AWS Summit 2024

I was fortunate this year to attend the AWS Summit at London's ExCeL. In this post I wanted to outline what the event was like (for a first timer), what I learned and other tips I found.

What it was like

The conference itself is enormous. Over 25,000 people all flocked to the ExCeL in London to worship at the alter of Werner Vogals - I mean talk about all things AWS. It was good being surrounded by people who worked on similar things to you.

There are two key parts of the summit - the talks, and the vendors.

Overall, the talks were great. I think your experience depends largely on what talks you attend. From speaking to my colleagues who attended other sessions that the "difficulty" ratings for the sessions do not represent the actual technical detail they provide. There are a few categories of talks

  1. Talks from a company representative describing how they use a particular AWS technology. Usually these talks have 2-3 speakers - with 1 coming from the company in question and the others from AWS themselves. For example, I attended a talk by Flo Health who had their CTO speak about how they were using DynamoDB to store data in their system. They then had 2 AWS representatives give talks about how DynamoDB worked under the hood and cost optimisation strategies. These were the best talks to attend in my opinion.
  2. Talks sponsored by a company. These are more like sales pitches to demonstrate how you can use a companies technology.
  3. Talks by AWS themselves. These are usually focused on a particular area or AWS service. I found these to be very high level and to "drink the coolaid". For example, when speaking about analytics for serverless systems they of course recommended Cloudwatch (which is terrible). And for increasing resiliency recommended Blue/Green deployments with Codebuild (which is trash).
  4. Community talks. These were likely not recorded so are valuable to attend in person. I attended one of these in the morning and found it to be like a talk you might find at a good tech meet-up.

The vendors are a sprawl of booths that litter the conference floors. They are different software companies of all flavours advertising and pitching their products. They usually give away swag of some description (I got a bucket hat from PagerDuty) and some have challenges where the winner gets a prize. These challenges usually have huge queues so I avoided them and focused on what I could get out of the experience as a whole.

What I learned

I was able to attend 4 talks in total here are my learnings from each.

A slide from COM201: Patterns for Efficient Software Architecture showing types of software testing "remocal"

"COM201: Patterns for Efficient Software Architecture"

A slide from ARC302: Building observability to increase resiliency showing an equation of metrics plus logs plus traces - to create an overall picture of your system.

"ARC302: Building observability to increase resiliency"

A slide from DAT202: DynamoDB Deep dive with Flo Health: Powering critical data for 300M users showing the architecture of DynamoDB.

"DAT202: DynamoDB Deep dive with Flo Health: Powering critical data for 300M users"

A slide from ANT306: How the BBC built a real time media analytics platform to process over 5B events a day showing different data ingestion systems in AWS.

"ANT306: How the BBC built a real time media analytics platform to process over 5B events a day"

Other tips

Overall, if you have the opportunity, I'd highly recommend attending. It's well worth it, even if just for the stickers.

P.S., Thanks to this dog for keeping us safe!