AWS comes to town - an inside story
It was the kind of glorious morning that makes you vow to wake up early more often. Through the waning drizzle, I plodded down Quay Street and couldn't help but marvel at the gorgeous sunrise framed behind The Cloud. The Cloud. A ridiculously apt place to be holding New Zealand's 5th annual AWS (Amazon Web Services) Summit, celebrating a company that has essentially become THE cloud provider for most of the world.
Stepping into The Cloud, I can't help but feel the Summit gets more gigantic and impressive every year. The Cloud itself is packed with registration, food, and vendor stalls. Neighboring Shed 10 has been transformed into presentation space, with everyone packing in upstairs for the keynote before both upstairs & downstairs sections are divided in half to create space for the four tracks that run all day. The keynote and popular sessions are standing room only, with latecomers packed in against the walls. During the breaks The Cloud is full to bursting so I'm forced to (literally) rub shoulders with fellow nerds. This is fantastic as I'm forced to meet lots of new interesting people and catch up with old ones. Vendors are also out in force and while I enjoy chatting with them I often wish I'd brought a fake barcode for my nametag - I cringe every time it gets scanned.
Sitting down for the keynote I braced myself for a repeat of last year which started with smoke machines & lasers & energetic dance music.. all a bit much for a flock of nerds at 9am. This year's intro was a bit easier on the senses.
We got to hear from Glenn Gore (Chief Solutions Architect for AWS) telling us about all the amazing progress they've made over the year: over a thousand new features released & everything bigger/faster/better. Big emphasis on all things artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, and "serverless" (a term that makes my tech friends cringe every time it's uttered).
As always, a few select clients also gave short presentations on how they're using AWS to transform their businesses. The highlights were learning about how Simona Turin from Air New Zealand plans to implement wide ranging APIs to enable better customer interactions (I hope they're publically available!) and Josh Robb from Pushpay helping engineers deliver better customer value rather than just writing more code.
Glenn also gave an amazing demo of a virtual assistant that his team managed to build in mere weeks using Rekognition (image recognition), Polly (text to speech engine), Lex (voice chatbot), and Lambda ("serverless" compute) that would recognize his face, interact with him verbally, and give him information on the weather, his calendar, etc. Basically they managed to build (a simple) Siri in 2 weeks!
The talks were good. As per usual there was a bit of sales faff in the vendor talks but overall very informative. Talks on security, IoT, and artificial intelligence were packed. I was a bit disappointed with the turnout at the sessions about how AWS & the cloud is impacting MSPs (Managed Services Providers) which were nearly empty.
Of course my favorite part was drinking beer and mingling with excellent people afterwards. As with almost every conference I attend, the greatest value I derive is from meeting people: making connections and renewing old ones. AWS Summit is fantastic for this - as a free conference there is a very low barrier to entry and the subject matter means that it attracts a wide variety of tech people from every corner of NZ and every level of the org chart.
Many thanks to the AWS team for putting on another excellent conference. I'm know I'm looking forward to next year's Summit, and I hope you are too.
Be good to each other.
Jason is Co-Founder & Chief Beer Officer at Aerorock, managed IT services with legendary support.
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