AWS Re:Invent 2018 – My Top Sessions

I’m planning to upload a different post on each one of the sessions I liked at the Re:Invent 2018, but for now, just to have everything at one place, here is the short list:

SVR322 – From Monolith to Modern Apps: Best Practices

We are a lean team consisting of developers, lead architects, business analysts, and a project manager. To scale our applications and optimize costs, we need to reduce the amount of undifferentiated heavy lifting (e.g., patching, server management) from our projects. We have identified AWS serverless services that we will use. However, we need approval from a security and cost perspective. We need to build a business case to justify this paradigm shift for our entire technology organization. In this session, we learn to migrate existing applications and build a strategy and financial model to lay the foundation to build everything in a truly serverless way on AWS.


ARC337 – Closing Loops and Opening Minds: How to Take Control of Systems, Big and Small

Whether it’s distributing configurations and customer settings, launching instances, or responding to surges in load, having a great control plane is key to the success of any system or service. Come hear about the techniques we use to build stable and scalable control planes at Amazon. We dive deep into the designs that power the most reliable systems at AWS. We share hard-earned operational lessons and explain academic control theory in easy-to-apply patterns and principles that are immediately useful in your own designs.


ARC403 – Resiliency Testing: Verify That Your System Is as Reliable as You Think”

In this workshop, we illustrate how to set up your own resiliency testing. We set up a simple three-tier architecture and explore the failure modes with Bash and Python scripts. To participate, you need an account that can run AWS CloudFormation, AWS Step Functions, AWS Lambda, Application Load Balancers, Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS (MySQL), and the AWS Database Migration Service, and Route53.

(Sorry, couldn’t find youtube / slides 😦 )

ARC335 – Failing Successfully in the Cloud: AWS Approach to Resilient Design

AWS global infrastructure provides the tools customers need to design resilient and reliable services. In this session, we discuss how to get the most out of these tools.

(Sorry, couldn’t find youtube / slides 😦 )

SRV305 – Inside AWS: Technology Choices for Modern Applications

AWS offers a wide range of cloud computing services and technologies, but we rarely give opinions about which services and technologies customers should choose. When it comes to building our own services, our engineering groups have strong opinions, and they express them in the technologies they pick. Join Tim Bray, senior principal engineer, to hear about the high-level choices that developers at AWS and our customers have to make. Here are a few: Are microservices always the best choice? Serverless, containers, or serverless containers? Is relational over? Is Java over? The talk is technical and based on our experience in building AWS services and working with customers on their cloud-native apps.

Couldn’t find slides, but someone blogged about it here

AWS Re:Invent 2018 – Recap

On November 2018 I was on my first AWS Re:Invent convention in Vegas. This was an amazing experience, which I highly recommend to anyone working with AWS (don’t we all?).

The sheer size of the convention (50K people!), the volume of sessions and products and above all, the amazing diversity of occupations and fields people came from was mind blowing.

Following is a short recap of the lessons I learned my first time in AWS Re:Invent – from registration to what not to miss (and what you can feel free to miss) in the event, and how to survive it.

Question 1: How much does it costs?

The registration fee is $1,800, and staying in a nice hotel for 6 nights was ~$800. In addition, you have 6 days of not getting any work done, plus flights .

Question 2: Is it worth it?

For me, as a DevOps/Developer with our entire fleet hosted on AWS – Totally. But I must say that the most valuable things I learned at Re:Invent was not so much the AWS services tutorials/announcements, but the sessions where professionals from around the world shared their experiences with moving/building/expanding to AWS infrastructure. If you want to convince your supervisor why it’s good, AWS even have a ready justification letter 🙂

Question 3: OK, I’m in. Should I register in advance to sessions? How? Where?

So, registration to sessions is really the weak side of the Re:Invent convention. The website looks like a relic from the 1990’s, searching is very hard and unintuitive, the calendar option only appeared a week after the registration was opened – seriously, terrible.

After you got over you shock that this is the entry point to what is the largest developers convention I know, few tips:

  • Most big sessions are held more than once, so can find them on other days/venues
  • A lot of sessions are broadcasted live in different venues (and even in the same venue) – So if you couldn’t find a seat, you still have a chance to see it.
  • The system won’t let you schedule 2 sessions less the 30 minutes apart if they are in different venues – take that into consideration.
  • Registration to sessions ends fast. I had all my desired sessions opened in different tabs, and the moment the registration opened I clicked “Register” on each one of them – and still didn’t get a seat in some.
  • New sessions and additional screenings are added all the time during the convention, and people replace and free their seats. Keep your “favourite” lists and check daily if something interesting has opened up.
  • Sessions level – anything lower than 300 is very basic. Only go if it’s something totally new for you / you’re new to AWS
  • Session types:
    • Workshops – vary significantly in their value: Some of them a really good, but in most of them you’re just following a github-hosted tutorial and have 2 AWS personal going around and assisting you with technical issues. I must say most of the workshops weren’t very valuable to me
    • Chalk-talk – Most chalk talks I’ve been at had 2 very experienced engineers, sharing their experiences on various topics. These were some of my best sessions.

Question 4: What to see?

Re:Invent really has a lot of extracurricular activities (Bar crawl, races, 4k runs, the expo, and so forth). I admit I haven’t attended to most of them – I arrived late Sunday night and had a 10 hours time diff to get over, so most nights I was in a zombie state, and I’m not very good networker. If you are (and you’re not jet-legged to death) – go!

The Expo: I guess you’ve heard all the urban legends of the wonderful land of expo, where swag is abundant and freely given. Well, it’s true, a lot of things are freely given, but you will have to stand in line for hours for some tech-labeled-socks. For the really valuable things, you’d have to compete with people, register to listen to some sales pitch you’re not interested at, and generally waste your time. My recommendation – skip it. If you have a free hour at the Venetian, go have a look – but trust me, no need to plan your schedule around it.

The Quad, however, is waaaay more interesting. You get a chance to play and build robotic legos and other things!

re:Play Party: I’ve only been to one, but I must say it wasn’t that impressive. I mean, go – it’s already paid for in your ticket, but let’s say I didn’t have any remorse for leaving early….

Question 5: What to wear? Where to eat? How to get around?

Unless you’re presenting something – snickers, jeans, and a t-shirt. Get a light jacket for the over-conditioned lecture halls and the rides between places, but most of the time the temperature is really office-like. (You’ll spend most of your time indoors anyway)

The food halls are enormous, but the food is really good – they always have gluten free choices, btw! – and food and drinks are abundant , to the point where you get snack when getting off the shuttles. I haven’t been to any of the breakfasts, only lunches, but I guess the standard is the same. Basically, you’ll only have to eat dinner on your own expense.

Getting around the venues is extremely easy with the shuttles. Before I arrived I heard from a lot of people that in previous years the shuttles were really bad, and that I should base my mobility on Uber – but at least this year I can attest that the shuttles were rapid, fast and convenient.

General Tips

  • DO NOT buy coffee at Starbucks. They have (good) coffee/tea/soda stands everywhere around the lecture halls. Save your money and time (the queues are infinite)
  • Constantly fill you water bottle (They have refill stands everywhere)
  • Carry a lip balm on your person. Vegas is dry as hell.
  • There are electricity outlets literally everywhere, and the wifi was surpassingly good.