Why do it?
Alexa gets a lot of use in our house, and it is very apparent to me that the future is not a touch screen or a mouse, but voice. Creating an Alexa skill is easy to learn by watching videos and such, but actually creating the skill is a great way to understand the ins and outs of the process and what the backend systems (like AWS Lambda) are capable of.
First you need a problem
To get started, you need a problem to solve. Once you have the problem, you’ll need to think about the solution before you write a line of code. What will your skill do? You need to define the requirements. For my skill, I wanted to ask Alexa to “park my cloud” and have her stop all EC2 instances or RDS databases in my environment.
Building a solution one word at a time
Now that I’ve defined the problem and have an idea for the requirements of the solution, it’s time to start building the skill. The first thing you’ll notice is that the Alexa Skill port is not in the standard AWS portal. You need to go to developer.amazon.com/Alexa and create a developer account and sign in there. Once inside, there is a lot of good information and videos on creating Alexa skills that are worth reviewing. Click the “Create Skill” button to get started. In my example, I’m building a custom skill.
The process for building a skill is broken into major sections; Build, Test, Launch, Measure. In each one you’ll have a number of things to complete before moving on to the next section. The major areas of each section are broken down on the left-hand side of the console. On the initial dashboard you’re also presented with the “Skill builder checklist” on the right as a visual reminder of what you need to do before moving on.
This is the first area you’ll work on in the Build phase of your Alexa skill. This is setting up how your users will interact with your skill.
Invocation will setup how your users will launch your skill. For simplicity’s sake, this is often just the name of the skill. The common patterns will be “Alexa, ask [my skill] [some request],” or “Alexa, launch [my skill].” You’ll want to make sure the invocation for your skill sounds natural to a native speaker.
I think of intents as the “functions” or “methods” for my Alexa skill. There are a number of built-in intents that should always be included (Cancel, Help, Stop) as well as your custom intents that will compose the main functionality of your skill. Here my intent is called “park” since that will have the logic for parking my AWS systems. The name here will only be exposed to your own code, so it isn’t necessarily important what it is.
Utterances is your defined pattern of how people will use your skill. You’ll want to focus on natural language and normal patterns of speech for native users in your target audience. I would recommend doing some research and speaking to a diversity of people to get a good cross section of utterances for your skill. More is better.
Amazon also provides the option to use slots (variables) in your utterances. This allows your skill to do things that are dynamic in nature. When you create a variable in an utterance you also need to create a slot and give it a slot type. This is like providing a type to a variable in a programming language (Number, String, etc.) and will allow Amazon to understand what to expect when hearing the utterance. In our simple example, we don’t need any slots.
Interfaces allow you to interface your skill with other services to provide audio, display, or video options. These aren’t needed for a simple skill, so you can skip it.
Here’s where you’ll connect your Alexa skill to the endpoint you want to handle the logic for your skill. The easiest setup is to use AWS Lambda. There are lots of example Lambda blueprints using different programming languages and doing different things. Use those to get started because the json response formatting can be difficult otherwise. If you don’t have an Alexa skill id here, you’ll need to Save and Build your skill first. Then a skill id will be generated, and you can use it when configuring your Lambda triggers.
AWS Account Lambda
Assuming you already have an AWS account, you’ll want to deploy a new Lambda from a blueprint that looks somewhat similar to what you’re trying to accomplish with your skill (deployed in US-East-1). Even if nothing matches well, pick any one of them as they have the json return formatting set up so you can use it in your code. This will save you a lot of time and effort. Take a look at the information here and here for more information about how to setup and deploy Lambda for Alexa skills. You’ll want to configure your Alexa skill as the trigger for the Lambda in the configuration, and here’s where you’ll copy in your skill id from the developer console “Endpoints” area of the Build phase.
While the actual coding of the Lambda isn’t the purpose of the article, I will include a couple of highlights that are worth mentioning. Below, see the part of the code from the AWS template that would block the Lambda from being run by any Alexa skill other than my own. While the chances of this are rare, there’s no reason for my Lambda to be open to everyone. Here’s what that code looks like in Python:
if (event[‘session’][‘application’][‘applicationId’] != “amzn1.ask.skill.000000000000000000000000”):
raise ValueError(“Invalid Application ID”)
Quite simply, if the Alexa application id passed in the session doesn’t match my known Alexa skill id, then raise an error. The other piece of advice I’d give about the Lambda is to create different methods for each intent to keep the logic separated and easy to follow. Make sure you remove any response language from your code that is from the original blueprint. If your responses are inconsistent, Amazon will fail your skill (I had this happen multiple times because I borrowed from the “Color Picker” Lambda blueprint and had some generic responses left in the code). Also, you’ll want to handle your Cancel, Help, and Stop requests correctly. Lastly, as best practice in all code, add copious logging to CloudWatch so you can diagnose issues. Note the ARN of your Lambda function as you’ll need it for configuring the endpoints in the developer portal.
Once your Lambda is deployed in AWS, you can go back into the developer portal and begin testing the skill. First, put your Lambda function ARN into the endpoint configuration for your skill. Next, click over to the Test phase at the top and choose “Alexa Simulator.” You can try recording your voice on your computer microphone or typing in the request. I recommend you do both to get a sense of how Alexa will interpret what you say and respond. Note that I’ve found the actual Alexa is better at natural language processing than the test options using a microphone on my laptop. When you do a test, the console will show you the JSON input and output. You can take this INPUT pane and copy that information to build a Lambda test script on your Lambda function. If you need to do a lot of work on your Lambda, it’s a lot easier to test from there than to flip back and forth. Pay special attention to your utterances. You’ll learn quickly that your proposed utterances weren’t as natural as you thought. Make updates to the utterances and Lambda as needed and keep testing.
Now you wait. Amazon seems to have a number of automated processes that catch glaring issues, but you will likely end up with some back and forth between yourself and an Amazon employee regarding some part of your skill that needs to be updated. It took about a week to get my final approval and my skill posted.
Creating your own simple Alexa skill is a fun and easy way to get some experience creating applications that respond to voice and understand what’s possible on the platform. Good luck!
-Coin Graham, Senior Cloud Consultant
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who argue with you.” – John Wooden
Many AWS customers and practitioners have leveraged the Well-Architected Framework methodology in building new applications or migrating existing applications. Once a build or migration is complete, how many companies implement Well-Architected Framework reviews and perform those reviews regularly? We have found that many companies today do not conduct regular Well Architected Framework reviews and as a result, potentially face a multitude of risks.
What is a Well-Architected Framework?
The Well-Architected Framework is a methodology designed to provide high-level guidance on best practices when using AWS products and services. Whether building new or migrating existing workloads, security, reliability, performance, cost optimization, and operational excellence are vital to the integrity of the workload and can even be critical to the success of the company. A review of your architecture is especially critical when the rate of innovation of new products and services are being created and implemented by Cloud Service Providers (CSP).
2nd Watch Well-Architected Framework Reviews
At 2nd Watch, we provide Well-Architected Framework reviews for our existing and prospective clients. The review process allows customers to make informed decisions about architecture decisions, the potential impact those decisions have on their business, and tradeoffs they are making. 2nd Watch offers its clients free Well-Architected Framework reviews—conducted on a regular basis—for mission-critical workloads that could have a negative business impact upon failure.
Examples of issues we have uncovered and remediated through Well-Architected Reviews:
- Security: Not protecting data in transit and at rest through encryption
- Cost: Low utilization and inability to map cost to business units
- Reliability: Single points of failure where recovery processes have not been tested
- Performance: A lack of benchmarking or proactive selection of services and sizing
- Operations: Not tracking changes to configuration management on your workload
Using a standard based methodology, 2nd Watch will work closely with your team to thoroughly review the workload and will produce a detailed report outlining actionable items, timeframes, as well as provide prescriptive guidance in each of the key architectural pillars.
In reviewing your workload and architecture, 2nd Watch will identify areas of improvement, along with a detailed report of our findings. A separate paid engagement will be available to clients and prospects who want our AWS Certified Solutions Architects and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer Professionals to remediate our findings. Download the 2nd Watch Well-Architected Framework Review Datasheet to learn more. To schedule your free Well-Architected Framework review, contact 2nd Watch today.
— Chris Resch, EVP Cloud Solutions, 2nd Watch
Thursday’s General Session Keynote kicked off with Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels, taking the stage to deliver additional product and services announcements with the inclusion of deeper, technical content. Revisiting his vision for 21st Architectures from the 1st Re:Invent in 2012, Werner focused on what he sees as key guiding principles for next-gen workloads.
- Voice represents the next major disruption in computing. Stressing this point, Werner announced the general availability of Alexa for Business to help improve productivity by introducing voice automation into your business.
- Use automation to make experimentation easier
- Encryption is the ‘key’ to controlling access to your data. As such, encrypting data (at rest and in transit) should be a default behavior.
- All the code you should ever write is business logic.
Werner also highlighted the fact that AWS now has over 3,951 new services released since 2012. These services were not built for today but built for the workloads of the future. The goal for AWS, Werner says, is to be your partner for the future.
One of the highlights of the keynote was when Abby Fuller, evangelist for containers at AWS, came on stage to talk about the future of containers at AWS. She demoed the use of Fargate which is AWS’s fully managed container service. Think of Fargate as Elastic Beanstalk but for containers. Per AWS documentation “It’s a technology that allows you to use containers as a fundamental compute primitive without having to manage the underlying instances. All you need to do is build your container image, specify the CPU and memory requirements, define your networking and IAM policies, and launch. With Fargate, you have flexible options to closely match your application needs and you’re billed with per-second granularity.”
The Cloud9 acquisition was also a highlight of the keynote. Cloud9 is a browser-based IDE for developers. Cloud9 is completely integrated with AWS and you can create cloud environments, develop code, and push that code to your cloud environment all from within the tool. It’s really going to be useful for writing and debugging lambda functions for developers that have gone all in on serverless technologies.
AWS Lambda Function Execution Activity Logging – Log all execution activity for your Lambda functions. Previously you could only log events but this allows you to log data events and get additional details.
AWS Lambda Doubles Maximum Memory Capacity for Lambda Functions – You can now allocate 3008MB of memory to your AWS Lambda functions.
AWS Cloud9 – Cloud9 is a cloud based IDE for writing, running, and debugging your code.
API Gateway now supports endpoint integrations with Private VPCs – You can now provide access to HTTP(S) resources within your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) without exposing them directly to the public Internet.
AWS Serverless Application Repository – The Serverless Application Repository is a collection of serverless applications published by developers, companies, and partners in the serverless community.
We expect AWS to announce many more awesome features and services before the day ends so stay tuned for our AWS re:Invent 2017 Products & Services Review and 2017 Conference Recap blog posts for a summary of all of the announcements that are being delivered at AWS re:Invent 2017.
— Brent Clements, Sr. Cloud Consultant, 2nd Watch
I have been looking forward to Andy Jassy’s keynote since I arrived in Las Vegas. Like the rest of the nearly 50k cloud-geeks in attendance, I couldn’t wait to learn about all of the cool new services and feature enhancements that will be unleashed that can solve problems for our clients, or inspire us to challenge convention in new ways.
Ok, I’ll admit it. I also look forward to the drama of the now obligatory jabs at Oracle, too!
Andy’s 2017 keynote was no exception to the legacy of previous re:Invents on those counts, but my takeaway from this year is that AWS has been able to parlay their flywheel momentum of growth in IaaS to build a wide range of higher-level managed services. The thrill I once got from new EC2 instance type releases has given way to my excitement for Lambda and event-based computing, edge computing and IoT, and of course AI/ML!
AWS Knows AI/ML
Of all the topics covered in the keynote, the theme that continues to resonate throughout this conference for me is that AWS wants people to know that they are the leader in AI and machine learning. As an attendee, I received an online survey from Amazon prior to the conference asking for my opinion on AWS’s position as a leader in the AI/ML space. While I have no doubts that Amazon has unmatched compute and storage capacity, and certainly has access to a wealth of information to train models, how does one actually measure a cloud provider’s AI/ML competency? Am I even qualified to answer without an advanced math degree?
That survey sure makes a lot more sense to me following the keynote as I now have a better idea of what “heavy lifting” a cloud provider can offload from the traditional process.
Amazon has introduced SageMaker, a fully managed service that enables data scientists and developers to quickly and easily build, train, and deploy machine learning models at any scale. It integrates with S3, and with RDS, DynamoDB, and Redshift by way of AWS Glue. It provides managed Jupyter notebooks and even comes supercharged with several common ML algorithms that have been tuned for “10x” performance!
In addition to SageMaker, we were introduced to Amazon Comprehend, a natural language processing (NLP) service that uses machine learning to analyze text. I personally am excited to integrate this into future chatbot projects, but the applications I see for this service are numerous.
After you’ve built and trained your models, you can run them in the cloud, or with the help of AWS Greengrass and its new machine learning inference feature, you can bring those beauties to the edge!
What is a practical application for running ML inference at the edge you might ask?
Dr. Matt Wood demoed a new hardware device called DeepLens for the audience that does just that! DeepLens is a deep-learning enabled wireless video camera specifically designed to help developers of all skill levels grow their machine learning skills through hands-on computer vision tutorials. Not only is this an incredibly cool device to get to hack around with, but it signals Amazon’s dedication to raising the bar when it comes to AI and machine learning by focusing on the wet-ware: hungry minds looking to take their first steps.
Andy’s keynote included much more than just AI/ML, but to me, the latest AI/ML services that were announced on Tuesday represent the signal of Amazon’s future of higher-level services which will keep them the dominant cloud provider into the future.
–Joe Conlin, Solutions Architect, 2nd Watch
The sixth annual AWS re:Invent is less than a week away, taking place November 27-December 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Designed for AWS customers, enthusiasts, and even cloud computing newcomers. The nearly week-long conference is a great source of information and education for attendees of all skill levels. AWS re:Invent is THE place to connect, engage, and discuss current AWS products and services via breakout sessions ranging from introductory and advanced to expert as well as to hear the news and announcements from key AWS executives, partners, and customers. This year’s agenda offers a full additional day of content, boot camps, hands-on labs, workshops, new Alexa Hack Your Office and Smart Cities hackathons, a Robocar Rally, and the first ever Deep Learning Summit. Designed for developers to learn about the latest in deep learning research and emerging trends, attendees of the Deep Learning Summit will hear from members of the academic and venture capital communities who will share their perspectives in a series of thirty-minute lightening talks. To offer all of its great educational content, networking opportunities and recreational activities, AWS is practically taking over the Las Vegas strip, offering an expanded campus with a larger re:Invent footprint and more venues (not to mention a shuttle service!).
2nd Watch is proud to be a 2017 Platinum Sponsor and attending AWS re:Invent for the sixth consecutive year. With every re:Invent conference we attend, we continue to gain unique insight into what attendees can expect. Similar to last year, our seasoned re:Invent alumni have compiled a list of The Top 7 Things to Avoid at re:Invent 2017 and we hope you find the following information useful as you prepare to attend AWS re:Invent next week.
1. Avoid the long lines at Registration (and at the Swag Counter!)
The re:Invent Registration Desk will open early again this year starting Sunday afternoon from 1pm-10pm, giving attendees a few extra hours to check in and secure their conference badges. Registration Desks are located in four locations this year—Aria, MGM Grand, Mirage, and The Venetian—so no matter where your hotel room is along the strip, you’re sure to find a Registration Desk close by. This is particularly helpful so that you don’t have to schlepp around all that conference swag you will receive upon check in. As always, you can’t attend any part of re:Invent until you have your conference badge so be sure you check into Registration as early as possible. This will also ensure that you get the size shirt you want from the Swag Counter!
Expert Tip: Like last year, AWS has added an additional level of security and will be printing each attendee’s photograph onto their badge. Avoid creating a backlog at the registration line because you have to have your photo taken on site. Take a few minutes to upload your photo prior to re:Invent here. BONUS: By uploading your own photo, you make sure to put your best face forward for the week.
2. Avoid Arriving Without a Plan:
The worst thing you can do at re:Invent is show up without a plan for how you will spend your week in Vegas—that includes the breakout sessions you want to attend. With expanded venues and a total of over 1,000 sessions (twice as many as 2016), more hands-on labs, boot camps and one-on-one engagement opportunities, AWS re:Invent 2017 offers more breadth and depth and more chances to learn from the experts than ever before.
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the AWS Event Catalogue and start selecting the sessions that matter most to you. While you’re building your session schedule, might I recommend adding 2nd Watch’s breakout session—Continuous Compliance on AWS at Scale—to your list of must attend sessions? This session will be led by cloud security experts Peter Meister and Lars Cromley and will focus on the need for continuous security and compliance in cloud migrations. Attendees will learn how a managed cloud provider can use automation and cloud expertise to successfully control these issues at scale in a constantly changing cloud environment. Find it in the Event Catalog by searching for SID313 and then add it to your session agenda. Or, click here to skip the search and go directly to the session page.
Expert Tip: Be sure to download the AWS re:Invent Mobile App. Leveraging the mobile app is like having your own, personal re:Invent assistant for the week and will hold your re:Invent schedule, maps from venue to venue, all other activities and reminders, providing a super helpful resource as you navigate the conference. Android users click here to download. Apple users click here to download.
3. Avoid Avoiding the Waitlist
AWS re:Invent 2017 is SOLD OUT and we anticipate nearly 50,000 people to be in attendance this year. That means, if you haven’t already built your session agenda for the week, you’re likely to find that the *ONE SESSION* you needed to attend is already at capacity. Avoid missing out on sessions by adding yourself to the waitlist for any sessions that you really want to attend. You will be surprised by the number of people that “no-show” to sessions that they have registered for so don’t be afraid to stand in line for that all-too-important session.
4. Avoid Not Knowing Where to Go
As mentioned previously, the re:Invent campus has expanded, yet again, this year and there are a few more venues to note when preparing your event schedule. Spanning the length of the Las Vegas strip, events will occur at the MGM Grand, Aria, Mirage, Venetian, Palazzo, Sands Expo Hall, the Linq Parking Lot, and the Encore. Each venue will host tracts devoted to specific topics so to help you get organized—and map out your week, literally—here’s what you can expect to find at each venue:
MGM Grand: Business Apps, Enterprise, Security, Compliance, Identity, and Windows.
Aria: Analytics & Big Data, Alexa, Container, IoT, AI & Machine Learning, and Serverless.
Mirage: Bootcamps, Certifications, and Certification Exams.
Venetian / Palazzo / Sands Expo Hall: Architecture, AWS Marketplace & Service Catalog, Compute, Content Delivery, Database, DevOps, Mobile, Networking, and Storage.
Linq Lot: Alexa Hackathons, Gameday, Jam Sessions, re:Play Party, and Speaker Meet & Greets.
Encore: Bookable meeting space.
Once you’ve nailed down where you need to be, be sure to allow enough time to get from session to session. While there are breaks between sessions, some venues can be a bit of a hike from others so be sure to plan accordingly. You’ll want to factor in the time it takes to walk between venues as well as the number of people that will be doing the same. As re:Invent continues to grow in size, you can certainly expect that escalators, elevators, hallways, sidewalks and lengthy shuttle lines are going to be difficult to navigate. To help you get a sense of standard walking times between venues, AWS has put together a nifty chart that details all the travel information you might need (minus any stops on casino floors or crowds of folks clogging your path).
This year, AWS is offering a shuttle service between venues if you don’t want to walk or need to get to your next destination quickly.
AWS recommends allowing yourself 30 minutes to travel between venues and is providing the following shuttle schedule to help you get from Point A to Point B:
Sunday, November 26: 12PM-1:30AM
Monday, November 27: 6AM-12:30AM
Tuesday, November 28: 6AM-10PM
Wednesday, November 29: 6AM-12:30AM
Thursday, November 30: 6AM-12:30AM
Friday, December 1: 6AM-3PM
NOTE: BELLAGIO SHUTTLES RUN ONLY DURING AM AND PM PEAK HOURS (SUNDAY 10PM — 1:30AM, MONDAY — THURSDAY 6AM — 10AM & 4PM — 7:30PM, FRIDAY 6AM — 10AM)
Expert Tip: If you need to get from The Palazzo to The Venetian and want to avoid navigating the casino floors, restaurant row and the crowds around the entrance to The Sands Convention Center, head to the Canyon Ranch Spa from either hotel. From the Palazzo, the spa is located on the 4th floor and from the Venetian it is located on the 3rd floor. The spa connects both venues through a series of long, colorful and rarely traveled corridors making the trip quick and easy for those who don’t mind taking the road less traveled. Not to mention, this route can also offer a moment of peaceful sanity!
5. Avoid Sleeping In, Being Late, or Skipping Out Entirely
With so many learning and networking opportunities, it’s easy to get caught up in exciting—yet exhaustive—days full of breakout sessions, hands-on labs, training sessions, and of course, after-hours activities and parties. Only you know how to make the most of your time at re:Invent, but if we can offer some advice…be sure to get plenty of sleep and avoid sleeping in, getting to sessions late or worse…skipping out on morning sessions entirely. Especially when it comes to the keynote sessions on Wednesday and Thursday morning!
AWS CEO, Andy Jassy, will present the Wednesday morning keynote, while Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels, will present on Thursday morning. Both Keynotes will be full of exciting product announcements, enhancements, and feature additions as well as cool technical content and enterprise customer success stories. Don’t be the last to know because you inadvertently over slept and/or partied a little too hard the night before!
Customers don’t need to reserve a seat in either of the keynotes, however, there is a cap on the number of attendees who can watch the keynote in the keynote hall. Keynotes are offered on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to get there early.
Expert Tip: If you don’t want to wait in line to sit in the keynote hall, AWS will have many options for watching the keynote in overflow rooms. If you’re still groggy from the previous night’s events, the overflow rooms are an ideal place where you can watch the keynote with a bloody mary, mimosa, or coffee.
6. Avoid Being Anti-Social
AWS re:Invent is one of the best locations to network and connect with like-minded peers and cloud experts, discover new partner offerings and, of course, let loose at the quirky after-hours experiences, attendee parties, and partner-sponsored events.
Avoid being anti-social by taking advantage of the many opportunities to network with others and meet new people. AWS has some great activities planned for conference goers. To help you play hard while working harder, here is a list of all the fun activities that are planned for re:Invent 2017:
When: Sunday, November 26, 12PM-6PM
Where: The Venetian
Robocar Rally Mixer
When: Sunday, November 26, 6PM-10PM
Non-Profit Hackathon Mixer
When: Sunday, November 26, 7PM-9PM
Where: The Venetian
When: Sunday, November 26, 10:30PM-1AM
Where: The Venetian
AWS re:Invent 4K
When: Tuesday, November 28, 6AM-8AM
Where: The Mirage
When: Tuesday, November 28, 5PM-7PM
Where: The Venetian & The Linq Lot
When: Tuesday, November 28, 5PM-7PM
Where: The Linq Lot
Cyclenation Spin Challenge
When: Wednesday, November 29, (three timeslots) 7AM, 8AM, 5PM
Where: The Mirage
When: Wednesday, November 29, 5:30PM-7:30PM
Where: MGM Grand & The Venetian
When: Wednesday, November 29, 5:30PM-7:30PM
Where: MGM Grand & The Venetian
2nd Watch After Party
When: Wednesday, November 29, 9PM-12AM
Where: Rockhouse at the Palazzo
Click here to be added to the 2nd Watch After Party Waitlist (see “What to Avoid #3 above if you’re hesitant to be waitlisted)!
When: Thursday, November 30, (three timeslots) 7AM, 8AM, 5PM
Where: The Mirage
When: Thursday, November 30, 8PM-12AM
Where: The Park at the Linq Lot
Expert Tip: Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards. With so many people to meet, opportunities to connect with peers and experts, and after-hours parties to attend, you’ll want to make sure to pack extra cards to avoid running out early in the week. When you receive a business card from someone else, try to immediately take a photo of it with your smartphone and save it to a photo album dedicated solely to networking. This will ensure that you have the details stored somewhere should you happen to misplace an important contact’s business card.
7. Avoid Forgetting to Pack That All-Too-Important Item
Whether you’re staying at The Venetian, Mirage, Encore, or other property, your hotel room will be your home away from home for nearly an entire week. Of course, every hotel will have in-room amenities and travel essentials, but inevitably, we all will forget that one important item that we won’t be able to live without, especially for an entire week. Our experts have pulled together a check list to help you pack for your trip and ensure you have all the comforts of home and office during your week in Vegas.
Your Favorite Toiletries:
Not everyone is in love with the in-room toiletries that hotels have to offer in each of their suites. If you have a favorite, be sure to bring it. Here is a quick list to ensure you don’t forget something:
- Shave Cream
- After Shave
- Hair Styling Products (if that’s your thing)
- Contact Case & Solution
- Spare Pair of Contacts
- Cologne/Perfume/Body Spray
Whether your headache or hangover cure calls for Aspirin, Ibuprophen, or something stronger, it’s a good idea to pack your preferred treatment along with any other first aid remedies and prescription medications you might need. Band Aids, blister protectors, and anti-histamines are also recommended.
Chapstick & Lotion:
It is the desert, after all, and with dry air circulating throughout the venues, your skin (including your lips) is bound to dry out. We recommend bringing medicated Chapstick and fragrance-free lotion (fragrances in most lotions can often dry out your skin even more!) and keeping a spare with you at all times.
Breath Mints and/or Mint-flavored Gum:
No explanation necessary.
This is a repeat from one of our other tips but an important one to remember, so we don’t mind mentioning it again.
Chargers & Battery Packs:
Nothing is worse than being in between sessions with a 10% cell phone or laptop battery and realizing you left your chargers back in your room. We recommend bringing at least two phone chargers and two laptop chargers: One for your room and one for the backpack or briefcase you’ll be carrying throughout the conference. Additionally, while there will be several charging stations throughout re:Invent (and outlets on most every wall), it’s a good idea to bring a battery pack with several hours of charging time just in case you can’t find an open spot to plug in.
You will definitely want to stay hydrated throughout the week, and the tiny cups offered at the water stations just won’t quench your thirst quite the way you will need them to. It’s a good idea to pack a water bottle (we recommend one that can hold 17 oz) so that you avoid having to refill often and have plenty of thirst-quenching liquid to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
Your shoes will be your saving grace by the end of each day, so be sure to bring a pair or two that you feel comfortable walking several thousands of steps in.
While business casual attire is often recommended at re:Invent, there can be many interpretations of what is appropriate. Our advice is to pack clothing that you would feel confident wearing should you run into your boss or someone you wish to impress. Jeans are perfectly acceptable in either case, but make sure to use good judgement overall when selecting your attire for sessions, dinners and parties you plan to attend.
In addition to needing cash for meals on the go, bar tabs or that faux diamond-encrusted figurine you’ve been eyeing in the gift shop, you’ll want to bring a little extra cash if you plan to try your luck at the casinos. There are ATMs on the casino floors, but they typically charge a service fee in the amount of $3-$5 in addition to your bank’s own service fees.
Notebook & Pen/Pencil:
It’s always a good idea to bring a good ole’ fashioned notebook with you to your sessions. Not only is it a fail-proof way to capture the handy tips and tricks you’ll be learning, it’s also the quietest way to track those notable items that you don’t want to forget. Think about it – if 100 people in your breakout session were all taking notes on a laptop, it would be pretty distracting. Be bold. Be respectful. Be the guy/gal that uses paper and a pen.
A Few Final Thoughts
Whether this is your first trip to AWS re:Invent or you’re a seasoned re:Invent pro, you’re sure to walk away with an increased knowledge of how cloud computing can better help your business, tips and tricks for navigating new AWS products and features, and a week’s worth of memories that will last a lifetime. We hope you make the most of your re:Invent 2017 experience and take advantage of the incredible education and networking opportunities that AWS has in store this year.
Last but certainly not least, we hope you take a moment during your busy week to visit 2nd Watch in booth #1104 of the Expo Hall where we will be showcasing our customers’ successes. You can explore 2nd Watch’s Managed Cloud Solutions, pick up a coveted 2nd Watch t-shirt and find out how you can win one of our daily contest giveaways—a totally custom, totally rad 2nd Watch skateboard!
Expert Tip: Make sure you get time with one of 2nd Watch’s Cloud Journey Masters while at re:Invent. Plan ahead and schedule a meeting with one of 2nd Watch’s AWS Professional Certified Architects, DevOps, or Engineers. Last but not least, 2nd Watch will be hosting its annual re:Invent after party on Wednesday, November 29. If you haven’t RSVP’d for THE AWS re:Invent Partner Party, click here to request to be added to our waitlist. We look forward to seeing you at AWS re:Invent 2017!
-Katie Ellis, Marketing Manager