re:Invent 2018 was a week full of exciting announcements that kept me running from one session to another as well as took me out of my comfort zone as a technologist. There was so much going on that it was difficult to digest every session let alone keep up with all of the services and industries that AWS is in. However, these are my takeaways…..
The AWS-VMware partnership runs deep! As previously mentioned, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was the only other CEO to join Andy Jassey on stage during his keynote where they announced AWS Outposts. I’m excited to see how customers use the service and the use cases behind them. In addition to the keynote, the VMware Code booth was busy from opening to close as we covered IoT (Raspberry Pi with sensors), Wavefront, VMware Cloud on AWS, and more. It was great to see so much activity and help customers realize that VMware is heavily invested in the cloud and can bring immediate value as customers continue to develop their cloud strategy.
If you haven’t heard the words, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Reinforced Learning, or Neural Networks….you WILL!! With services like SageMaker, RoboMaker, DeepRacer, DeepLens, Polly and more, intelligent software is here. From a VMware standpoint, we changed the SDDC acronym at VMworld 2018 from Software Driven Data Center to the Self Driving Data Center as we are working to build intelligent software in products such as vRealize Operations, NSX Data Center, and AppDefense as well as services like NSX Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS. I would advise everyone to get a base understanding of AI and ML. It will benefit you greatly as skills will need to shift due to learning being built into software. I personally believe that things such as host and server configurations will be a thing of the past. Infrastructure as code is here and we all must learn to adapt. I recommend picking up Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artifical Intelligence by Ajay Argwal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb.
Get outside your comfort zone! re:Invent hosts some of the smartest people I have ever been around. re:Invent is not the time to keep to yourself and only bounce from session to session. Go see the exhibit halls, demo booths and more. Although you may get your badge scanned countless times and receive pointless swag, you may come away with some valuable connections and insight. Take this amazing opportunity to grow your professional network!
There is too much to learn in one week! Consider re:Invent a conference that you will never be able to attend every session you want. The sheer scale of this event makes getting to everything impossible. However, with YouTube at your fingertips, you have an opportunity to review sessions you attended as well as see some you may have missed.
I know this post is a little late. I have been wanting to post this for some time. re:Invent was awesome and I can’t wait to attend next year!
Last full day at re:Invent for me but it ended on a really good note. The morning was spent attending Werner Volgels’ Keynote that covered new database services, serverless, and more! I highly recommend watching.
The next session I attended put me on my heels. My background is in systems administration and operations. I am not a developer but my main goal in attending re:Invent was to stretch myself and learn more about what Andy Jassy refers to as “builders”. I believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are going to be major disruptors in all industries so I jumped at the chance to learn more about them. I attended a session on the newly announced AWS Deep Racer. This was a 2.5 hour workshop where I learned about Reinforcement Learning (RL). This is the main type of machine learning behind Deep Racer. The standby line to get into the session was at least 100 people so I’m lucky I pre-registered for this one. This session was attended by developers, robotic specialists, ML scientists, and those who simply wanted to learn more about AI. The surprise of the session was that each of us was given a Deep Racer for attending!!! The irony was that we had to pick up the car and then take it to the FedEx store to have it shipped to our homes if we didn’t want to carry it on the plane. I’m pretty sure AWS could have leveraged someone who’s really good at shipping things to my door….but who cares….I got one!!!!
After sending my Deep Racer off for home delivery, it was time for some R&R at the hotel before re:Play. Re:Play is the party held on the last night of the conference. The only time I have seen so many people in tight spaces have been at major sporting events or amusement parks. PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!! Even the line for the men’s restroom was insane! The laser show and dodgeball were entertaining. It was great to see all the excitement after a long week of sessions. After about an hour of bumping into people, I decided to call it a night. Day 4 = 20,545 steps (10.18 miles)
Day 3 I attended a breakfast to celebrate the great things that VMware and CloudHealth are doing with our partners and customers. I’m excited about the multi-cloud functions the service has and how it will help customers get their arms around better managing their public cloud instances from security to costs. Here’s a link to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and CloudHealth CEO Tom Axbey discussing the acquisition and strategy going forward. During breakfast, we watched the live steam of Andy Jassy’s keynote. The next 2.5 hours of announcements were announced at an insane pace as I struggled to keep track. Once Andy started telling the story of Hybrid Cloud, I knew something cool was coming. Low and behold, Pat Gelsinger (VMware CEO) joins him on stage to announce AWS Outposts!!! There are so many exciting things about this announcement. In a nutshell, we are letting users choose between on-premises servers and storage, which can be ordered in quarter, half, and full rack units. AWS Outposts can be upgraded with the latest hardware and next-generation instances to run all native AWS and VMware applications. A second version, VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts, will let customers use the VMware control plane and APIs to run the hybrid environment. After the keynote, I headed back to the Expo Hall to see what kind of attention the AWS Outposts message was getting and it was fairly packed! There’s a lot of interest around this technology. Very exciting! I spend a few hours there talking to several other VMware attendees at our booth and on the floor. It was awesome to see all the customer meetings. VMware and AWS are going to continue to innovate together, that much is clear.
My last session of the day was ENT313-S Running Production Workloads in VMware Cloud on AWS. VCSA and Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) all-pro Emad Younis and VMWonAWS Director Alex Jauch presented. Alex and Emad focused on the deep partnership between VMware and AWS that makes this service possible. If you want to know more about use cases, how the service is built, and how to quickly migrate workloads between on-prem and VMWonAWS, look no further than this session.
After seeing the VMware Code Facebook and Twitter accounts blow up on Day 1, I decided to check it out for myself. I’ll admit that we have a sweet set up with a barista and tons of tech toys to play with; in the form of Raspberry Pi and various sets of sensors. I didn’t have time to do the hands-on activities but I plan on coming back on Day 4. I spent pretty much all morning at the Code booth watching Brian Graf deliver various demos highlighting how to build hybrid applications with VMWonAWS and AWS. The coolest demo that set what hair I have left on fire was showing how to leverage various APIs with VMWonAWS with Lex and other services to use Slack to deploy a Photon VM.
Another fantastic session was an Eric Nielsen deep dive on Raspberry Pi sensors. It was packed! If you’re up for it, you can run through the lab here if you feel like going nuts. It only takes a few dollars of capital to get started.
After spending considerable time at the VMware Code booth, it was off to go really deep on AWS Direct Connect. This was great to gain a detailed understanding of what makes up Direct Connect (DX). Click on the link above to see the full session on YouTube!
Next, it was off to spend some time in the Expo Hall to do some SWAG shopping. I was on the hunt for socks but came away with plenty of other stuff. Hopefully, our spam filters are work will block most of the email that is going to come through. I really wanted the LEGO Millennium Falcon but that will have to wait….
To end the day I went to a session on Machine Learning on AWS Storage. There was a lot of content in this one. It’s fascinating to see how customers are leveraging data to make critical business decisions. The first half it a bit dry but there’s some good content if you want to dive in. Day 2 was a good one….14,253 steps (7.05 mi)…..using the shuttle and staying in one casino has its benefits.
This is where things really get moving. I’m happy to say I didn’t regret gorging myself with wings the night before and was ready to hit the ground running to see re:Invent in full swing. Day 1 step count…15,308 (7.57 mi). I started off the morning by attending everyone’s favorite topic….SECURITY!!! This session was spent debunking 13 Cloud Security Myths. A few things that I already knew were reinforced. One, public clouds are more secure that on-prem data centers. Two, security should be the first thing you think about when deploying everything from applications to infrastructure. Three, if you continue to follow older security models that have been around for years, you are missing the entire point of the cloud!
Next up was a two-hour workshop getting some hands-on experience with the AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). VPCs are the backbone to everything AWS including VMware Cloud on AWS. Although I have taken some online classes via AWS and A Cloud Guru, it was great to spend more time setting up VPCs as it is core to understanding how AWS works. We worked in groups of six where we set up VPC peering with each other. My main takeaway….have a concrete plan for the CIDR blocks you choose for your VPCs. If you don’t plan correctly, you will have to start over. A tool given out by the architects running the session was http://subnet-calculator.org/cidr.php . Bookmark it! An added benefit to the workshop was $25 in AWS credits!
Next stop was the Expo Hall and welcome reception. Of course, the hall was massive with hundreds of booths and all the SWAG you can handle. I decided to take a look around beforehand so I knew where to get “the good stuff.” Since I’m a VMware guy, it was awesome to see us well represented we even have our newest members of the family in Heptio (met Joe Beda at the booth) and Cloud Health with booths of their own.
The last session of the day was a VMware Cloud on AWS Deep Dive with Andy Reedy and Jin Zhang. If you ever get a chance to spend time with Andy, I would recommend it. I met him two years ago at some customer meetings and he is a fantastic architect. He got into the weeds with VMWonAWS regarding the host hardware and the interconnectivity between the vSphere hosts and AWS native services. We even went into the i3 and r5 models for EBS backed VSAN. It was a great session. As I have said before, AWS and VMware have a deep partnership to make this service available. The pace of innovation is blinding! Day 2 is next!!
Being my first year at re:Invent I wanted to give my insights regarding the conference. First and foremost….like most conferences this size….WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! With 50K+ attendees spread across 5 different venues up and down the strip, you will definitely hit your step goals for the week. Day 0 count = 16,230 (8.03 miles).
Compared to some conferences I have been to, AWS pulled registration off beautifully by allowing you to register at Terminals 1 and 3 at McCarran International Airport plus the Aria and Venetian. I only had to wait about 5 minutes at the Aria. The SWAG pick up at the Venetian was a snap and there was even a place to try on the famous AWS re:Invent hoodie beforehand. No more guessing on the fit.
Next, it was back to the hotel for some rest before the night’s activities. I can attest that while at the conference, use the shuttles!!! Saves your legs and feet, you may even have some interesting conversations with others along the way. Once back at the Venetian, I waited in line for what I thought was going to be a cheap easy way to get a free meal…..the Tetonka Challenge! AWS re:invent was at it again with trying to break last year’s Guinness World Record for the largest chicken wing eating competition. 400+ waited in line to compete to see who would take home the crown. I met some great people as I waited in line but I am sorry to say that after only 22 wings I bowed out. Something about soggy-ish wings didn’t quite hit the spot. The winner ate 70+ which is absolutely insane! I even got my one second of fame. You can see me standing behind the man in the green jacket off to the left when they awarded the winner.
Coupled with the Tatonka Challenge were Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s best attempt at live comedy. In my opinion, it fell pretty flat but at least they tried. They were the on-stage cheerleaders for two more world record attempts in the largest Air Drum Ensemble (Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” was selected for the Air Drumming) and Most People Lighting Glow Sticks Simultaneously. I have no idea if we broke all three but I think we did!! It was a good time but if it weren’t for the Tetonka Challenge I would not have missed much by not attending. Let’s see what Day 1 brings!! All I know is that I will not be eating wings for the rest of the week!!!