like eight hours was way too long for any developer to sit in one spot for, and one hour was not long enough to cover anything important that cant be read later on.

What would I like to see differently for AWS Re:Invent 2014?

  • More diversity in breakout sessions. This would hopefully leave poeple not feeling so exhausted after hearing discussions on the same problems several times throughout the week.
  • More descriptive and organized breakout sessions so everyone has a better idea of what they are getting themselves into.
  • Equal focus on explaining scenarios that were unsuccessful migrating to the cloud and what could be done to avoid those scenarios.
  • More reliable technology and focus on the software that is running the bootcamps and breakout sessions. Come on Amazon!
  • Shorten the length of bootcamps (maybe into two days) and increase breakout sessions enough so that they can get into more details.
AWS Re:Invent was definitely a success and was an excellent opportunity for me. I hope that I get the opportunity to attend again. Looking forward to AWS Re:Invent 2014!
Here are some pictures from the conference!

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