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The Ultimate Guide to AWS re:Invent 2018

With AWS re:Invent wrapping up, here’s a list of all of the announcements made by AWS

For the past few years, I’ve written a guide to AWS re:Invent. Every year, it gets harder and harder to write the guide as the conference has grown. This year, the conference spans seven different properties in Las Vegas!

This year is no different and if it’s your first AWS re:Invent, you will definitely need some help navigating the conference. Last year was an amazing show but with over 40,000 people in attendance, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Index

Pre-event Checklist

AWS has published a “Pre-event Checklist” to help you with planning. The checklist has a handy set of critical tasks one page one.

From there, it has a number of handy prompts to help you determine what you’re really looking to get out of the conference. If you work through page-by-page and read through this guide, you should be able to set yourself up for ## a fantastic week!

Mobile App

AWS re:Invent is so big that things are bound to change throughout the week. The best way to stay up to date is via the official mobile app.

The app is available on iOS and Android](https://reinvent.awsevents.com/info/mobile-app/?trk=typed_bookmarked,typed_bookmarked) and will not only help you manage your schedule but also guide you explore more content, activities, and networking opportunities during the week.

Make sure you have the app and enable notifications!

Survival Tips

AWS re:Invent is a marathon. Thankfully the actual run is only 4 or 8K but the metaphor holds. Even before the campus expanded to 7 locations, it wasn’t out of the question to walk 10–15Km per day.

Here are a few tips to help get you through the day;

  • Say “Hi!” to people when you waiting around. There are going to be lines to sessions, to shuttles, for coffee, etc. We’re all there for the same reasons—to learn, to share, to code—so say hi! Yes, it can be a bit uncomfortable but so it awkwardly staring at nothing elevator-style.
  • 👟 Wear a good pair of sneakers. I’ve never been accused of being fashionable but even if you are, throw that idea out the window. This is pure practicality. Make sure you have a supportive pair of sneakers because you’re going to put up some serious step count numbers during the week.
  • Pack snacks. Make sure you have a few granola or protein bars stashed in your bag. With so many people at the conference, it’s going to be hard to just sit down and get food. Make sure you’ve got enough energy to get through the day.
  • Stay hydrated and pack lip balm. Las Vegas casinos are their odd, distinct ecosystems. Make sure you are drinking enough water and that your lips aren’t getting chapped. Eye drops aren’t a bad idea either.
  • Be patient. You might not get across campus in time for that breakout. You might not get a space as a walk-up. You might not pass that certification exam. Think long term. There is so much jammed into the week that you simply can’t see it all and it all can’t be amazing. Just be patient.
  • Sleep. Yes, it’s still a thing despite Las Vegas’ best efforts. Make sure you get a solid 8 hours each night…ok 7…6?…5?…ok, any sleep is a bonus here. Just remember; marathon, not a sprint.

AWS Webinar Series

AWS has started a webinar series to help everyone get ready for AWS re:Invent 2018. The first and second episodes are up and has some good information on the approach to the event and some early information.

Subscribe to the YouTube channel to stay in the know!

How to re:Invent

New this year from AWS is a dedicated show to help everyone understand how the conference is going to work. Yes, it’s gotten so big that we all need guides (like this one!) and a show to understand how to get the most out of the week.

Fortunately, Annie & Jill—the hosts of the show—are hilarious and do an amazing job presenting the content. Be sure to check out all of the episodes!

Code of Conduct

AWS has published the official code of conduct on the AWS re:Invent 2018 website. Please take a few minutes to review it.

There is a major problem in our community with a lack of diversity. One of the ways we can help to address that lack is by ensuring that events are as welcoming as possible to everyone.

Read the code of conduct, internalize it, and remember everything you learned in kindergarten.

Registration & Lodging

First up is registration. It opens 15-May-2018 . As with last year, hotels rooms are available a special conference rates but these rooms are tied to registration. If you want to get a well positioned hotel room at the lowest rate possible, you want to register as quickly as possible.

The official campus is split across seven properties (more details below) and in addition to those properties, there are room blocks at seven more;

The challenge — as with last year — is that you will need to hop between venues throughout the week. The good news? These are all nice properties and it’s hard to go wrong.

Until we know more about what tracks are hosted at each location, the best bet is to lock in a room under the excellent conference rate before they run out.

Additional Registration Decisions

One of the steps in the registration process is signing up for additional activities. These include bootcamps, hackathons, gamedays, and the fitness events.

At the moment (8-May-2018), you can sign up for AWS Certification training bootcamps and the 4K & 8K events. These events have limited availability and sell out quickly.

I strongly recommend signing up immediately, though you can log back into the registration system and add these types of items at a later date — if they are still available.

I’ll be running the 4K this year. It’s for a good cause, Girls Who Code. Sign up and join me, it’ll be fun! If you’re not a runner, please consider making a direction donation to this fantastic organization

Campus

The campus for the event has expanded to seven properties (Aria, Bellagio, Encore, MGM Grand, Mirage, Vdara, The Venetian ).

At this stage, we don’t have all of the details of what is being held where but we do know the following (according to the official agenda);

  • Sunday’s Harley Ride is at The Venetian
  • The Expo opens Monday at The Venetian
  • The Quad opens Monday at The Aria
  • Tuesday’s Global Partner Summit Keynote is at The Venetian
  • Andy Jassy holds his keynote on Wednesday at The Venetian

Everything else is still tbd.

Getting Around

With seven properties hosting activities, getting around is going to be a challenge. Travel times range from 5 to ## 40 minutes!

AWS has learned from last year and simplified transportation between properties. There are direct shuttles from each of the main venues. That’s in addition to the standard ride share, taxi, and walking options.

There are accessible shuttles available for those who need them. Please check the AWS re:Invent page on Transportation for more details.

As a long time Las Vegas goer—wait that sounds bad…as someone who has attended a lot of conferences in Las Vegas, my biggest tip is this; ## add ten minutes to any travel time.

That ten minutes will help account for the labyrinth that you have to navigate within each of these properties. AWS will have people stationed along the way to help guide you but not only are you going to have to deal with the maze of a Las Vegas casino but also with the extra few thousand people trying to navigate it.

Give yourself plenty of time and ## be patient!

Stay Hydrated

No matter how you tackle the week, you’re going to be walking a lot. Staying hydrated during the day is critical…especially when you consider that you’re going to spend most—if not all—of the day inside. This year, AWS will be providing water bottles to attendees will full passes and there will be refill stations through the re:Invent campus. As part of an effort to support the charity WaterAid and their clean water projects, a donation will be made every time you scan your water bottle using the Fill It Forward app after a refill.

re:Play Party 🎉

Every year the re:Play Party is the stuff of legend. It’s a geek-friendly party filled with video games, activities, and a ton of food (though not much of it very healthy, it is a party after all!).

Every year, AWS books an epic musical guest. Rumour has it that Werner plays a/the pivotal role in selecting the guest. Year after year, attempts are made to get Werner to spill the beans…year after year we only find out during Werner’s keynote the morning of the party.

Access to the party is included with your full AWS re:Invent pass. You can purchase a guest pass for an additional guest in the registration portal for $300.00 USD (when I last checked).

The party itself is somewhat off campus. There will be a number of dedicated transportation routes on Thursday night to help you get to the party. The official site has all of the details .

Get Certified

AWS sets up a dedicated testing centre in the Venetian during AWS re:Invent. They sit multiple exams per day which makes it easier to get a new certification under your belt or to achieve a new one.

New at this year’s show, the Machine Learning Beta exam. So new that it’s not even on the AWS Certification site . This exam joins the Advanced Networking, Big Data, and Security exams as a dedicated speciality.

If those exams are any indication, this will be a tough one. The good news is that AWS beta exams are typically cheaper during the beta period (currently $150 USD) and typically offer a free re-write if you fail during the beta period.

If you’ve been working deeply with the AWS machine learning and AI services, this might be a good exam for you to sit. Otherwise, one of the other exams might be a better fit for you.

Regardless, sitting an exam as AWS re:Invent is always a blast and—if you’re like me and enjoying that 7:30am time slot…yes, for real—a great way to start your day with a win!

Bootcamps

Every year at re:Invent there are a number of AWS-led and third party-led bootcamps. These hands-on camps run either half day (8am—12 noon or 1pm—5pm) of full day (8am—5pm) for a cost of $225—600 depending on the camp.

Bootcamps are a fantastic way to deep dive on a specific topics. If you’re looking to get certified, this is a great way to make that final push (and then write the exam during the conference!).

A few camps stood out to me. Room may still be available but seats fill up quickly;

Hacks & Jams

Similar to the bootcamps, hackthons and jams are a long standing re:Invent tradition. These are typically full day events that focus on accomplishing a specific goal as a team.

The atmosphere in these events is fantastic. The light hearted gamification creates a friendly competition and inspires teams to bond and come up with creative solutions.

There are currently four options in this category;

  • Alex Hackday: Come Build and Learn
  • 2018 re:Invent NGO Hackathon for Social Good
  • AWS Gameday: 2018 Edition
  • Security Jam*

Full disclosure, Trend Micro (my full time employer) helped create the Security Jam alongside Splunk and AWS Each of these four experiences will leave a lasting impression but my favourite—from afar, I never have time to participate but I do pop my head in—is the Gameday.

The gameday is all about keeping your application up and running NO MATTER what is thrown at it…and the game masters get very, very creative about what comes your way.

No matter which one you select, you can’t go wrong with these events. The problem? Getting a seat. 😞 The hacks and jams are part of reserved seating this year. When that opens—TBD—you can try to get a seat in one of these exciting events. I strongly recommend that these are the first seat you book if you’re interested. They will fill up.

Workshops

If you don’t want to commit a full day to a specific topic, a workshop might be the answer. Each workshop runs about 2 hours.

During this time you work in small groups to solve problems in AWS hands-on. Each workshop kicks off with a 10–15 minute talk by the main speaker and then the group work starts with a number of scenarios and tools to encourage teamwork.

AWS experts are available in the room to make sure everyone is learning. Bring your laptop and get ready to learn!

AWS provides any credits required for the work so there’s really no excuse not to participate if there’s a topic that interests you.

Schedule Experts

Given the massive amount of content at this years show, AWS has created an on-site program to help you navigate the agenda. Schedule experts wearing black vests will be strategically placed through the campus in order to help answer your scheduling questions and maximize your time during the week.

The official site has a list of the locations where you can get access to this key service.

Session Catalog

The session catalog has started to populate. AWS is updating the catalog in waves so make sure to keep checking back. Session registration has yet to open but you can flag as session via the “I’m interested in this” feature.

I strongly suggest that you start browsing the catalog now. This year’s event will have more sessions than ever and it’s going to take multiple read throughs of the catalog to find the ones that are;

a) Of interest to you b) Fit into your schedule (sessions timing is still TBD)

Over the next couple of weeks, I would suggest flagging 2–3x the number of sessions that you plan on attending. That will give you a “quick pick” list for when registration opens. Some sessions won’t work with your timing, some will conflict with other sessions & activities, and some will fill up before you can reserve a seat.

Mark your calendar now! 11-Oct-2018 is when you’ll be able to reserve a seat in your preferred sessions and some of the additional activities.

Hero Guides

New this year, a few of the AWS Heroes will be creating guides focused on specific topics. These guides will be available before session registration starts and will provide a unique view on that topic.

For example, I’ll be producing a guide on security in the AWS Cloud . This guide will recommend sessions not only in the security topic but also under DevOps, architecture, compute, and others. The goal is to provide a guide view of a critical topic based on the experience of the AWS Heroes.

You can check out all of the Hero Guides on the AWS re:Invent site. They are the easiest way to get rolling on a fantastic week of sessions at the show!

Chalk Talks

Returning this year is a number of “chalk talks”. These are 10–15 minute talks followed by 40–50 minutes of two AWS technical experts leading a Q&A with the audience. The concept is simple: idea => explore.

It’s a really interesting way to go promote new ideas. Audience members come away with a deeper understanding of the topic because of the long Q&A time. it’s a great way to not only learn a new concept but get help applying it to your specific problem set.

There will be “hundreds” of chalk talks at this year’s event. If you have a specific area of interest, this is a great way to learn a lot in a short amount of time.

A.I. Summit

On Tuesday (27-Nov), AWS is hosting an A.I. Summit . This is a dedicated track of content (listed under AIS301 in the session catalog) the hosts several prominent speakers to discuss the technology behind and the impact of A.I.

This summit is a great way to learn about some cutting edge academic and industry research. Combine that with all of the amazing machine learning and A.I. content throughout the week, and you can easily turn this year’s AWS re:Invent into an A.I. deep dive!

Midnight Madness

Back this year is Midnight Madness…or should I say “Midnight Madness”. Last year, AWS introduced this exciting event to kick of the conference on Sunday, 25-Nov. A marching band, food, music, and DJ Shaq all graced the stage…oh, and there were tech announcements including the first new service launch of hte week.

This year, the event starts a little earlier—thankfully!—and is open to the first 6,000 fans. The Tatonka Challenge will be held during Midnight Madness as well. This wing eating competition is a crowd favourite and is sure to add to the “madness”. Sign up for the challenge when reserved seating opens.

Rumour has it there will be a few other surprises during Midnight Madness, more to come on this one soon.

Welcome Reception

To open up the Expo (in The Venetian) and the Quad, AWS hosts a welcome reception. This year, the reception is on Monday, 26-Nov from 4pm to 7pm. This is the bestopportunity to visit the various sponsors and to check out the latest demos and swag. Last year the big thing was socks 🧦. What will be the big swag item this year?

Pub Crawl

Every year, AWS re:Invent sponsors host a “pub crawl” and every year it gets bigger and bigger. This year is no exception as the crawl has expanded to four separate locations (The Venetian, Mirage, Aria, and TopGolf!). There are multiple restaurants/bars at each location…twenty four in total.

Each of the restaurants has a theme, so be sure to check out the official Pub Crawl page for more details.

As a reminder, it’s hard to make this into a true crawl given the logistics of Las Vegas. My recommendation is to stick to one or two locations at most. There can be lines at each venue in addition to the travel time. Find a nice spot, bring some friends, enjoy!

Livestreams

Not everyone can make it to the show in Las Vegas. While all of the sessions will be made available on the AWS YouTube channel a few weeks after the show, you can watch a select set of events on the official livestreams.

Monday Night Live, the Global Partner Summit Keynote, Andy Jassy’s Keynote, and Dr. Werner Vogel’s keynote will all be streamed. New this year, the AWS Community Day (lead my user group leaders, AWS Heroes, and other key community figures) program will also be streamed.

These special events are in addition to the AWS Launchpad programming on the AWS Twitch channel . Sign up here for access to the livestreams.

See You There…

With the event right around the corner, most of the activities and sessions are set. It’s going to be a jam packed week full of learning, code, and new friends.

Judging by my schedule, I’ll be everywhere throughout the week. Make sure to say hi if you see me! And if you are looking for a talk to attend on Tuesday morning (9:15—10:15am in the Aria), might I suggest ANT335-S? 😉

Also, make sure to stop by the Expo and visit the A Cloud Guru booth (#2832). They are kind enough to host this fantastic publication for the cloud community and most of us—myself included—have learned a ton from their courses, so swing by say hi to the team.

Questions? Comments? Let me know in the responses below or on Twitter where I’m @marknca .

Mark is the Vice President of Cloud Research at Trend Micro and does some work with A Cloud Guru as well.

This guide is as unbiased as possible. Yes, there’s a plug for Mark’s talk and the A Cloud Guru booth at the end, but can you blame him? Who wouldn’t want to connect with this community?

Mark has years of AWS re:Invent experience and has seen the good, bad, ugly, and amazing of the cloud and re:Invent is happy to share.