AWS Summit in Chicago


What is AWS Summit

Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosts a week long conference once a year that’s at the tail end of the year and it’s called AWS re:Invent. Last year 50,000 attendees flocked to Los Vegas, where re:Invent was being hosted, to find out the latest and greatest offerings from AWS.  Not everyone is able to go because of work or for family reasons.

So AWS created a AWS Global Summit.  AWS Summit is a slimmed down version of AWS re:Invent that’s offered in 8 different major cities in the US, plus in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  AWS Summit is an all day event with a ton of sessions offered throughout the day discussing a lot of the popular services from AWS and to raise awareness about new one’s.  The coolest part is they are free. For free? Yes, free!

Why go to AWS Summit

I went to the AWS Summit in Chicago because I wanted to hear more about the AWS message. I’m your normal infrastructure Ops admin and sometimes we need to get out of what we know and go exploring.  AWS had three customers come on the stage and tell their story.

Agero, an insurance company, used AWS services to develop a mobile application that can measure the speed of car, how hard someone turns, and if the airbag was released.  The company used AWS services like AWS Cognito, AWS DynamoDB, SNS, Lambda, and Machine Learning to develop this application.  GE Healthcare is using Cognito, API Gateway, S3, EC2 and Cloudformation to help radiologist read x-rays.  X-Rays are one of the hardest mediums to read and there’s a shortage of radiologists in the world.  GE is applying Machine Learning to assist radiologists read x-rays and with AWS’s global reach, radiologists in US can now read x-rays for a patient in Kenya.

By the end of the keynote I realized that AWS provides all the necessary services under one roof for business to innovate.  These business are able to remove layers 1-7 and focus on layer 8 where they want to focus.  Piecemeal these type of services together from different vendors is difficult in traditional IT.  If you can put all the different it feels clunky and not natural.  AWS makes it simple to consume.

I also wanted to surround myself with new context and have a base reference.  Cloud discussions are different than traditional infrastructure discussions.  You can bring over this knowledge to cloud, but public cloud brings developers to the table and I want a better understanding of their world.  When someone starts throwing out terms like Fargate, GraphQL, TinkerPop, and Gremline I could at least recognize the terms the next time I heard them and have a point of reference.

What did I learn

Exploring the Expo Hall I saw five companies I recognized.  The other 100 we’re all new to me.  I was a little shocked.  Mostly because a lot of the infrastructure companies I work with talk about cloud and having a presence in AWS specifically.  Maybe they’re not all in like they say they are?  Maybe the fees were too high for these billion dollar companies and the startups found funding?  Maybe AWS told them no.  Not sure, just my observation.

The biggest theme on the floor was monitoring, alerting, and cost analysis.  A lot of the vendors where cross public cloud, Azure and GCP.  Some of the vendors I talked to, their product ran sometimes in AWS or in your private data center and would tell you if your EC2 instances were sized appropriately.  The software would make recommendations on sizes after a period of time.  None of the vendors I talked to could make recommendations across platforms.  Meaning, if you can run a T2.Micro in AWS for $10/month, I want to know what would be the cost in Azure and GCP of a similar sized instance.

To me, if you have a stateless cloud native application you should be able to move your application to any public cloud.  If a product can tell you it’s cheaper running in GCP, that’s time well saved vs having admins do this homework.  Most of the vendors said this was in the road map, but because costs change so frequently it’s difficult.


For a free event, AWS Summit puts on a great event.  Tons of technical content, hands on labs, customer stories, and sessions with code galore.  I’ve never been to a conference that had code in almost every session.  I also get why businesses are flocking to AWS.  AWS makes on boarding new services so easy!  I’m not talking about the provisioning of VMs or racking and stacking.  I’m talking expanding your application portfolio with one vendor.

How many vendors out there can offer you a place to put your virtual machines, to a globally scaled database all in the same day?  What about offering machine learning services, managed cluster services, or globally managed load balancers all with the same provider?  In the traditional data center there’s a different company for each one of those services and tying everything together would take months.  If they would fit together at all.

When I first started my career I downloaded any new piece of software I could to check out what services it had to offer.  I didn’t know what infrastructure was.  At that time, everything was just “the network” to me.  I didn’t dip below layer 8.  AWS feels a lot like that.  I don’t need to know as much below the application stack.  Instead, I need to know what solutions are out there to meet my businesses needs and expand the services when desired.

AWS Summit Chicago Keynote


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