Amazon conference leaves some users craving technical details

Some had hoped for more of a technical focus, but most attendees at the Amazon conference AWS re:Invent were impressed by the debut.

LAS VEGAS -- Some came to learn, others came to network, and perhaps an even smaller number came to enjoy the Venetian Hotel and all the culture Las Vegas has to offer. But regardless of their reasons, attendees had mostly positive reactions to AWS re:Invent, Amazon Web Services' debut IT conference -- although some wished that it had offered more of a technical focus.

Jason Dziedzic, senior systems administrator at Chicago-based Duo Consulting, has been an Amazon Web Services user for two years. He came to the Amazon conference to get some clarification and find out which new features fit the needs of his firm, which creates websites with the Drupal platform.

"What was frustrating for me is that every time there's a new feature out, there's two other features that do the same thing -- which one should I use?," Dziedzic said. "Having a conference like this really did explain what sort of options are out there for us."

After attending a few sessions, Dziedzic said his company will likely start using AWS Elastic Beanstalk, a platform for deploying and managing applications in the Amazon cloud, because it supports PHP 5.3, a popular front-end Web development language. He's also considering some different Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance types, and Amazon CloudFront, a Web service that allows developers to distribute content to end users quickly.

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Dziedzic had few gripes with the conference, aside from the crowds that caused overflows at some of the more popular sessions. His biggest complaint was with Tuesday's technical sessions, which he found a little lacking. "The one thing that was kind of frustrating was the boot camps. They seemed more vendor-targeted, and I wasn't too crazy about that," he said. "The one I went to was really heavy vendor, and I was thinking 'We paid for this? I'm getting a vendor spiel.'"

Peter Honeder agreed with Dziedzic's assessment. Honeder co-owns HLW Software Development GmbH, a San Jose-based remote desktop client. He came to the conference mostly to look for networking opportunities, but felt the sessions could have been more tech-focused. "Maybe some more in-depth sessions," was his advice for Amazon. "Maybe some more techie sessions, not so much overview. Most of the sessions were overview sessions."

Not everyone felt the sessions were lacking. Phillip Gardner, systems engineer at Austin, Texas-based vacation rental marketplace, felt that the boot camps were very useful, particularly for people who are new to cloud computing. "We've just started to dip our toes into migrating to AWS," Gardner said. "We currently have two data centers, one in London and one in Austin."

Gardner learned a great deal during a session that focused on architecting highly available websites, and said his company will likely implement Amazon services within the next few months. He said he was impressed with the high-RAM instances and with Amazon's new Redshift data warehouse product, which was announced at Wednesday's keynote.

John Dee came to get a better understanding of one of Amazon Web Services' key features -- autoscaling. He could envision how it might improve efficiency at his company, Los Altos, Calif.-based SEC filing software company WebFilings LLC, where he works as a systems engineer. "I went to a couple sessions yesterday; the one that sticks out in my head was the one with Pinterest on how they run their business and how they run pretty lean on their operations," he said.

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