What to Expect at AWS re:Invent 2016

awsreinventblogThe 800-Pound Gorilla Goes to Vegas

With a full extra day of content, two new venues, and twice as many breakout sessions as last year — this year’s re:Invent looks to be unlike any before. Keep in mind, this is AWS so we can expect every modern IT topic and trend to be covered, including IoT, containers, mobile, and big data, making it an IT even you won’t want to miss.

The heart of the conference will be at the Venetian again, however the Mirage (across the strip) will host some sessions, deep dives, and labs and the boot camps will be delivered at the Encore (right next door).

Tip: Give yourself a good 10-15 minutes to walk between venues … it is Vegas after all.

 What’s New?

This year’s re:Invent should be less crowded than previous ones since the conference is now hosted by additional venues. Other improvements include:

Tip: RSVP ASAP! The popular sessions hit capacity quickly.

  • Twice as Many Sessions: Covering nearly every discipline and technology, re:Invent offers so many topics that picking the right sessions is tougher now than ever before, especially with new “Mini Cons” (miniature conferences) — which are one-day immersions into topics such as machine learning, IoT, security and containers.

Tip: Divide and conquer. If you’re going with coworkers or friends, coordinate with them so that each can attend different tracks and then do an internal brain dump later.

  • More Quirky Social Events: In addition to popular staples like the re:Play party (with acts like ZEDD and deadmau5 in previous years), and the PubCrawl. There’s now a Harley Ride, and a 5K run.Tip: Don’t miss the re:Play party and pub crawl!
  • Pre-Game Webinars: To make re:Invent less daunting, the AWS team is now offering two Webinars in advance of the event to help attendees get the most out of the conference.Tip: Sign up for the “Know Before you Go” webinar on Nov. 16; “Deep Dive on Sessions” on Oct. 17; and “Registered Seating” on Oct. 27.

Specialized Tracks, Mini Cons, Hackathons and Jams

The breakout sessions are – and always will be – the bread and butter of the conference. AWS classifies levels within the tracks: “Introductory” (100, 200 level); “Advanced” (300); and “Expert” (400). Tracks include topics such as networking, storage, databases, DevOps, and architecture. Newer tracks added this year include Alexa, content delivery, and mobile.

Tip: Download the must-have mobile app (not yet available as of this writing) for re:Invent 2016 so you can take advantage of all the conference has to offer.

Recognizing that many attendees wanted deeper explorations of some topics, this year’s re:Invent also offers full-day deep dives into topics like IoT, containers, machine learning, big data, security, and serverless computing.

Tip: The Mini Cons offer a great way to fully learn the ins-and-outs of a new technology or something you’ve been considering adopting, but register ASAP since they fill up quickly.

Like previous years, the ever-popular Hackathons give developers a chance to show their skills by building out real-world product for non-profits. There’s also an all-day “Security Jam” event planned, which will showcases how to best plan for and mitigate security incidents when they arise.

Tip: AWS Live allows you to stream the keynotes from the comfort of your hotel room if you don’t want to fight the crowds in the venue. Also keep in mind that AWS posts all session videos on their YouTube page, usually within a week after the event allowing you to catch up on any missed topics.

Pre-Game and After-Hours Details

It’s no secret this crowd knows how to party and some might argue the re:Invent social events are the single biggest reason to attend. A major headliner takes the stage at re:Play (Dec. 1). This music and dance party is tons of fun entertainment and includes games, food and an open bar.

More free food and drinks come your way at the Pub Crawl, which takes place at more than 15 restaurants inside the Venetian. Socialize with friends and coworkers while sampling different foods and meeting new people.

For those with a more adventurous streak, you might consider checking out the wing-eating contest, Harley Ride, or even the 5K run. As with previous years, you can expect several “pop-up” events such as trivia contests and impromptu dinners. Make sure to take advantage of the breakfasts and lunches included in the conference pass. Their meals are extremely efficient, providing attendees with good and healthy food.

Tip #1: Don’t Miss re:Play or the Pub Crawl!. And when you go to re:Play, you may want to hit the t-shirt booth first. The longer you wait to get your free t-shirt, the higher the chance they’ll be out of your size and preferred style.

Tip #2: There are tons of other opportunities for R&R! The Venetian has one of the best poker rooms on the strip and don’t forget to take advantage of your hotel pool. A morning walk or run down the strip is always fun.

Tip #3: Try not to over indulge the free alcohol and food around every corner. It’s easy to over-consume and then tank the next day. Take extra care to avoid “The Vegas Hangover”.

Training, Labs and Certifications

AWS bootcamp tracks are one-day (sometimes half-day) in-depth explorations into various technical topics. Materials and methods used from the formal three+ day training tracks to include topics such as security, building microservices, Data Lakes, and Alexa. Bootcamps are an additional charge but I assure you it’ll be some of the best money you’ll spend at this conference.

Tip: Use the bootcamps to get a quick leg up on anything from introductory topics to more advanced ones. But again, sign up early; they fill quickly.

The conference offers you a chance to get hands-on experience using AWS. More than 100 labs (each 30-60 minutes long) are available to you for free, and can be used any time Tuesday through Friday.

Tip: Definitely spend any extra time you have during the conference at the labs.

In Global Knowledge’s 2016 Salary Survey, we learned that AWS Architecture Certification (we’re talking just the Associate level) was the second highest paying certification out there. It commands a mean annual salary of $123K — higher than even darlings like the MCSE, PMP and CISSP. If you’re motivated to get certified, re:Invent is a great place to do that! Although seating is limited, you can register to take any of the five certifications that AWS currently offers (walk-ins are also welcome).

Tip #1: AWS does not offer certification testing in some states. If you live in a state that doesn’t offer local certification tests, re:Invent is the best way to take these tests.

Tip #2: Try not to take more than two Associate-level tests per day or one Professional-level test per day. These tests are not easy.

Conclusion

With so much to see, do, eat, and drink, you’ll want to plan your trip as carefully as possible. Use the tips provided and refer to the AWS re:Invent FAQ page to get the most from your experience.

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