First Impressions at AWS re:Invent

Last year I attended AWS re:Invent, kinda, sorta. We were in Las Vegas to put on the first Apache CloudStack conference and most of my time and brainpower were consumed with last-minute planning for that event. I did spend time in the developer area, on exhibit floor, and some of the after-parties – but it wasn’t a usual conference for me.

This year, I’m actually not consumed with pre-conference planning (though the CloudStack Collaboration Conference is happening next week in Amsterdam, and I’m sad I won’t be able to attend), so I’ve been paying attention to re:Invent.

Generally, I tend to attend more community/FOSS and techie shows than big vendor blow-outs like AWS re:Invent. The very scale of the event is really impressive, and I have to give Amazon kudos for the slickness of the presentations and how smoothly the event is running. The registration, for instance, was totally slammed on day one – yet they kept the lines moving really well and even had a DJ (!) playing tunes in the corner to make the wait a little better.

The content on the other hand… well, it’s a bit generic and the keynote yesterday was definitely not what I was hoping for or expecting. First, I was surprised and disappointed at the amount of time Amazon spent calling out competitors (IBM, for an admittedly silly marketing stunt) and dissing private cloud. Does Amazon offer a solution that’s really appealing for certain applications or certain types of companies? Yup. Is public cloud ever going to be the majority of the compute market? I’m not convinced.

The keynote yesterday felt like a plea to enterprise, and way too much preaching to the converted and marketing fluff that we already knew anyway. Yeah, we get it: AWS is big, lots of customers (oooh, pretty NASCAR slides) and so forth. At least they did announce a few new services during the keynote, so attendees got a little excitement.

For me, the biggest part of any event is the “hallway track.” On one hand, it’s pretty good here because there’s about 9,000 people – you can easily find interesting people who are doing fun stuff with AWS and other tech, so that’s been good.

The bad, really bad, is the conference scheduling site is terrible and there’s no attendee directory whatsoever. I was doubly disappointed when I looked on Lanyrd and found only about 40 people signed up. It would have been great if I could have searched a directory (opt-in, of course) to try to connect with people ahead of time to meet and talk about their cloud usage.

Maybe next year. Overall, I think re:Invent is worth the time, money, and trip if you’re using AWS or are trying to disrupt AWS – but there are a number of things Amazon could do to make the conference more friendly for attendees and partners.

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