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The Ultimate Guide to AWS re:Invent 2021

Mark Nunnikhoven
Mark Nunnikhoven

This guide will grow as we get closer to the show. Please check back regularly for updates! Ping me if you spot a problem or if something is missing @marknca. As always, the event site is the ultimate source of truth (though I try to provide more context here). The site is available at https://reinvent.awsevents.com

Heads up, AWS has made a change to the campus. Please read the updated “Hotels” section so you’re aware.

Index

A Little Bit of History

I’ve written this guide year after year and it’s an interesting way to track how AWS re:Invent has evolved over the years.

Here are the guides of AWS re:Invent past:

As you would expect, the show has grown in scale and ambition every year as a reflection of the growth of the AWS Cloud and the larger community.

Last Year

Last year’s event was the outlier. With the global pandemic and widespread shutdowns, the event moved to a completely virtual format.

It was…different.

The session content was amazing but a lot of the things we all love about the event simply weren’t possible in a virtual version. That’s understandable, everyone has struggled with what a virtual event looks like compared to an in-person one.

The conflicted news? AWS re:Invent 2021 will be an in-person event with limited virtual aspects.

That means a very different feel to the show. Not only in size but also the demographics. Will there be a strong international attendance? What safety measures will be in place? What will be the requirements to attend?

The short and simple answer: no one is sure.

The show is months away and if you look back to even a month ago, things were very, very different. There are a lot of questions about this year’s AWS re:Invent.

I have a strong feeling that this guide will change even more than previous years…and that’s saying a lot.

Code of Conduct

AWS re:Invent is all about learning and having a shared experience. The key to that is making sure that environment is inviting, safe, and supportive.

The AWS Community Codes of Conduct applies to both the physical and digital space surrounding AWS re:Invent…and to all other AWS events.

I would say that it’s all common sense and following the golden rule but with tens of thousands of people from around the world sharing the experience for the week, it’s best to call this out explicitly.

READ THE CODE OF CONDUCT AND LIVE BY IT.

If you encounter an issue or problem that runs counter to the code or if you in any way feel unsafe, please reach out for help. Amazon Security can be reached at aws-events-security-concerns@amazon.com for live events. In addition, any one of the on-site staff or security can help resolve any issues.

No system is perfect but this is a great start at creating a safe, inclusive community at this fantastic event.


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Who Am I?

I’m an AWS Community Hero, a long time AWS re:Invent attendee (all of them!) and a big fan of the show.

I teach a few courses here on the A Cloud Guru platform (AWS Business EssentialsIntroduction to the AWS Marketplace, and Mastering the AWS Well-Architected Framework), tweet regularly, and generally nerd out about all things cloud and security.

I write this guide every year to help the community get the most out of the show. Also, if I’m being 💯 honest, it helps me keep track of everything that’s going on so I can get the most out of the show. 😉

Health Measures

AWS has updated the health measures they are taking to help reduce the overall risk to everyone attending AWS re:Invent 2021.

As with everything, these measures may change as we get closer to the show.

Please read the entire page on the official re:Invent site, but the key aspects are:

  • All badge holders at the event must be fully vaccinated (2 weeks after final shot in the protocol) and provide a record of vaccination in order to receive your badge
  • Masks will be required for everyone at the event
  • Hotels have a different health policy called “Vegas Smart”, please verify the specific measures with your hotel
  • Physical distancing will not be enforced during the event
  • In the event of a positive test being disclosed to AWS, contact tracing will be conducted in partnership with the relevant health authorities

Registration

Registration for AWS re:Invent 2021 is open now. The cost is $1,799 USD and virtual access is free.

If you were curious, registration officially opened on Tuesday, 15-Jun-2021.

Hotels

In keeping with the process over the past couple of in-person shows, hotel rooms at discounted will be available as part of the registration flow and after you’re registered.

These rates are always very good and the blocks of rooms are at properties hosting the show. In past years, these room blocks went very, very quickly.

So quickly in fact, that AWS expanded the “campus” to include a number of hotels that weren’t hosting any of the event, just ones where discounts were made available.

This year’s campus is again spread out across a number of venues;

  • Venetian / Palazzo remains the center fo AWS re:Invent. This year it’ll host breakouts, AWS Certification exams, the lounge(s), Content Hub, the Expo, keynotes, leadership sessions, registration, self-paced labs, and SWAG
  • Caesars Forum for breakout content, Content Hub, and meals
  • Encore for breakout content and bookable meeting space
  • Wynn has breakout content, meals, Bootcamps, and will host the Jams

Some of the originally listed properties are no longer part of the campus. There will be no events hosted at these properties and they are no longer listed as a “sleeping room hotel”:

  • The MGM Grand
  • Signature at MGM Grand
  • Mandalay Bay
  • Delano

Venues included in campus but not hosting events;

We’ll get more information closer to the event (as always!) but it looks like most of the content is going to take place at the Venetian/Palazzo, Wynn/Encore, and Caesars Forum. 

That’s a bit of a shift from previous years. 

The ARIA has dropped its activities in favour of Caesars Forum. That actually makes a lot of sense. Now that AWS has adjusted and dropped the MGM Grand from the campus, most activities will be taking place near each other. The Venetian/Palazzo, Wynn/Encore, and Caesars Forum are the epicentre of AWS re:Invent 2021.

This should make moving between venues a lot easier during the day and give you more flexibility in where you decide to actually stay.

It looks like you’re going to be heading to one of these three hotels (and maybe all three) every day of the show.

Virtual Attendance

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of this show. This year will be great but it won’t be the same. The world has changed.

If you aren’t comfortable or cannot attend in person, there is a limited virtual component. I’ll be honest, as an international attendee, I’m disappointed in this aspect of the show.

As it currently stands, the keynotes and leadership sessions will be live streamed. Breakout sessions will be available on-demand after the event.

Given the virtual infrastructure in place for AWS re:Invent 2020, I’m assuming that will all take place on that platform (vs. say, YouTube).

This approach isn’t any different than previous in-person years. 😔

How to re:Invent

Season four of the show, “How to re:Invent” has already kicked off!

This year, Annie Hancock returns with a new co-host, Kelley Schultz.

This show brings you tips and tricks about the conference and gives you an inside look as we get closer to the show.

Stay tuned for each episode as they are always chalk full of great info.

Agenda

The official agenda has been published. This gives us a glimpse at the structure of the show.

Things kick off on Sunday with the Midnight Madness party. Other than that, Sunday is just a day to get oriented, check-in to get your badge, and pick up your swag!

Monday is when things really start to roll. The certification exams start, labs open up, bootcamps kick off, and some of the breakout sessions start.

We also have the first keynote of the week. This one is at 3:00—5:00pm pacific time. After that keynote, the expo hall will host the now traditional Welcome Reception.

Tuesday is the first “standard” day of the show. Most activities are open and we have a keynote from 8:00—10:00am pacific.

In the evening, there are several restaurant receptions hosted by sponsors and a few “quirky activities” which promise to be a lot of fun.

Wednesday is almost a cookie cutter of Tuesday with the one exception being a second keynote that runs from 3:00—5:00pm pacific.

On Thursday, we’re back to the Tuesday schedule during the day. Only the one, morning keynote. We have the AWS Certification Reception in the early evening and the night caps off with the legendary re:Play party. 

No idea how that’s going to feel this year given the circumstances but every other year, it’s been an absolutely blast.

re:Invent is still going strong on Friday. Maybe “strong” is not the right word, that always depends on how your re:Play party experience was. No keynotes on Friday but breakout sessions (often with repeats to the best of the week) run until 12:30pm when the conference officially ends.

Leadership Sessions

AWS has also announced an expanded “leadership sessions” series. These were introduced a couple years back to serve as “mini-keynotes”.

I like the idea as the sessions are typically delivered by a senior AWS leader in that area.

Here are the 2021 leadership sessions;

  • AWS Executive Panel hosted by Francessca Vasquez, Vice President, Technology
  • AWS Public Sector with Max Peterson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector
  • AWS Public Sector Partners by Sandy Carter, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Partners and Programs
  • AWS Storage with Mai-Lan Tomsen-Bukovec who is the Vice President of Block and Object Storage
  • Rahul Pathak (Vice President, Analytics) is back with the leadership session for Analytics
  • The Cloud Operations session will be delivered by Bill Vass, Vice President, Engineering — Storage, Automation, Streaming & Management
  • David Brown, the Vice President of Amazon EC2, will deliver the session focusing on Compute
  • Containers gets covered by Deepak Singh, Vice President of Compute Services
  • The Developer session is brought to your by Ken Exner, Director of AWS Developer Tools
  • Bill Vass gets the double call this year, delivering the Edge session as well as the already mentioned Cloud Operations one
  • Enterprise/Migration will be covered by Todd Weatherby, Vice President of Professional Services
  • Mayumi Hiramatsu (Vice President, Amazon EC2 Networking) will deliver the session one Networking and Content Delivery
  • Stephen Schmidt (Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer) is back with another leadership session on Security, Compliance and Identity
  • David Richardson, Vice President of Serverless, has us covered for Serverless
  • Maureen Lonergan, Director of AWS Training and Certification, will deliver the final leadership session with a focus on Training & Certification

These sessions all follow the same general format. They review the biggest announcements from the past year for the theme. Then make a few announcements of either new services or features either launching immediately or coming soon.

These announcements are ones that are not quite main keynote level but still deserving more attention than just a blog post or documentation update.

The Quad

For now, it appears the The Quad has been removed from AWS re:Invent 2021. It’s still early (mid-September) but the following events are currently up in the air:

No word yet if they’ll find a new home as the AWS re:Invent 2021 campus has been reduced in size.

I’ll leave the description of these events here in case they do find a new home and come back to the schedule…

The DeepRacer league has grown year after year. It’s always a blast to watch or race in. You can get started by reviewing the documentation online or watching some of the great content here on the A Cloud Guru platform.

The Builder’s Fair is basically a big science fair. Groups from schools, companies, and other organizations show off their projects with hands-on demos and interactive discussions. It’s a very cool way to see some different use cases for AWS technologies and their real world applications.

AWS Connected World is new to AWS re:Invent. This space provides an area to highlight IoT, AI/ML, AR/VR, robotics, and more. AWS experts and partners will be on hand to show how they’ve applied these technologies to solve interesting problems.

The Demo Theatre in The Quad is where AWS Partners and experts can showcase short (usually 15m) demos of various services and solutions. The casual nature of the theatre makes it easy to ask questions and learn more about specific solutions.

Again, 👆 these events and the entire Quad have been removed from the official site alongside the reduction in campus size. Stay tuned for more.

Midnight Madness

For the past few years, re:Invent has kicked off with this great event. Styled after a US college sports pep rally, the party always hosts the first product launch of the week along with fun activities, food, music…and maybe, just maybe, another world record!

re:Play

The legendary conference party is back again for its 10th iteration. Every year makes the last seem small. Expect more dodgeball, office chair races, and of course amazing musical performances.

Other Social Activities

With most of AWS re:Invent 2021 taking place physically, there are going to be a host of other social activities. Stay tuned as more details are revealed. Rest assured, there’s always something for every personality type.

AWS does a great job of filling the calendar making sure that you can find something to suit. You definitely won’t be bored during the week!

Please check back regularly for updates! Ping me, if you spot a problem or if something is missing @marknca.

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