re:Invent 2023 has just concluded and wow, what a packed week it was! Truly felt it was continued engagement from when I wake up in the early morning to get breakfast at the Delano up to when I clock in after the last party each night. So, what are the highlights?
There are plenty of highlights to be gain from the recent re:Invent. Here are just a few of them based on my experience.
Generative AI Sessions and Other Interesting Ones
It would not be an exaggeration to call re:Invent 2023 the re:Invent of AI, because most of the conversations I have been having is centered around it, along with the announcements that have been made by AWS, as more organizations are looking at how to best make use of it.
Here are some sessions that I thought were truly thought provoking.
- FWM205 | AWS Amplify: Scale your web and mobile app development and delivery: I learned a lot from this session on Amplify's capabilities on building more robust architectures and user experience for different use cases.
- AIM307 | Retrieval Augmented Generation with Amazon Bedrock: This was a session I truly enjoyed as it dove into specifics behind RAG with Bedrock and shows different kinds of use cases, going from basic implementations quickly to more advanced ones.
- PEX207 | Accelerating customer adoption with Generative BI in Amazon QuickSight: This was a great session as it helped in understanding how you can help visualize different insights from Generative BI on Quicksight, which is one of the most powerful capabilities of Generative AI.
- ARC318-R2 | Speed deployment of generative AI applications using AWS solutions: It was great to try out an application that is made by the AWS team to quickly test deploying different kinds of models in a controlled environment to see which works best for you.
- AIM222 | Amazon Lex reshapes CX with conversational workflows and generative AI: It was great hearing from the work done on Amazon Lex and how Lockheed was able to utilize Generative AI for their workloads, while considering the privacy constraints that are necessary from the sector.
Some more content I would recommend that is available on the AWS Events Channel on YouTube would be the following sessions:
- Evaluate and select the best FM for your use case in Amazon Bedrock (AIM373): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEK1kVZMIvM
- From hype to impact: Building a generative AI architecture (ARC217): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Lat8dP7Eq0
- Data patterns for generative AI applications (DAT338): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NBQ8Mwko54
- Generative AI: Architectures and applications in depth (BOA308): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEA6X_IElpc
- Implementing generative AI responsibly: A talk with Dr. Mitchell (IMP213): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1FaBEy7Gk8
I had the pleasure of being able to give a Dev Chat session at the recent re:Invent on one of my use cases with Amazon Bedrock. I will talk about this in length in another post later on.
The Community Builder Networking
As a Community Builder, it was great to meet a lot of fellow Community Builders at different opportunities. For one, it was great to help out at the Find Your Community Desk within the Community Developer Lounge to talk about the communities I am involved in with. It is great to share about what got me started on my community journey and encourage people to also get started up with their own journey as well.
Aside from that, it was great to attend the Community Builder at Buddy V's, chatting with familiar and new faces. Having chats on what people are doing on their communities and hearing what they've been up to is always great. Coming from Australia, I was also able to come for the APJ Community Builder mixer, meeting folks from all across the region. It even concluded with a good Kahoot quiz which tested our knowledge on the recent announcements and interestingly some world knowledge quiz.
There were no shortage of great parties that were hosted at re:Invent. These may be sponsored by AWS themselves or by another company. Here are some that I truly found great:
- Nasuni's re:Invent 2023 Welcome Happy Hour: The party I started re:Invent out with on Sunday, it was great to start meeting some new folks and understand what they want to get out of re:Invent over some great nibbles and drinks.
- All Builders Welcome Reception: Another reception which occurs every year, this is one not to miss. All builders get together and have different sections of the restaurant whether they want to just vibe to the music or have a chat and get to meet other builders. I took the path of both and really enjoyed meeting some new people.
- Believe in Serverless Community Party: This was truly a great party that was arranged for the serverless folks. Meeting familiar faces and new ones and celebrating achievements in serverless was what all was this about, and it was great being able to chat about what everyone was up to over some good food and drinks.
- re:Play: As per re:Invent tradition, the journey culminated with the re:Play party, which saw a truly great vibe from everyone celebrating the week that has been. It was great going around meeting familiar faces, seeing the activities that were going on such as dodgeball and an alternative version of DeepRacer, and finally vibing along to the headliner for the re:Play, Major Lazer.
Adam Selipsky's Keynote
Adam Selipsky's keynote at AWS re:Invent 2023 was a real eye-opener. He focused on how AWS is pushing the boundaries with generative AI and machine learning to help businesses innovate. He introduced Amazon S3 Express One Zone for faster performance, and the new R8g Instances powered by Graviton 4. What really stood out then was Anthropic's CEO discussing Claude 2.1, emphasizing responsible AI use. Selipsky then announced Agents for Amazon Bedrock and Guardrails for safety in AI, which is going to be a great thing for a lot of organizations moving forward, and Pfizer's use of AWS for vaccine development was a standout moment. He also talked about Amazon CodeWhisperer for code generation and the groundbreaking Amazon Q for business assistance.
Dr. Werner Vogels' Keynote
I really enjoyed watching Dr. Werner Vogels, the CTO, live during his thought-provoking keynote. He brought back his 2012 concept of the 'Frugal Architect', focusing on designing AWS infrastructure in a cost-effective yet sustainable way. It was fascinating how he linked cost management to sustainability, using AWS's development of services like Amazon S3 and DynamoDB as examples. He also talked about the evolution of AWS Lambda into its current state using Firecracker technology, stressing how business and technology decisions should synergize within AWS's framework.
What really caught my attention was his personal story about energy conservation in his hometown, which he used to underline the importance of observability in AWS services. This concept is central to their new tools like myApplications and Amazon CloudWatch Application Signals, which are used to simplify the complex task of monitoring distributed systems.
Vogels then shifted to discuss Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies, relating them to the present-day use of AI. He shared a project he worked on - a machine-learning system for detecting strokes in brain scans. It was inspiring to see how AI can have such a profound impact in critical areas like healthcare.
Now how can you make the most out of your time in future re:Invents? Here are a few tips I can provide based on my experiences of the past two re:Invents I have been to.
Picking out Sessions
It can be alluring to pick the sessions that are most relevant and sound the most interesting for you right off the bat, but let me pull you back a bit and give you some advice. Make sure that you pick out the sessions that will not be recorded first, which include Chalk Talks and Builder Sessions. Breakout Sessions will be recorded, so you can always go back to them later on YouTube.
That being said, if there is a speaker you want to catch for a chat after their session, by all means attend the breakout session. I have done this a few times, as it is a great opportunity to establish that network, and it truly is worth it. Overall, make sure you pick the sessions that truly matter to you and your organization.
Get Certified and also be a Community Builder!
It's not much of a secret now that there are hidden lounges that are open for certain criteria that you need to meet. For example, if you are AWS Certified, you can enter the AWS Certification Lounge, where you can relax, grab a few bites and drinks and watch keynotes as they take place from the comfort of the lounge.
Aside from that, as a Community Builder, you always continue learning best practices from other Community Builders and get to chat with some of the brightest minds within the AWS community while attending special events such as the Community Builder Mixer. It is always a pleasure for me to chat on different practices and get to know more of the community, as that is how we all grow.
Network, network, network!
Make sure you leave ample time to network! A lot of people take re:Invent as a purely learning experience, trying to plan their calendar all fully booked with sessions from morning to night time but the networking experience is what truly sets re:Invent apart from other conferences in my experience. Set apart time for networking, such as with going to events, receptions and parties, or even just chatting with the person next to you while you're having breakfast or lunch. You really never know who that might be for you; whether a potential vendor, customer, or someone you can learn more from.
Enjoy some outside time exploring Vegas when you can!
Make sure you get enough time to have some leisure as well, as if you're not local to Vegas, the opportunity does not come often! I went to the Sphere on my recent experience and I really enjoyed it, as the 4D elements they had in their show Postcards from Earth was truly a great one.
I still can't believe how fast re:Invent passed by. It felt like it was just yesterday that I set foot in Vegas, and before I know it I'm back in Melbourne, Australia now at my day-to-day work. It always is such a treasure trove of learnings, networking, and much more so if you're attending the next one, make sure to plan your schedule accordingly to get the most out of your experience, as time is limited.