For those who may not be familiar, AWS Re:Invent is a week-long yearly event presented by AWS, one of the leading cloud companies, traditionally held in Las Vegas. The main objective of the event is to highlight new features and/or expand on the existing ones, from successful use cases to workshops that delve into specialized capabilities, with a broad spectrum of services on different areas such as networking, computing, development, storage, and others. Besides, AWS also provides fun activities to get firsthand with AWS in a game-like environment, an expo with many sponsors and partners, where you can clear your mind and do networking after the technical knowledge overflow that could come your way.
As a first step, the attendees must prepare their agenda and select the conferences they want to attend, it can be hard to plan because of overlapping, demand or the distance between the locations, this added to the traffic of Las Vegas which can be difficult at times. If one of the conferences is in high demand, there could be a chance that it gets a “Repeat” which gives more people the opportunity to attend. Nevertheless, there is a vast selection of conferences related to the different services and it is likely that you can plan an interesting set. It is important to be at least 15 minutes before the start of the conference, after that the seats are given away by the organizers. Also consider that most of the conferences will be available to watch online in case you missed something.
Announcements of new services and features are mostly presented in Breakout Sessions, Workshops and Keynotes, with the main ones presented in the latter. Narrowing it down to Data related topics, this year there were many from Analytics and Management to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, among the most interesting were:
- Data Zone was introduced as AWS’ Data Management service that can provide an overview of the data stored in multiple services as well as to enforce governance and compliance, the preview of this tool starts in early 2023.
- Glue improvements, with the version 4.0 including new updated engines, pandas support, new data formats and the introduction to Data Quality into AWS Glue to ensure data in your ETL pipeline is in correct shape for your applications.
- Amazon Athena for Apache Spark
- Improvements for Redshift in terms of security, availability, ingestion, and integration with Apache Spark
- OpenSearch Serverless.
- New features in SageMaker to enhance team collaboration with Studio Notebooks, easier data-quality issues resolving along with others.
- DocumentDB Elastic Clusters
- Amazon Aurora zero-ETL integration with Amazon Redshift
Why to attend AWS Re:Invent?
This kind of conferences present one of the best reasons to attend this event which is the possibility to discuss directly with the product owners of the feature/services so the attendees not only can get immediate clarification about the functionality but also can have a direct impact into the direction of the product for the future, and it is even better with the workshops where you can test the feature live.
You can also attend bootcamps that either prepare you for a certification or give you an in-depth and extensive look to the services, this however come with a fee or a partnership requirement. Fortunately, my current partnership with the company I work for allowed me to attend a couple of bootcamp, related to Redshift and Machine Learning, providing me with a solid foundation about each service.
It is worth mentioning that AWS has taken sustainability into account in recent years, with the inclusion of many conferences related to the topic.
AWS Game Day is part of AWS Gamified Learning incentives, it serves as an interactive session where people are presented an opportunity to face real life work scenarios that encourage the participants to apply and improve while collaborating and networking with their team. The exercises are very instructive and there are also AWS people waiting to help if anyone gets stuck. There are also a couple of exercises dedicated for sponsors where usually you must integrate AWS services with the sponsor tool. Every scenario gives points and, in the end, the team with the most points gets to take the prize home, unfortunately for me I still do not know what it was because my team, despite the valiant effort, could not top the table.
Partners and Sponsors show presence in the Expo and in Breakout sessions where they display the benefits of integrating their products with AWS. They also present successful use cases where the expansion that AWS has had in the diverse types of industry can clearly be seen. For instance, and as a huge sports fan myself, it was very interesting to see how the Bundesliga (Germany’s Football first tier) was relying heavily on AWS capabilities for the processing of enormous amounts of sensor data to deliver relevant statistics not only for the viewers but also to the teams themselves so they can also use them for squad and strategy improvement.
It’s more than data-talk – it’s a festival!
And for the cherry on top, on the last day AWS organized a festival-like event with games such as dodgeball, archery tag, a Riot Games zone with more fun activities, foods and drinks, and music with DJs and Martin Garrix as headliner who gave a memorable show.
Overall, as a first-time attendee I found the event to be a fantastic opportunity to gain experience firsthand about new capabilities while at the same time being able to interact with AWS people, and these combined with the entertainment provided by AWS and Las Vegas it turned out to be a well-rounded experience. Although the steep price may deter some people, I would still recommend it.