9. December 2017 11:56
by Aaron Medacco

AWS re:Invent 2017 - Day 5 Experience

9. December 2017 11:56 by Aaron Medacco | 0 Comments

The following is my Day 5 re:Invent 2017 experience. Missed Day 4? Check it out here.

AWS re:Invent winds down pretty quickly after Thursday night. There's a few last minute sessions, and things like the Certification Lounge are open for a little bit in the morning, but for the most part, things are over. After being out pretty late, I missed the sessions I had in the morning. I was wait-listed for these but I'm sure I would have gotten in since people who had them reserved would probably be hung over or have slept in. Oh well. More YouTube viewing. 

I chose to spend the day getting blog posts together and viewing the Keynotes I missed as well as some of the uploaded sessions. Therefore, this post will be sparse of happenings and somewhat of a post-conference overview. Since I was asked to stop recording more than once when walking around the hotels, I didn't get as much footage as I would have hoped. Here's a mashup / montage of what I did gather. Please excuse the bumpiness. I walk with purpose.

Note: Thank you Amazon Elastic Transcoder. Files were huge AVIs from the camera.


I actually decided to leave Friday night around 9:30pm, even though I had the room for the night. Just wanted to get home. For some reason, seemed like a faster ride home. More energy I guess.

Here's some random post-conference stats:

  • Times asked to stop video recording by staff: 2
  • Money lost from gambling: $1295
  • Steps taken walking around Las Vegas: Integer Overflow Exception
  • Days woken up by cleaning lady: 2
  • Shuttles taken: 2
  • Breakout sessions attended: 7
  • Days wishing I had lodged with the Venetian: 5
  • Casinos gambled at: 3
  • Number of times re-starting the re:Invent app to go check something: 40+
  • Number of times re-opening the re:Invent app and immediately closing it when asked to login again: 25+

And some lessons learned for next year:

  • Lodge with the Venetian. Most of the events and sessions are there. This means you won't be encouraged to skip sessions because of the walk or laziness. Plus, you'll be around more re:Invent attendees than otherwise.
  • Take the shuttles. They are usually located near the breakout sessions. Ask one of the re:Invent guides to lead you where to go. Your feet will thank you later.
  • Sanely schedule your week when the event catalog becomes available. Do not assume you will just go back-to-back sessions all week, especially if those sessions are in different hotels. Plan to have ample shuttle time, walk time, bathroom time, eating time, networking, etc.
  • If you are already learned or even certified in AWS, stick to the 400-level and 300-level courses. Most of the sessions will have a lot of information you already needed to learn for your certifications, so get the most out of your time by taking the tougher classes. 200-level courses can be good when a new service is announced and it covers it.
  • Talk to people. We're all nerds who are at re:Invent because we work with or enjoy Amazon Web Services. I found most people were friendly and legit. You could talk about AWS and they would understand you.
  • Show up early to registration. It's going to be a crowded, but the hoodie sizes go fast, and if you want to avoid trying to go back and get a different size later, just get there early. This goes for the Expo, too. Show up early and get your swag early in the week if that's important to you.
  • Keep coming back to check on the Event Catalog even after initial release. Multiple sessions as well as the Keynotes show up way later than the release of the reservation, so keep coming back if you want a spot. 
  • Spend money. It's Vegas. And remember that you get what you pay for.
  • Treat yourself to the Ask The Experts section of the Expo. This was huge value. You get to talk to AWS themselves one-on-one and there wasn't really any lines. Each booth I went up to had like 2 people in front of me max if there was a wait at all.
  • If you're going to do video-recording inside the buildings, use your phone. Seriously, the venues could never enforce this and you can just act like you're taking a photo, which they allow. Still annoyed by this, if it's not apparent.
  • Try to hit everything. And for things that overlap, I would opt to miss breakout sessions you scheduled. They get uploaded to YouTube very quickly. You won't miss that content, it's not going anywhere. Do the other thing.

Okay, well that's all I have. Hopefully, some found this helpful. If you're on the fence about going, just go. I paid for my ticket personally and it's worth it. And I'll be going every year from now on. 


1. December 2017 17:26
by Aaron Medacco

AWS re:Invent 2017 - Day 1 Experience

1. December 2017 17:26 by Aaron Medacco | 0 Comments

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts detailing my experience at AWS re:Invent 2017. If you're someone who is considering going to an AWS re:Invent conference, hopefully what follows will give you a flavor for what you can expect should you choose to fork over the cash for a ticket. The following content contains my personal impressions and experience, and may not (probably doesn't?) reflect the typical experience. Also, there will be some non-AWS fluff as well as I have not been to Las Vegas before.

AWS re:Invent 2017

My adventure starts at about Midnight. Yes, midnight. Living in Scottsdale, AZ, I figured, "Why not just drive instead of fly? After all, it's only a 6 hour drive and there won't be any traffic in the middle of the night." While that was true, what a mistake in retrospect. Arriving in Las Vegas with hardly any sleep after the road trip left me in pretty ragged shape for Monday's events. Next year, I'll definitely be flying and will get there on Sunday so I get can settle prior to Monday. I actually arrived so early, I couldn't check into my room and needed to burn some time. What better activity to do when exhausted than sit down at poker tables. Lost a quick $900 in short order. Hahaha! Truth be told, I got "coolered" back to back, but I probably played bad, too.

Once I got checked into my room at the Bellagio around 9:00am, I headed back to the Aria to get registered and pick up my re:Invent hoodie. Unfortunately, they didn't have my size, only had up to a Small. I couldn't help but smile about that. I ended up going to the Venetian later to exchange my Small for a Medium. Anyways, got my badge, ready to go! Or was I?

By the way, kudos to the Bellagio for putting these in every room. Forgot my phone charger. Well, the correct phone charger at least...

 AWS re:Invent 2017

...except it didn't have a charger compatible with my Samsung Galaxy S8. Kind of funny, but I wasn't laughing. Alright, maybe a little. Would end up getting one at a Phone store among one of the malls at the Strip. Oh yeah, and I also forgot to buy a memory card for my video recorder prior to leaving. Picked up one of those from a Best Buy Express vending machine. Vegas knows.

By this time I was crashing. Came back to my room, fell asleep, and missed 2 breakout sessions I was reserved for. Great job, Aaron! Off to a great start! 

Walked to the Aria to go check out the Certification Lounge. They had tables set up, food and drink, and some goodies available depending on what certifications you'd achieved. The registration badges have indicators on them that tell people if you're AWS certified or not, which they use to allow or deny access. I didn't end up staying too long, but there were a decent number of attendees with laptops open working and networking. Here's some of the things collected this year by walking around to the events: 

AWS re:Invent 2017

The re:Invent hoodie picked up at Registration (left) and the certification t-shirt inside the Certification Lounge (right).

AWS re:Invent 2017

Water bottle and AWS pins were given away at the Venetian Expo (top-left), badge and info packet at Registration (right), and the certification stickers at the Certification Lounge depending on which ones you've completed (bottom-left).

Headed over to the MGM Grand for my first breakout session, GPS: Anti Patterns: Learning From Failure (GPSTEC302). Before I discuss the session, I have to talk about something I severely underestimated about re:Invent. Walking! My body was definitely NOT ready. And I'm not an out-of-shape or big guy, either. The walking is legit! I remember tweeting about what I imagined would be my schedule weeks before re:Invent and Eric Hammond telling me I was being pretty optimistic about what I would actually be able to attend. No joke. Okay, enough of my complaining.

AWS re:Invent 2017

Waiting for things to get started.

AWS re:Invent 2017

Session about half-full. Plenty of room to get comfortable.

AWS re:Invent 2017

Presenter's shirt says, "got root?". Explaining methods for ensuring account resource compliance and using AWS account best practices when it comes to logging, backups, and fast reaction to nefarious changes.

This was an excellent session. The presenters were fantastic and poked fun at mistakes they themselves have made or those of customers they've talked to have made regarding automation (or lack thereof), compliance, and just overall bone-headedness (is that a word?). The big takeaways I found were to consider using services like CloudWatch, CloudTrail and Config to monitor and log activity in your AWS accounts to become aware when stupid raises it's ugly head. They threw out questions like, "What would happen if the root account's credentials were compromised and you didn't know about it until it was too late?", and "You have an automated process for creating backups, but do you actually test those backups?". From this came suggestions to regularly store and test backups to another account in case an account gets compromised and using things like MFA, especially for root and privileged users.

Additionally, the presenters made a good argument for not using the management console for activities once you become more familiar with AWS, particularly if you're leveraging the automation tools AWS provides like OpsWorks and CloudFormation as that kind of manual mucking around via the console can leave you in funny states for stacks deployed with those services. Along those lines, they also suggested dividing up the different tiers of your application infrastructure into their own stacks so that when you need to make changes to something or scale, you don't end up changing the whole system. Instead, you only modify or scale the relevant stack. Overall good session. If they have it again next year, I would recommend it. You'll get some laughs, if nothing else. The guys were pretty funny.

Once out, I had a meeting scheduled to talk with a company (presumably about upcoming Pluralsight work) at the Global Partner Summit Welcome Reception. Now, I'll admit I got a little frustrated trying to find where the **** this was taking place! AWS did a great job sending lots of guides with re:Invent flags everywhere to answer questions and direct attendees to their events, and these guys were godsends every time except when it came to finding this event. I think I just got unlucky with a few that were misinformed.

AWS re:Invent 2017

These guys were scattered all over the strip and inside the hotels. Very helpful!

First, I was told to go to the one of the ballrooms. Found what appeared to be some kind of Presenter's Registration there. Then, found another guide who said to go to the Garden Grand Arena. Walked over there, total graveyard, and ironically, a random dude there who wasn't even one of the re:Invent guides told me where it actually was. He also said, "Oh yeah, and unless you want to be standing in line all night, you might want to reconsider." It was late enough at this point, I figured I'd just head back to the Bellagio for a much needed poker session, so that's what I did. However, on the way back, holy ****, he was right. I've never seen a line as long as the one to get into the GPS Welcome Reception in my life. It went from the food court, through the entire casino, out of the casino, and further back to I couldn't tell where. Apparently, I was the only one who missed the memo, since everyone else knew where to go, but still, that line. 

Long hike back to the Bellagio, played poker for about 3 hours, lost $200 (man, I suck), and on my way back to my room discovered I didn't eat anything all day. LOL! Picked up a couple pizza slices and crashed for the night. A good night's sleep? Yes, please. Tomorrow would be better.


7. October 2017 22:45
by Aaron Medacco

AWS re:Invent 2017 Schedule: Where I Plan To Be

7. October 2017 22:45 by Aaron Medacco | 0 Comments

AWS re:Invent 2017 is only 50 days away and with the latest announcement made by AWS for reserved seating and this year's mobile app, it's time to figure out where to spend my time within the 5-day conference. I figured why not post the sessions I'm interested in going to? If anyone sees me or wants to connect you'll know where to find me!

AWS re:Invent 2017

This year, like those prior, there are a crazy amount of sessions available (check them out here), and no way to attend everything so it's kind of a seating race, but here's the following is what's on my radar. AWS seems to be posting more and more sessions as the date for re:Invent gets closer so if you're going, you might want to keep checking in. It's unlikely I'll be able to attend each of these since times will overlap or be in different locations where it's not practical to run around the Las Vegas strip like a madman.

Breakout Sessions:

  • ARC401 - Serverless Architectural Patterns and Best Practices
  • ENT401 - Successfully Migrating Business-Critical Applications to AWS
  • BAP201 - Realizing the Benefits of the AWS Cloud: Confident Decision Making Based on Insights and Control
  • BAP204 - How Amazon Is Moving to Amazon Chime
  • CMP202 - Optimizing EC2 for Fun and Profit #bigsavings #newfeatures
  • DAT202 - Getting Started with Amazon Aurora
  • DEV204 - Monitoring Modern Applications: Introduction to AWS X-Ray
  • GPSBUS203 - GPS: AWS Partner Network 2018 and Beyond: Building Successful AWS Practices and Solutions
  • GPSBUS204 - GPS: Building a Profitable Next-Generation AWS MSP Practice
  • ABD304 - Best Practices for Data Warehousing with Amazon Redshift & Redshift Spectrum
  • ABD305 - Design Patterns and Best Practices for Data Analytics with Amazon EMR
  • ABD311 - Deploying Business Analytics at Enterprise Scale with Amazon QuickSight
  • ABD315 - Building Serverless ETL Pipelines with AWS Glue
  • ARC303 - Running Lean Architectures: How to Optimize for Cost Efficiency
  • ARC306 - High Resiliency & Availability of PlayStation Communities Using Multiple AWS Regions
  • ATC303 - Cache Me If You Can: Minimizing Latency While Optimizing Cost Through Advanced Caching Strategies
  • DAT305 - ElastiCache Deep Dive: Best Practices and Usage Patterns
  • DEV306 - Embrace DevOps and learn how to Automate Operations
  • ENT315 - Landing Zones: Creating a Foundation for You AWS Migrations
  • ENT316 - Keeping Pace With The Cloud: Managing and Optimizing as You Scale
  • GAM301 - Migrating the League of Legends Platform into the AWS Cloud
  • GPSTEC302 - GPS: Anti-Patterns: Learning from Failure
  • GPSTEC307 - GPS: Too Many Tools? Amazon EC2 Systems Manager Bridges Operational Models
  • NET304 - Deep Dive into the New Network Load Balancer
  • SRV305 - The State of Serverless Computing
  • STG307 - Deep Dive on Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS)

Chalk Talks:

  • GPSCT305 - GPS: Thinking Microservices as Workflows: AWS Lambda and AWS Step Functions

Demo Sessions:

  • DEM24 - Protecting your Web Application on AWS: Best Practices for Third-Party WAF Deployment
  • DEM29 - Cooking in the Cloud with AWS and Chef
  • DEM54 - Know before You Go: Planning a Successful Application Migration to AWS
  • DEM59 - Confidence, Clarity, and Control: How to Achieve a 30% Reduction in AWS Cloud Migration Timelines


  • GPSWKS401 - GPS: Designing a Cloud Enterprise Data Warehouse
  • GPSWKS402 - GPS: Architecture Rodeo
  • GPSWKS407 - GPS: Strategies for Migrating Microsoft SQL Server Databases to AWS
  • GPSWKS408 - GPS: Migrate Your Databases with AWS Database Migration Service and the AWS Schema Conversion Tool
  • RET305 - Turbo Charge Your E-Commerce Site with Amazon Cache and Search Solutions
  • SID311 - Designing Security and Governance Across Multiple AWS Accounts
  • SID312 - DevSecOps Capture the Flag
  • SID341 - Using AWS CloudTrail Logs for Scalable, Automated Anomaly Detection

So...yeah, there's a lot and those are the few I cherry picked. I'll also be attending some of the other events as I can fit them in. The goal is to cram as much knowledge into my head within the short (is 5 days short?) 5 day event as possible. The keynotes will be packed but assuming there's room, I'm hoping to get a good seat for that, too. Those are in the morning on Wednesday (Nov. 29th) and Thursday (Nov. 30th). I'll be skipping the hackathons and the 5k (what!?), but I'm going to see what Broomball is and I'll be attending the Pub Crawls as well as the re:Play Party (DJ Werner Vogels?).

Unfortunately, this doesn't really leave a lot of time for playing poker around Vegas (I'll have to get it in there somehow) and I've also decided to delay getting the Professional certifications since I can do those without being at re:Invent at a later date. Amazon Web Services posts the sessions on their YouTube channel post-event, which is nice since there's no way I'll have time to get to everything. 

I also just bought a new video camera to do some vlogs while at the event. I think the internet could do with some more content on what AWS re:Invent is like in the first-person, but we'll see how that goes. I can already see me running out of battery during a key event or dropping the camera on Day 1.

Aaron's New Video Camera

Maybe I can even get some face-to-face with some of the bigger names over at Amazon or even some of the larger figures in the AWS community. I'll be making a post for each day, although they won't be published until after the event, as I will definitely not be writing blog posts in a hotel room when there's Vegas to be had! I'll post a follow up of my schedule as the reserved seating opens up. For those not registered yet, what are you doing!? For those that are, you might want to check out the webinar AWS is producing so you get a seat in the sessions that matter to you.


21. June 2017 20:10
by Aaron Medacco

AWS re:Invent 2017 Public Registration Now Open

21. June 2017 20:10 by Aaron Medacco | 0 Comments

Public registration for AWS re:Invent 2017 is now open! For those who don't know, AWS re:Invent is the annual conference Amazon Web Services throws where participants can attend labs, breakout sessions, hackathons, bootcamps, and games in Las Vegas.

AWS re:Invent 2017

The conference runs from Nov. 27th to Dec. 1st this year and conference passes do sell out so if you want to attend, you'll need to move. The resources I've read have said the most difficult part is finding adequate accommodations, not necessarily getting your conference pass, especially as the event gets closer. Fortunately, this year's registration allows the ability to book your hotel and accommodations with your conference pass, which was convenient. Apparently, this is the first year AWS is allowing you to do this. I tossed around the idea of flying but since I'm fairly close being in Scottsdale, AZ, I've decided to take the 6-7 hour drive up instead.

Needless to say, I booked my pass and hotel already. I'll be arriving Monday morning and staying at the Bellagio for all 5 nights, which lies in between where all the AWS action is happening for the week. And even though I'll definitely be doing some gambling (poker) while I'm there, I'm going to do by best to stay focused and hit as many of the breakout sessions as possible. Because of the sheer volume of content and activities taking place each day, you can only attend a fraction of the events, so I'll have to figure out my schedule once Amazon releases the date and times for everything going on that week. I'll put a post up once I know the exact schedule. For now, AWS has a rough map of the strip so you can get an idea of what will be where.

AWS re:Invent 2017 Receipt

AWS also proctors their certification exams at the event on each day so I'll be taking my shot at the AWS Solution Architect - Professional and possibly the AWS DevOps Engineer - Professional certifications while I'm there. Between work, exercise, blogging, and a course on AWS Athena I'm creating for Pluralsight, it'll be fun finding the time to study for those. Fortunately, there going on all 5 days of the event, so I'll be able to pick when I want to take it. 

Additionally, given the announcements, crowd, and overall spectacle of the event, I'll be putting together posts for each day as well as taking pictures and possibly creating vlogs during the event. I think the internet could do with some more content showcasing the event firsthand from participants. A lot of what I found is AWS's own marketing and details.

Again, as more details come out about the exact schedule of everything, I'll do a post of the events I'll be at. If anyone else going wants to meet up, leave a comment. Super excited for November!


16. June 2017 22:58
by Aaron Medacco

New AWS Training Portal, Beta Certifications & Certification Swag Available

16. June 2017 22:58 by Aaron Medacco | 4 Comments

There's been quite a bit of news lately about AWS training and certification in the last few months. Jeff Barr announced on the AWS blog the release of the new AWS training portal. This change makes it easier for you to manage your certification and training in one location. Personally, I haven't needed to schedule a certification exam since January, but the process certainly could have been improved back then. Anything where I need to create more online accounts and remember more URLs is tedious. 

Upon signing in to the new portal, I did some exploring and it looks like, as part of this update, AWS offers benefits to those who become certified including free practice exam vouchers and access to their Certification Store. Even though the fees for practice exam are only up to $40, providing these small, extra incentives to continue progressing through their certification roadmap is certainly welcome.

The store had me a bit excited, too. I'm always complaining that companies or brands I love don't offer enough merchandise for users to buy and walk around in. I mean come on...even if you don't make your money on selling the products, the free advertising should be worth it you would think. I ordered all the Associate level gear available except for the laptop case, which wasn't in stock. I'll have to remember to get that once it becomes available. Since I don't hold either of the two Professional level certifications, I couldn't tell if the store held exclusive items available to only that group of the AWS community. However, the store interface seemed to suggest that was the case.

AWS Certification Gear

In other news, AWS has released 2 of the 3 long-awaited specialty certifications. 

There was another certification, the AWS Certified Security - Specialty that was also in beta but I suspect it's not yet ready.

Exciting stuff, however I'll still be pursuing the Professional certifications prior to studying for the specialty ones. Having the opportunity to validate expertise with these exams is great, both as a competency self-check and (more importantly) as a way for customers to know the people they trust their cloud resources with have a clue.

After all, no one wants to hire this guy:

This is fine


Copyright © 2016-2017 Aaron Medacco