What is AWS Summit?
AWS Summit is a technology event hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to talk mostly about their service offerings. A total of 27 Summits will be held around the world during 2019 and the Sydney event took place between May 1st and 2nd. The main themes discussed this year were Cloud, DevOps, Security, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
For those interested in attending next year:
The Summit event schedule is released at the start of the year with general information. A more detailed agenda is normally released to 2 months before it takes place and includes everything you need to know about the sessions, workshops and labs that will happen during that Summit.
Additionally the AWS Partner Summit and the AWS Innovation Day, which this year was focused around the use of AI/ML and Robotics to solve customer problems, are hosted at the same venue on the days prior to the Summit. The first is open to AWS partners only and the latter is open to general public.
There is no cost to attend the event and you just need to register through the AWS website, show up on the event day and enjoy. That easy.
Why should you attend Summit?
Well, I can’t speak for you personally, but it’s a great experience as a whole, especially because you’ll be surrounded by very skilled people and great companies. Summit’s a great place to absorb knowledge on the subjects discussed during the event and also to do some networking, hire people, get hired and have fun at the booths hosted by AWS partners and sponsors.
If you were not able to go to this year event, keep in mind that most of the sessions (if not all of them) are made available online later, so you still can catch up if you want.
About the 2019 AWS Summit Sydney
This year Sydney Summit had more things happening than ever. With a total of 106 sessions and workshops on subjects such as Machine Learning, Serverless, Alexa and the AWS Deep Racer to mention a few, there was plenty to learn and discover around old and new AWS services. Plus some great lessons learned by companies during their journey into the cloud. A total of 22.000 people attended the event, making AWS Sydney Summit 2019 the biggest IT Conference ever in Australia.
Me (right), my colleague Anish (left) and a few thousand of our Summit friends
The keynote session on Wednesday was presented by Glenn Gore, the AWS Worldwide Lead Solution Architect, and Oliver Klein, the AWS Head of Emerging Technologies, on Thursday and both were absolutely awesome.
For me, Wednesday’s keynote highlight was around this phrase:
When faced with change we need to focus less on what we’re going to lose and more on what we are going to gain.
You may think that considering it’s a high-end technology event that the highlight would have been around some new and great technology, but that is not always the case. In my experience, the biggest challenges that we normally face are not around the technology itself, but rather in the non technical changes required to be able to use the technology in the best possible way.
For example, there are several important ingredients to cloud adoption success, like the right technology and a proper implementation of it… but the secret sauce in most cases is about changing the ways of working and the team’s mindset and behaviour. A good way to help that change is focusing on the big benefits instead of small losses after the change, and that’s why I love that message.
The Thursday’s keynote was a lot more about emerging technologies, so in that case, the highlight for me was some great implementation of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In particular, Formula 1 consultant Rob Smedley’s usage of the technology to predict great things during the races (like a pitstop decision maker), and by Rugby Australia technologists Kevin Stafford and Cathal Garvey around how the AI is helping improve the Australian Rugby team’s performance and tactics for their games.
Another great use of emerging technologies is the implementation by the Ripper Group, using a surf rescue and shark spotting autonomous drone that will patrol beaches across Australia (and you would imagine in future, around the globe). The drone is able to spot someone in danger and deploy a self-inflating float, so the person can stay safe while waiting for rescue by jetski or helicopter.
This was just the start of great other uses of similar technology, like dropping medicine into hard to reach areas or emergency responses required due to floods for example. The journey into ML and AI is just beginning and, based on the amazing use cases of those technologies demonstrated, be prepared for some really incredible things in the next few years. AWS is helping a lot by creating services around this and making them accessible to everyone with minimal costs.
When it comes to sessions, it’s impossible to attend everything you want, so it’s all about making choices. I had a great time during the 12 Principles of Software Development session with a fun presentation about issues experienced by not using each of those principles. Another great talk was about the Analytics and AWS Glue. The other sessions I attended were pretty good as well but those two were the real highlights for me.
As mentioned, all the sessions should be made available soon online, so check the Summit agenda if you want to catch up on any of them. I’ll certainly do it for the sessions I could not make.
I also joined the Deep Racer workshop to find out a little bit about Machine Learning, and had a great learning journey around Reinforcement Learning. Basically, reinforcement learning is one of the ML learning models that makes use of rewards (points) based on “good behaviour” of the agent (the autonomous car in the case of the deep racer). So, in order to complete the task presented, the agent is rewarded with an amount of points after each action, based on some rules you define in the algorithm.
In the case of the deep racer, the objective is to complete the track lap as fast as possible, so the algorithm you created needs to take into consideration a few variables to ensure that the agent will do the best job possible. At each Summit a new league is created and the creator of the algorithm that completes the track in the fastest time will travel to re:Invent 2019 (the global AWS event hosted in Las Vegas at the end of the year) to compete against people from around the world.
The DeepRacer service is in preview mode and you can request access to it through your AWS account. Because it’s not easy to have a track and the physical deep racer car, you can create your algorithm, train it and improve it through the console in a virtual track - this allows you to start playing and see how it works right away. Additionally, there is a Deep Racer Virtual League, so you can compete with other people around the world to see who has the algorithm that works best. It’s an easy and great entry point to the Machine Learning world.
Don’t just take my word for it…
To get some more perspective about the event I asked my colleague Trent Hornibrook, one of Cevo’s AWS APN Ambassadors, about his experience during this year’s Summit:
“I love the AWS Sydney Summit! There were two great highlights for me this year. Firstly the AWS Partner Network Ambassador event and secondly the ‘hallway track’.
The Sydney Summit is one of the locations of the AWS Partner Network Ambassador program quarterly meetups. The Ambassador program provides insight to forthcoming product releases under NDA, access to the service teams within AWS, and a collaborative community of AWS thought-leaders. I wish I could share, but there are some exciting things coming in AWS this year (like any year)!
The ‘hallway track’ is probably the best thing about conferences like the Sydney Summit: talking to people whom I have worked with before, potential vendors in the exhibit hall, and new connections that I made as well. Craig Lawton, Solutions Architect from AWS caught me up on all the exciting things happening with smart cities. Kevin Yung, Cloud Architect at AWS, whom I worked with in a previous life caught me up on life and work. Similarly, it was great connecting up with Samual Annis-Brown, a technical account manager at AWS.
I was super excited to see Aaron Wigley and Javier Turégano of REA group talking about REA’s usage of PagerDuty. (Actually, I only attended their talk to heckle the two!). I can go on and on. This was, and always is, the highlight: connecting up with people and sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of what I’m doing and hearing the same back - for the betterment of us all.”
As always, the Summit exhibition booths have competitions in order to get your hands on their swag. I didn’t had a lot of time to get around everything, but noticed there was some great stuff around Star Wars and Technics Lego (I love Lego so that always catches my attention!), roulette to win things like pens, balls, hats, etc and even a claw machine for plush toys. And of course, booths with t-shirts, socks and stickers. You could see some people have a lot of fun in the hunt with bags full of swag.
This was my second time attending the AWS Summit Sydney and it was clear to me that the event continues to get bigger, both in number of people, as well as in terms of sessions and workshops available. It was an amazing two day marathon, great fun hanging out with #TeamCevo and catching up with some of our customers, and of course getting to see some good friends that have come from the Australian IT community. Hope to see you next year at the AWS Summit in 2020!