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I recently had the pleasure of attending my first Re:Invent conference. It was an incredible experience. If you haven’t heard of Re:Invent, it’s Amazon Web Service’s yearly conference revolving around their services and ecosystem. Our team was able to attend workshops, labs, and talks from a variety of industry leaders.

Luckily, Amazon uploads all of the talks online so you can view them later. For conference attendees this is a necessity, because there were so many talks going on concurrently that that it would have been impossible to see them all. Amazon announces lots of new tools and services during Re:Invent, it’s one of the highlights of the show. How about a tractor trailer with the sole purpose of moving exabytes worth of data from your datacenter into AWS in months rather than decades? They’ve got that now.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my favorite talks with you.

Another Day in the Life of a Netflix Engineer

This was a great talk that covered the type of scale Netflix is dealing with on a day to day basis and how Netflix and Amazon have grown together to manage that. They discussed the evolution of their CDN, the average number of instances they use daily, the size of their bill, how much data they push through their ELBs daily, their percentage of the total internet traffic. I don’t want to get too detailed here because it really was an interesting talk that you should check out.

Introducing Amazon Lightsail

As I mentioned above, part of the thrill of the Re:Invent week is seeing what new services, tools, and features AWS announces. Lightsail was one of those. While almost no medium-to-large shops will use lightsail, many independent developers and small shops will. It’s a direct competitor to some of the long standing VPS providers on the web. Those servers provide a lot of value for what they are. One of the things that scares people away from the traditional AWS system is that they’re intimidated by the sheer number of services and tools available in the AWS console. The traditional VPS is an easy step for a lot of operations and development teams looking for simple architecture and simplified billing. You will pay a flat rate per month and get a known amount of performance and bandwidth rather than paying via metered billing.

The Effective AWS CLI User

When I first became a Linux user, one of the things that I quickly learned to love was the command line. Learning how to effectively navigate and chain commands and output together was an empowering experience. This talk covers a lot of those same concepts, but with the AWS command line interface. Kyle walks you through building up a VPC and populating it with resources, as well as other topics like troubleshooting, tooling, new CLI features, and tuning performance within your scripts.

Tips and Tricks on Bringing Alexa to Your Products

After registration everyone was encouraged to head downstairs and pick up their “swag” which included an Echo Dot. It’s basically a small voice controlled unit that provides you an access point to all of the Alexa tools. I’ve set my Echo Dot up at home and can see how it could become an integral part of a smart home. Voice control for lights, electronics, your daily schedule and other things like traffic on your commute are accurate and easy to use. Learning how to extend that functionality was the subject of many talks this year. Some people are creating Alexa skills so they can ask about the health of their systems or to trigger deploys. I’m already thinking of useful (and not so useful) things that I could build using the Echo Dot as the control mechanism too. This talk covers various things you should keep in mind when building Alexa enabled devices and hands-free solutions. This talk pairs very well with it too: Building a Smarter Home with Alexa

Life Without SSH

I remember a time when I considered SSH a necessary tool, and if I’m being honest I still think it is—but it doesn’t have to be! If you told me 10 years ago about running systems in such a way that SSH was no longer needed, I’d have scoffed at the idea. There are a couple drivers that might lead you to take this approach. Security is a big one. The quest for immutable infrastructure is another. Getting your systems to a state where you can do this is an interesting challenge. The talk goes over the basic components of an immutable infrastructure and how one company executed on the idea.

Get the Most Bang for Your Bank with EC2

I think this talk can apply to the vast majority of AWS customers. Cost optimization is primarily covered, but topics like right-sizing and monitoring for cost and performance are also discussed. Strategies like scheduling shutdown of your non-prod instances during non-use times, using spot instances and buying reserved instances show more ways to save money on your AWS infrastructure. New features for reserved instances from the past year, like convertible RIs, enable customers to have more flexibility in their needs as they evolve. Hearing Amazon discuss ways that you can pay them less was particularly interesting. If you want to gain some control over costs within your AWS accounts, this talk is a great place to start.

This is just scratching the surface of what Re:Invent had to offer. If you have the chance to attend Re:Invent in the future I would jump at the opportunity!