Practical guide to re:Invent 2019

The annual AWS re:Invent is closing up and today (October 15th 2019) the reserved seating bookings open up at 10AM PST (that’s 19:00 Stockholm / 20:00 Helsinki time).

If you do not have any idea, what’s this all about, you can check out the event and register at the event site here:

There are multiple “how to survive re:Invent” guides out there, so I try to do something different here and to be really pragmatic and straight forward on my take on this. Check out for example take on that or this collection of guides by my fellow AWS Heroes.

Or this AWS’ own youtube series:

So, I’m not going to be spending my time on that “bring sensible shoes” stuff.

I hope you’ll find it useful.

The re:Invent planner

As the re:Invent own planner is pretty much horrible how it’s search functions work, check out this tool by Carlos E Silva, which will give you much powerful tools to set up your schedule.

You can find the tool here:

Unfortunately the re:Invent planner calendar export function does not export the interested items, so there is another tool by Santeri Paavolainen from last year, which you could use to export those as well. There is a disclaimer, that this worked for 2018 session planner, so no guarantees it works out of the box this year. Feel free to fork it or make a pull request, if you find it needs tuning.

You can find that tool here:

As there are much more stricter rules, when you can reserve a seat and when not (like the tool does not let you reserve sessions from other venues, if you do not have enough transit time, like 30-45 minutes between sessions), this makes things a lot more difficult what it used to be. I can see the reasons to do the limitations, but it is largely undocumented for example in the FAQ.

So here is a neat trick you probably did not know about or find out. This trick helps you planning your calendar a lot. Go to Schedule view and click on any day at a time when you have nothing reserved. You should be changing to a view like this:

Now, you can scroll through all the available slots in your calendar to fill in with sessions. If this is what you actually want to do, is totally another thing, but now you can succumb yourself in sessions, if you want to.

Getting in

Just few straight out tips here, which I have noticed that are not usually part of these instructions: if you are coming from the airport with taxi and you notice that you are on the freeway, you have probably been scammed. And this happens, even if you specifically ask them not to do that.

My personal conclusion has been to avoid taxis and use rideshares instead, which operate in Las Vegas. Namely, at least Uber and Lyft. The culture has changed in few years and they are now one of the de facto means of transportation in LV as well. You just need to find the side door, where you can get picked up. They are clearly marked, so it should not be too difficult task – but it’s still the secondary door. Taxis still dominate the main entrance, but I expect this to change as well. And frankly, some of the rideshare drivers do not give a damn if they are supposed to drop you off at the side door or not.

If you absolutely want to rent your own car, nowadays most of the hotels have paid parking, so I would recommend only renting the car when you are going outside of Las Vegas. Using your own car for moving around during the event is a lost cause.

Doing stuff that’s worthwhile

So, just before the signup frenzy starts for the reserved seating, I am making one controversial suggestion. Decide if you want to spend your time at the sessions while at re:Invent, or are you better off doing something else?

Similarly, even if you would have the possibility to do certifications and other stuff while there, my suggestion is plain and simple:

Do things that you can’t do elsewhere

Meet people, attend game days, talk with product teams, connect with peers – and heck – with competitors! These are the rare opportunities for you to do, when you have a full week of safeguarded time from your normal duties.

Make a good use of that.


Then, few words about the actual sessions, before you start booking them to fill your calendar like a madman.

Firstly, reserved seating is not the only way to catch a session. There is a quota for walk-ins, so if there is a session which you desperately want to catch, be there in time to line up and you’ll get in.

Secondly, overflow spaces are available to the most interesting sessions, mainly for example keynote sessions. So even if you do not fit in the main room, you can still catch the session. And by the way, the keynotes are live streamed, so you can watch them from your hotel room, if you wish.

Thirdly, there will be repeats, all through the week. Some of the repeats are not in the schedule today, they are announced on site.

Fourthly, new launches are made in keynotes and sessions are announced only after the announcement of the new services and products. This will make a lot of room for the other sessions towards the end of the week. Pretty much you can walk in to any session after the keynote days. And as the new launch sessions require people to free their own reservations, there will be magically more seats available to those sessions originally in the calendar.

New launches probably, once again, crash the whole booking system, when the sessions become available. Mark my words.

This brings me also to one point that you should take advise on: be prepared to dynamically change your plans. Just remove something you signed up for with something that is more convenient or interesting. You might find that you are in a totally different end of Las Vegas when your session is starting in 5 in the total opposite end. Just accept, that you are not going to make it there this time.

There is no penalty in adjusting your plans.

Also, there is no rewards or star stickers for “person with most fully booked schedule” (… but should there be?), so cut yourself some slack and allocate time also for wandering around and spontaneous stuff. Keep your eyes and mind open and stumble on things by accident.

If all else fails – most of the more popular sessions will be recorded and you can catch them in youtube some time after re:Invent. This does not however apply to all of the sessions, since not all of the session rooms are equipped with recording equipment and thus not able to record the session.

AWS Community Nordics at re:Invent

If you’d like to join to AWS Nordics Community get-together, drop Martin a line either at AWS Community Nordics Slack or DM in twitter:

And speaking of communities, here are bunch of topics by awesome AWS Community Leaders at re:Invent this year.

Bonus event – Intersect festival

AWS has figured out that they can monetize on the re:Play party infrastructure, when they need to set up that in any case. So they decided to arrange a public festival leveraging the premises and tech. I guess this is a smart move?

Check out the current lineup at festival, including names like Foo Fighters and Beck.

Hot picks from session catalog

Here is the last part of the article, my session picks from the catalog and short description why you should attend:

(list keeps updating, so come back for updates)

Amazon’s approach to chaos engineering – DOP309

Chaos Engineering is a concept popularized at Netflix as early as 2011. You should hear what Adrian has to say about how Amazon has adopted the idea of building resilient and self-healing IT systems.

Leadership session: AWS security – SEC201-L

AWS CISO Stephen Schmidt is responsible for the security of the entire AWS platform – and that is a huge deal. I had the opportunity to follow this session last year and I’ll be sure to check that out this year as well for updated content. If you think you took your security seriously, wait until you hear this.

And his previous job – he was literally working for the Man, as FBI section chief.

Last year’s session is here, for reference:

Serverless architectural patterns and best practices – ARC307

First of all, Heitor is simply a great speaker – and currently promoted to Principal Serveless Lead at AWS. And he usually does live coding stuff. I would go and see him talk on any subject. This is a 300 level session but you should be comfortable if you are in tech role, but want to get crash course to Serverless.

Innovation at speed – ARC203

I’ve had the pleasure to hear Adrian Cockcroft speaking about this subject in AWS Partner Ambassador summit. He makes some valid points and is a seasoned veteran with impressive track record, whose insights you should consider thoroughly. Highly recommended.

Deep dive into AWS Cloud Development Kit – DOP402

AWS CDK is the newest and hottest kid in the block, letting you to use program language to provision your cloud resources. It’s getting more and more mature and ready for prime time. The word on the street is, that this is going to be thing for upcoming years in AWS automation. One of the superpowers here is that you can configure your resources without leaving your IDE.

This is a 400 level session, so attend accordingly.

AWS Outposts: Extend the AWS experience to on-premises environments – CMP302

I know this AWS Outpost is kind of a niche offering and some might think that this has nothing to do with the Cloud, but the truth is that there are a lot of customers with various needs in for example manufacturing, where you need to be able to have compute and storage on the edge. Probably in most cases, the pricing of the service will be out of bounds, if you do not have the proper business case to support the use of this technology. But if you do, this might be exactly what you need.

AWS GameDay: Main event countdown – HAC301

AWS GameDay is an interactive, scenario based exercise, where you put your skills to real use. Participants are given live AWS accounts for a fully hands-on, gamified training. This is a team effort, so this is also a great learning experience to work with people from various backgrounds all over the world.

At re:Invent they are launching completely new version of the GameDay scenario, so even if you would have attended before, this is completely new. GameDay is suitable for anyone with AWS experience, so regardless of your skill level, you should consider joining.

AWS Security Jam – SEJ301

Security Jam gives you simulated incident scenarios, which you need to remediate. Music, competition, prices. What’s not to like? Gives you the ability to benchmark your talent against other attendees – or simply winning yourself. You can attend at any skill level, there are people to help and guide you. And there should be enough challenge also for the more advanced attendees.