What is Amazon re:Invent really like?

Here at Scandiweb we believe that we must both continue to hone our expertise and keep up with the latest events in the technology space, so we routinely send out our team mebers to see what is happening at the biggest tech conferences. This time it was Amazon’s re:Invent. Read the article to find what kind of insights we got regarding AWS and loads of other practical things and get the feel for the real experience of attending re:Invent.

Amazon re:Invent 2013 became annual conference, that this year took place in The Venetian, Las Vegas. This year it gathered roughly 9000 participants from all over the world — from US to Australia and Russia.

re:invent is a 3-day event with more than 175 1-hour long breakout sessions, full-day workshops and hands-on labs, where every interested participant can get some practical experience with Amazon services.

This conference is positioned as learning conference. In contrast with networking and technology events, here main goal for each attendee was to learn both from presenters and other participants — all conversations, FAQ sessions and presentations were based on one’s experience, successes and failures. It is a very pleasant feeling, when all people at network stands are aiming to help you and solve your question, not just blindly sell you their product by giving away some lousy t-shirts and brochures.

re:Invent Bootcamp experience

AWS “performance”

Day one of Amazon re:Invent 2013 conference was reserved for bootcamps/workshops. We went to “Taking AWS Operations to the Next Level” — Advanced/Expert level bootcamp. We were hoping to learn more about infrastructure management in AWS Cloud, but we got waaay more than that.

In this intensive 8-hours workshop we have learned about Amazon templates that allow to create, update and maintain infrastructure easily. We got hands-on experience with AWS Chef, that allows to create instances and pre-configure them (even pull required programs from external repositories and/or http archives), played a bit with setting up ElastiCache and ELB instances. All in all it went great and gave us several ideas on how we can improve our own infrastructure.

AWS “scalability”

Unfortunately Amazon data center was unable to hold the load of 2000 people creating and requesting EC2 and RDS instances at the same time, so the second half of the workshop was messed up a bit. However, they will send out two coupons to each of us so we will be able to go through the workshop online again. We should get them next week and will share with any one interested.

After the bootcamps we went to a welcome party and had a chance to talk to Amazon employees, nginx, NewRelic, Riot games (they created League of Legends, now hiring Zabbix specialists! :), QlikView — a company that now partners with Amazon in Big Data processing. Another interesting service is DataDog.com — they offer great log and data aggregation service that definitely is worth checking out.

We got some ideas on how we can change our workflow with aim to migrate completely to BitBucket&JIRA combination and keep code review process — will present them when we are back and though is formed completely. Main idea is to keep every developer working on its own branch and put tags when a feature is done. Then these tags will be merged to development branch, checked and tested, confirmed and then deployed to master.

AWS “flexibility”

Another point to consider is using CloudFormation templates together with Chef, BitBucket and Jenkins to create individual environments for each Magento EE installation. With just a few clicks any dev would be able to deploy a stack of application server, ElastiCache instance, RDS with pre-configured Magento database, Solr, redis instances.

Even more — because all templates are just JSON, they can be version controlled and any developer will have access to modify both templates and actual infrastructure in Amazon! Gives tons of flexibility and opportunities to experiment for our developers, minimizing cost of an error at the same time.

Presentations at re:Invent

Presentations took all days 2, 3 and 4. To keep this post as short as possible I will not dive into details here, but general impression was: people from all over the world were sharing their experience with AWS in various aspects of their work — starting from using Spot instances as rendering farms in post-processing and special effects for Hollywood movies and to migration from dedicated services to Amazon cloud.

Seeing and listening to these people was very exciting and created a lot of thoughts for our further development:

  1. Just now we moved our mailing services from Gmail to Amazon Simple Email Service. “Email is not working” problem on our staging environment is solved once and for all.
  2. Using Amazon IAM will allow us to create access to Amazon for each employee — everyone will get some practical experience with using EC2, RDS, S3 and CloudFormation
  3. Each developer will have access to create his own staging environment for a particular project. Even more — he will be able to modify this environment later on, under version control.
  4. Some continuous integration tricks will be implemented in Scandiweb to ensure more often and fragmented deliveries, together with automated testing.

All this in general should give us more flexibility, agility, knowledge and boost our quality to even higher levels.

Scandiweb is the most certified Magento agency in the world and we continuously evolve by training our experts the best they can be. Have an unanswered question about our experiences at Amazon’s re:Invent 2013? Or want to know more about our services? Drop us a line at [email protected] or check out our services page.

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