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AWS re:Invent conference evolves, addresses growing pains

AWS re:Invent 2016 promises a larger venue, more sessions and a focus on technologies like microservices and Lambda. Our experts look at how the conference has changed since 2012.

What started in 2012 as a flashy event for webscale companies, startups and developers has evolved into one of the largest enterprise-focused public cloud conferences. And its massive scale is expected to continue to grow.

The AWS re:Invent conference, which continues to sell out each year, offers everything from 101-level sessions for those new to its cloud services to advanced sessions that appeal to the nerdiest of attendees, such as "Building a Massive Microservices Gaming Platform Worthy of the Game of Thrones." While the AWS conference, now in its fifth year, has had its share of growing pains -- long food lines, rooms that were overcapacity, and packed or standing-room-only sessions -- Amazon continues to make efforts to improve the attendee experience. This year, the company expanded the conference space to include the Venetian and Sands Expo, which should alleviate capacity issues.

In addition, topics for technical sessions have continued to evolve. AWS re:Invent 2016 offers the staple topics that grab the attention of enterprise IT -- scalability, security and management. But it goes far beyond this into edgier technologies, such as serverless computing, internet of things, voice-enabled applications using Alexa and Echo, as well as containers. SearchAWS turned to our contributors to get their takes on how the conference has changed over the years, what that means for the company and how all these changes will affect the attendee experience.

How has the AWS re:Invent conference evolved since it started in 2012?

Kurt MarkoKurt Marko

KURT MARKO: In the beginning, AWS re:Invent was much smaller and less of a tech industry spectacle than it is now. It now transcends the IT industry and generates interest from business executives, the financial press and the venture capital community looking for interesting cloud-native startups.

Brian TarboxBrian Tarbox

BRIAN TARBOX: AWS re:Invent has doubled in size every year; last year seemed to hit the size limit of the venue. This year, it doubled in size again and, while Amazon has taken steps to deal with that, there's still the concern of whether the conference will work.

The fact that the AWS re:Invent Session Builder -- an online tool to help attendees plan out their days -- immediately crashed under load when it went live and stayed down most of the first day does nothing to quiet that concern. Moving some of the sessions to a second venue that's a 20-minute walk away will dramatically change attendees' overall experience. I can only imagine how meals, the expo floor and the main parties will handle double the attendee count. It's approaching being just too big.

George LawtonGeorge Lawton

GEORGE LAWTON: Technology conferences are always spectacles. But over the last five years, the AWS platform has gone from a focus on innovative new tech companies to addressing mainstream enterprise needs. Likewise, the AWS re:Invent conference has evolved to address the need of established enterprise IT pros who are struggling to keep pace with digital startups.

Expect an opportunity to attend more boring sessions that address real enterprise needs around security, governance and legacy integration.
George Lawton

Innovative new technologies are always the most exciting things to follow.

But, at the end of the day, the real money in infrastructure lies in helping old-school enterprises navigate the transition from boring mainframe apps to boring cloud apps that get the job done securely.

Expect an opportunity to attend more boring sessions that address real enterprise needs around security, governance and legacy integration.

David LinthicumDavid Linthicum

DAVID LINTHICUM: AWS re:Invent has become the primary cloud computing conference -- both vendor-focused and general in nature. If you can go to only one cloud conference a year, AWS re:Invent is typically it.

The focus is more on deep topics; and that will continue to be the case with the re:Invent 2016. This means talks about how to make things work within AWS. This means that we're getting into the big deployment phase of cloud computing, which is scary and exciting.

Chris MoyerChris Moyer

CHRIS MOYER: It seems like the first few years of the AWS re:Invent conference were entirely geared toward developers and startup companies -- new technology people interested in the core technology and what cool things AWS was doing. Announcements for new, exciting products were held under wraps until re:Invent started. It was like Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference or Google I/O, but entirely focused on AWS' products and what cool things you could do with its services.

In the last few years, however, this seems to have shifted almost entirely to enterprise clients and getting those big old Goliaths to switch to AWS. Now, many announcements are released before re:Invent, and it seems like the only new things they talk about in the keynote addresses are sales numbers and products that are mostly designed to get enterprises migrated to AWS. Last year's big announcements were QuickSight, Snowball, DB Migration tool, Inspector and two upgrades for Kinesis, which have value beyond the enterprise. But still, they seemed mostly geared at specific clients.

AWS has always said it builds products that existing clients have been asking for, and it seems like now it's gearing this toward big clients that pay more money.

Next Steps

What to expect at this year's AW re:Invent

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This was last published in November 2016

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