Diving Deep into AWS at re:Invent 2014

DeepDive497270899Next week is my first AWS re:Invent conference. We began delivering Amazon Web Services (AWS) curriculum about a year ago, so it will be nice to meet the experts who created it and the users who find it so essential to their jobs. Although I’ve been promoting our AWS classes via social media for 12 months, I am no expert.

By now I’m used to most major conferences being in Las Vegas. Looking past the roulette tables, under the neon lights, and beyond the majestic pools and elegant restaurants, I’m looking forward to some very compelling sessions re:Invent has lined up next week.

Most re:Invent speakers are AWS folks — and why not, right? — since it’s their event. They also have speakers from conference stalwarts like Gartner, Forrester Research, NASDAQ and SAS Software, which should make for interesting presentations. Technology companies like Intel, NetApp, Citrix, Autodesk, Druva Software, Adobe, Infosys and Sony are well represented in the re:Invent agenda, as are the collegiate, including the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon, Notre Dame and Harvard.

But if you delve deeper into the speaker list and session builder, you’ll find some intriguing, if not down right mysterious, re:Invent sessions that are not to be missed.

Ninja Skills Required
As a former journalist, I love a good headline, so this expert-level session called “Black-Belt Networking for the Cloud Ninja” got my attention. Since it’s an advanced session, I won’t be attending, but AWS Principal Solutions Architect Steve Morad leads the discussion for network admins, security architects or cloud ninjas who are eager to take their AWS networking skills to the next level and need to get beyond the basics of VPC and networking in the cloud. They’ll be covering black-belt networking topics, including floating IPs, overlapping network management, network automation and network monitoring. Yeah, this one is way over my head, but you will likely enjoy!

Houston, We Need Data
While no NASA staff are presenting during this re:Invent breakout session titled “Rendering a Seamless Satellite Map of the World with AWS and NASA Data,” Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen and engineer Will White will explain how they help NASA’s imaging satellites deliver gigabytes of images to Earth every day and use AWS to process that data in real time and build the most complete, seamless satellite map of the world. Although this session includes an in-depth discussion of high-volume storage with Amazon S3, cost-efficient data processing with Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, reliable job orchestration with Amazon SQS and demand resilience with Auto Scaling, I’ll stop by and dip my toe in the water to see how it feels.

Give a Woot
I might not know AWS well but I know a thing or two about woot.com. The AWS re:Invent session titled “Expanding Your Data Center with Hybrid Infrastructure” sounds typical enough for a technical conference, but two of the four presenters are from woot.com, the Dallas-based Internet retailer that offers just one hugely discounted item a day — usually a gadget of sorts. When the site debuted in 2004, I was hooked on the concept and would stay up to midnight when the next day’s item launched to make sure I never missed the good stuff. I didn’t realize Amazon bought woot.com in 2010, so it’s not much of a stretch that woot’s Theo Carpenter and Daniel Pinkard are presenting during the breakout session. I’m going to dive headfirst into this one and see if I can get to the other side of the pool before I have to come up for air.

Yelp, I Need Somebody
Being an elite Yelp reviewer for two years now, I can’t resist anything Yelp related. Since “Performance Profiling in Production: Analyzing Web Requests at Scale Using Amazon Elastic MapReduce and Storm” lead by Yelp Software Engineer Zach Musgrave is an expert-level session, I might end up just wading at the edge, holding on to the side during this presentation. While code profiling provides a rich, detailed view of runtime performance, it’s difficult to achieve in production. Nevertheless, Yelp profiles a nontrivial fraction of its traffic by combining Amazon EC2, Amazon EMR and Amazon S3, which allows developers to search, sort, filter and combine interesting profiles. I might have to use the buddy system and attend with Global Knowledge instructor Rich Morrow so maybe he can provide some enlightenment or a life preserver if I get in too deep.

Making Waves
“Yamaha: Migrating Business Applications to AWS” won’t be the only session about how a company moved to AWS, but it certainly sounds like one of the most interesting ones. When Yamaha Motor Company decided to reduce infrastructure costs, it soon found that AWS was the solution. In this session, we’ll learn how Yamaha and AWS partner 2nd Watch migrated mission-critical applications, such as Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, configured Availability Zones for data replication, configured disaster recovery for Oracle E-Business Suite and designed file system backups. Yamaha’s vice president of IT Vimal Thomas, along with 2nd Watch founder and CTO Kris Bliesner, will get you up to speed on how AWS supports mission-critical business applications. This is also an advanced session so I’ll bring my floaties.

Game On
With a title like “What the Top 50 Games Do with In-App Purchasing That the Rest of Us Don’t,” any gamer’s interest would be piqued. Amazon.com Developer Evangelist Mike Hines along with Playtika’s Salim Mitha will share best practices and analytics data that they’ve aggregated from the top 50 in-app purchase (IAP) grossing games in the Amazon Appstore. From user retention and engagement data comparisons to purchasing UI layouts to learning how to manage and present IAP item selection, I’ll be treading water before this advanced breakout session is over.

Like Donkey Kong
The geek gamers among the re:Invent attendees will want to attend “How Riot Games re:Invented Their AWS Model.” League of Legends developer Riot Games uses AWS to host many complex sites that service millions of players every day, including League of Legends, one of the world’s largest online multiplayer games. Riot Games will share their experiences adopting AWS over the past two years, including some lessons learned the hard way, and where they hope to be in the future.

Best Practices with Datapipe
The fine folks at New Jersey-based managed hybrid IT solutions provider Datapipe will present this advanced breakout session named “Best Practices for Implementing Hybrid Architecture Solutions.” The company’s CTO John Landy leads the conversation with Datapipe solution architects Gil Llanos and Ovidio Borrero around the steps taken to architect and manage an end-to-end hybrid infrastructure, covering real world hybrid use-cases including migration, disaster recovery, governance and compliance.

What’s the Buzz?
I’m neck deep in social media so a session lead by Buzzfeed’s Director of Operations Eugene Ventimiglia had me like a keyboard-playing cat video. Ventimiglia will walk through the timeline of the migration and describe how BuzzFeed was able to continue serving millions of users during Hurricane Sandy. But I have to confess the session’s title “Migrating Your Website to AWS” needs a Buzzfeed-style headline! Something like “18 Things to Scream at a Cow During a Hurricane as You Migrate to AWS” or “15 Inspiring Kenny Rogers Quotes about Migrating Your Website to AWS in a Hurricane.” I think I’ve been in the pool too long.

If these don’t interest you, there are hundreds of other sessions lead by presenters from Netflix, Expedia, BBC, Coca-Cola, Honda, Kellogg Company and Amtrak, as well as Washington State’s Department of Fish & Wildlife to keep you occupied next week.

If you’re attending, visit Global Knowledge Booth #1045 for your chance to enter a daily drawing for a voice-activated R2-D2. While at our booth, pick up one of our awesome free T-shirts, custom-designed by artist Tom Whalen. Whether you’re there or not, follow us on @GKonTheCloud for updates from AWS re:Invent 2014.

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1 comment

  1. rICh Reply

    Great writeup Mark! This is going to be an awesome conference & I’m hoping to pick up lots more Ninja tricks 🙂