The Rackspace Guide to AWS re:Invent 2017

Las Vegas Strip

This year’s AWS re:Invent is only a month away and just as in years past,  it’s set to be a cornucopia of cutting edge technology, cloud innovation and learning (along with a “small” dash of partying). To help you get prepared for this year’s event, I’m here to provide a little pre-Vegas advice from a Racker point of view.

Don’t know what a Racker is? You’re in for a treat — stop by our booth (#640) and find out about the people who deliver Fanatical Support for AWS 365x24x7. We’re an interesting blend of technologists and customer-obsessed service delivery ninjas!

Re:Invent is AWS’ largest user conference of the year, and this year it really is ginormous. 2017 will be larger than any previous AWS event with:

  • 5 days of content
  • A bigger campus than ever — up to eight different venues (more on that later)
  • a predicted 40,000+ attendees
  • over 1,100 possible sessions to attend
  • hackathons, boot camps and workshops
  • fun events such as the Pub Crawl, Tatonka challenge and Broomball

Throughout this post, I’ll try to cover a little bit of everything so you can land in Vegas and be ready to go.

If your name’s not down….

First things first — you need to ensure you have a conference pass already booked for re:Invent. If you haven’t booked it, all is not lost and you can still book your pass now! At this point, it’s well recognized that re:Invent is the premier cloud conference of the year, but if you still need help getting business sign-off for the expense of attending, AWS has helpfully provided a template for building a business justification.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Once your name is on the list, it’s time to arrange your travel and accommodations. Las Vegas is a prime destination for many people, so it’s well served by hotels and travel links. That said, re:Invent isn’t the only event in town, so expect things to be busy. If you’re traveling via airline, AWS has teamed up with Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines to obtain discounts on flights to Las Vegas — details for these discounts can be found here — but hurry up!

Once you register, you’ll be given the option of booking into your hotel via the registration process. This gives you access to the best rates AWS has negotiated for the event. If you’ve already completed your registration but don’t have a hotel booked, you can log back in and do this later. To summarize, the recommended hotels for the event are:

  • Aria
    • Room rates start at $179/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • Bellagio
    • Room rates start at $189/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • Harrah’s
    • Room rates start at $124/night
  • LINQ
    • Room rates start at $124/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • MGM Grand / MGM Signature
    • Room rates range from $89 — $159/night
  • Mirage
    • Room rates start at $124/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • The Venetian / Palazzo
    • Room rates range from $199-$239/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • Treasure Island
    • Room rates range from $100-$124/night — the contracted block booking has been filled but there may be cancellations or other availability
  • Wynn / Encore
    • Room rates start at $209/night

There are, of course, plenty of other hotels in Las Vegas, on (or just off) the strip, so make sure you get a spot reserved soon so you don’t miss out on the fun.

When you make it to McCarran airport, you can grab an Uber from the airport to the strip with fares usually in the $20-$30 range. There are plenty of normal taxis, airport-hotel shuttles or even limousines if you really feel like making a spectacle of your arrival.

Welcome to the jungle – the 2017 re:Invent Campus

This year Amazon is expecting higher than ever attendance and while the Venetian has long been the venue for most of re:Invent, this year Amazon decided to break out from the Venetian and spread the event across a much larger campus.

Reinvent 2017

AWS has a great interactive site showing the campus and what happens where, but for a quick overview, you’ll find events taking place at The Venetian, the Sands Expo Hall, The Palazzo, MGM Grand, Aria, Mirage and the LINQ Lot (with the Encore available as bookable meeting space).

Vegas is a surprisingly big place, and distances between the various venues mean planning your week is more important than ever. You don’t want to miss sessions because of a surprise 30-minute walk to a venue. Fortunately, the different session tracks are built around particular venues this year so you can easily plan your transit as well as your learning:

  • Venetian/Palazzo/Sands Expo Hall
    • Architecture
    • AWS Marketplace & Service Catalogue
    • Compute
    • Content Delivery
    • Database
    • DevOps
    • Mobile
    • Networking
    • Storage
  • Mirage
    • Bootcamps
    • Certifications
    • Certification Exam Centre
  • MGM Grand
    • Business Apps
    • Enterprise Security
    • Compliance
    • Identity
    • Windows
  • Aria
    • Analytics & Big Data
    • Alexa
    • Containers
    • IoT
    • AI & Machine Learning
    • Serverless
  • LINQ Lot
    • Alexa Hackathons
    • Gameday
    • Jam Sessions
    • Re:Play Party
    • Speaker Meet & Greets

That’s a lot! But if you check out the session catalog, you can build a schedule which works well for your learning tastes. I’ve always found it better to pick individual sessions rather than try to stick with a single track; you can cover more ground this way and it helps you keep a grip on the ever-broadening AWS product set. Be aware though, as I mentioned earlier, this means you’ll need to account for travel between the different parts of the re:Invent campus.

Come prepared

Last year in our re:Invent 2016 prep guide, I talked about suggested items to pack for the conference — that list still remains as a solid baseline for 2017, but as a refresher, you should always aim to travel light for the conference itself. Each day of the event is long with a lot of walking in heavily air-conditioned buildings so it pays to pack light but never forget the essentials.

With your pack ready to go, you can hit the conference floor prepared for anything — now’s the time to fire up the AWS re:Invent 2017 app on your phone. Check your calendar for registered sessions, directions and useful tips.

It’s good to talk

If you’re attending re:Invent with a group it’s always good to make sure you can keep in touch. There’s usually free Wi-Fi available across Las Vegas, but do expect it to be busy when there’s a tech conference in town. For international travelers, you should check your roaming data plan before you leave because it’s always handy as a fall-back if the Wi-Fi is too busy. SMS works in every situation, but we’ve used a variety of apps in the past to keep an open channel for all:

  • Slack (with a dedicated channel to avoid disrupting your co-workers back at base)
  • WhatsApp groups function
  • Telegram groups function
  • GroupMe (which is unique because it even supports SMS only phones)

As always, make sure you keep devices on silent during sessions — no-one wants to be that person in the middle of a packed room.

Getting into the sessions or keynotes you want

Just like last year, a seating reservation system is in place for all sessions. Registration for the reservation system opened on Oct. 19, but don’t worry if you missed out — 25 percent of all session seats are reserved for walk-ups and if a reserved seat has not been filled 10 minutes prior to session start, it becomes available for walk-up. This is great, because it means you stand a chance of getting into a session even without a seat registration….but also remember that you need to arrive *at least* 10 minutes before a session if you DO have a reservation.

The keynotes are always fully packed out, and this year will be no exception. All the exciting and new services, features or achievements are typically announced in the keynotes, so you should make sure you get to watch one way or another. Either turn up 60-90 minutes prior to start to get a seat in the main room, or hit up one of the overflow rooms (with huge screens) where you can watch the keynotes in comfort. Sometimes it’s good to stay in your hotel room with breakfast and watch via the livestreams too!

I came, I saw, I learned…now what?

No trip to Las Vegas, or re:Invent, is complete without some recreation! This year there are plenty of great options to relax while you’re at the conference; some designed to get your pulse racing on a dance floor, others designed to get your blood pumping with competitive sports and some just to relax and chill out! Among the options provided by AWS this year:

Of course, you can’t hit re:Invent without attending the AWS Re:Play Party when the conference closes on Thursday night. These EDM concerts and parties are huge events with lots of great food and drinks as well as major live music acts. Recent years have seen performers such as Deadmau5, Zedd and Martin Garrix headline the night. It’s the best way to round out your week, and let off some steam!

Work hard, have fun and make history

As always, these events are incredibly fun and offer great opportunities to meet peers in the cloud industry. Re:Invent in particular is an incredible opportunity to learn, bring deep cloud knowledge back to your organization and really change the future of your businesses with innovative solutions and technologies. We’re looking forward to seeing you there, please make sure you stop at booth #640 in the Expo Hall and say hello!

James Cowe is the director of AWS Strategy & Architecture at Rackspace. He is an experienced technical leader with close to 20 years working across a variety of industries, experienced in building and delivering both consumer and core cloud technology strategies. He is passionate about combining new technologies with great ideas, to drive innovative experiences and solutions to real world challenges.

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