Since 2018, AWS has stepped up its game when it comes to hosting a tech conference in Southern hemisphere. The AWS Sydney Summit 2019 had total of 22,000 attendees and was a complete event, covering technology, business and innovation themes.
We asked our Technical Director and AWS APN embassador, Imran Sadiq, to summarise the event and his takeaways for those who didn't have a chance to attend. Imran's summary has something for all: technologists, businesses and their customers.
Day 1: Partner Day
The kick-off day of the AWS Summit is all about partners, with the inclusion of some specialised tracks. Hosted by Corrie Briscoe, AWS Partner lead for ANZ, the day event was filled with an opening keynote detailing AWS’s focus for partners leveraging the platform in NZ and Australia, followed by sessions mostly focused around how AWS can help partners grow and get trained for helping their customers. The first day also includes an APN Ambassador’s special track. This is where all the APN Ambassadors get to spend most of the day getting a first-hand look into technical information, as well as new and upcoming features revealed to us under NDA.
As one of the ambassadors I had the privilege to attend this session a learn about some exciting technologies that will be shaping how we design better solutions for our customers and at Lancom Technology.
Day 2: Innovation Day
The second day of the summit was all about innovation and how the latest AI, Machine Learning and Robotics services from AWS can help speed up the pace of innovation. There were some hands-on workshops which is not only a great way to hear about these services but get your hands dirty with them. The Expo hall is opened on Innovation day as well. This has been set up in a mini re:Invent way with the hall divided up in different sections, some for vendors/partners and others for AWS services. The best thing I like about this was the presence of AWS staff from product mangers to solution architects whom more than happy to take customers and partners input and provide guidance for any issues or ideas. As we all know Amazon is a customer obsessed company and it is in their DNA to listen to the customer needs and shape their products based on that feedback, this was seen once more at the Summit.
The other part of the Expo hall I liked the most was the hands on Dev corner. This was designed to provide attendees a 15-30min of hands on lab designed on some real-life scenarios. As an example, I looked at a phone booking system for a dental clinic. The system was setup using AWS Connect, Lex, Polly and some Lambda magic, with the idea that anyone attending the conference could call the clinic and then in natural language ask to book an appointment. The system was clever enough to welcome you by name and repeat your current booking if you called from same phone number!
I must admit it was a lot of fun and best part is that there were AWS trainers and solution architects who designed these labs present to help you if needed.
Aside from bringing my inner geek out, I left the second day with Glenn Gore’s quote as a take away: “Innovation is change that improves”.
The innovation day has reminded me that innovation is not all about just creating “cool” solutions. Innovation is about hard work that show improvements, be it big or small.
Third & Forth Days
The last two days of the conference are what is known as the “actual summit days”. This year’s theme as mostly around AI, Machine Learning, Data analysis and Robotics. As usual there were some great customer stories presented. The one I personally liked the most was about a beach rescue drone developed by The Ripper Group. This drone is equipped with inflatable tubes which automatically inflate as they hit water. The done could be launched in minutes and drop these rescue packages for anyone in trouble.
As cool as this sounds, the biggest highlight for me was where the live video from these drones was fed back to the base station which will use Amazon Rekognition service to determine who was in danger from sharks or other sea creatures. The technology can spot sharks in proximity and underwater based on its shape that rescuers could never do before. This is where I think the real power of these services and cloud comes together and provides us humans assistance to be much better at our jobs.
Getting my hands on AWS services in a fun way: AWS GameDay
I was lucky enough to get into one of the AWS GameDay sessions. This is basically a 3.5 hours long session where you are teamed up AWS enthusiasts. You team is responsible for making sure online services for a fictional company “Unicorn Rentals” are always up and running. You have to work as a team and keep the systems alive and at the same time try and increase traffic to your services to gain more points. To make it bit tricky, the AWS team was busy sabotaging some of your services i.e. changing some of the routes or changing the launch configuration on your auto scaling groups. As a team, we had to first of all detect these anomalies in the system, diagnose and then resolve them. I would have to say it was a lot of fun and stressful at times (seeing your team going down on the leader board can be daunting!). Regardless, it was a fun way to learn about AWS services and get some hands-on experience in diagnosing and resolving issues.
AWS launched AWS DeepRacer at last re:Invent, and with that AWS DeepRacer League. AWS DeepRacer is a machine learning (ML) fully autonomous 1/18th scale race car. Users get to train this DeepRacer on ML models based on reinforcement learning. During this year’s summit, there was a separate hall dedicated to DeepRacer. It had multiple tracks for attendees to set a record with DeepRacer using ML models they had worked on.
It was a fun place to be with a leader-board on a large screen shared in the pavilion, where all attending could watch the races. AWS had pulled all stops to make this as much fun as possible while training those who attended the summit on machine learning.
I love this quote from Jeff Bezos, “It’s always Day 1 at Amazon”. Even though public cloud has accelerated its pace of innovation in recent years, I strongly believe we are still scratching the surface of what is possible.
AWS is making it easier for non-developers to adopt some of its more powerful services e.g. SageMaker, Rekognition, Polly, Amazon Connect to name a few. This allows most technologists to test out their ideas without having to spend a lot of time learning about the underlying technologies.
My favorite of these services is Amazon Connect. I think it has the potential to disrupt traditional over the phone customer experience.
Overall I loved this summit. Having been to few of AWS re:Invent conferences over the years, I can safely say that the AWS Sydney Summit was a mini version of re:Invent without the hefty price tag. I specially loved the venue, ICC is located at Sydney Darling Harbour.
There was something for everyone from executives to techies who wanted to improve their knowledge of AWS services. All who attended were willing to share their knowledge and experience, making this an unmissable event for next year!