Everyone even remotely interested in Amazon Web Services knows that re:Invent 2017 is fast approaching! I’ll be fortunate enough to be there and I’m very excited about it. I recently got to attend the AWS Summit in NYC and it certainly served as an hors d’oeuvre for the upcoming re:Invent. In previous jobs, I was the perennial first runner-up to travel to cool and exotic locales and I intend to make the most of this opportunity in Las Vegas…and, of course, I’m excited about re:Invent as well.

Amazon recently opened registration for events at re:Invent at precisely 5 pm EST Thursday, October 19. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in taking this very seriously, and I went as far as starting my work day an hour earlier and set an alarm on my phone at 4:58 pm. The whole thing had the feel of draft day for Fantasy Football (or insert your favorite team sport). I’ve taken part in fantasy drafts in football, baseball, soccer, and basketball. I suppose any competitive sport has them. I’m not sure about cricket but I’d be surprised if it didn’t (Far East colleagues, let me know!).

Building my draft board

So, amid the buildup and anticipation for re:Invent “draft day,” I began building a list of my “top draft picks” that I wanted to rush in and register for before the classes filled up. I decided that my top draft pick would be “Deep Dive on CloudFormation.” Infrastructure as code?! That remains, to me, one of the coolest thing ever and it warranted its place on my draft board. I also have a great interest in Direct Connect and have a high interest in some of the latest developments for this service. So, my number 2 pick was a bit of a no-brainer as well: “Deep Dive: AWS Direct Connect and VPNs.” Direct Connect is great and VPNs are still very useful, especially when used as a failover for Direct Connect. Think of VPNs as that grizzled veteran player coming off the bench when they’re needed.

As is typical with a fantasy draft (and re:Invent course registration), the selections are abundant and things become complicated. But I decided my number 3 pick would be anything to do with AWS and Netflix. Rounding out my top 5 were talks on Lambda and CloudFront. The AWS landscape is vast and changes quickly, but really diving into Lambda is very high on my to-do list for the upcoming year. And the power of CloudFront for distributing content makes it a worthy candidate in my top five.

Draft day

So the re:Invent “draft” was quickly approaching and I put on the hat and t-shirt of my favorite AWS Services (that’s an embellishment, but it goes well with the storyline). I briefly wondered what beer would be brought to you by CloudFormation but quickly realized I was still on the clock. I logged in to the re:Invent site with my two laptops and kept refreshing so I could be off and running when the re:Invent registration opened up. There was a lot of chatter on the company Slack channel about re:Invent, but I opted to keep a low profile, refrain from trash talk, and concentrate on the task at hand.

As promised, the registration opened right at 5 pm and I dove in. Apparently, there was some kind of glitch but I was sailing along. Number 1 CloudFormation, come on down, I got it! Number 2 Direct Connect, welcome aboard! Number 3 AWS and Netflix, aah a popular dude, probably worthy of a number 1 pick, and my first failure of the day. I finished strong and reeled in Lambda and CloudFront, as well as the underrated Kinesis. I was playing with house money now (hopefully the case when I get to Vegas) and filled out the rest of my roster nicely. All in all, I had a highly successful re:Invent “fantasy draft”.

My number one overall pick

Let’s take a look at my top pick CloudFormation (and what’s not to like):

  • You can create templates in both JSON and YAML
  • You can create stacks in the Management Console and from the CLI
  • CloudFormation Designer is an awesome way to view your existing stacks/templates, edit them, or create new stacks. This highly versatile feature also assists greatly in specifying the relationships between elements in a VPC. You can isolate components and work with the code for just one component. Autocomplete will assist you greatly in working with the code for a component.
  • CloudFormer can help jump start your entry into CloudFormation templates by creating a template out of existing resources in your environment.

What about the practical application of CloudFormation? CloudFormation is a great tool for Disaster Recovery. You can have templates of your existing environment teed up and ready to go in the event of a disaster. Stack creation for most environments will take just minutes and will fall within all but the most aggressive RTO. That alone is a great reason to use CloudFormation templates for DR. But what about testing? These same templates are a great tool for DR testing. Many organizations require Disaster Recovery drills for compliance. CloudFormation templates can be used as part of your DR exercises to quickly spin up environments. Of course, there is no direct charge for CloudFormation, you are only charged for the resources created in your stack. Your DR exercise will generally take an hour or two to make sure everything is operational and the stack can be quickly deleted and you’ve just prepared your organization for disaster at a minimal cost.

Expert analysis on pick #2

My second “draft pick” Direct Connect is known for its speed, reliability, and security (not over the internet) among many other fine qualities. It’s an excellent choice for hybrid environments connecting on-premises resources to your cloud resources. But Direct Connect is continuing to improve and AWS has announced an exciting new feature: Direct Connect Gateway. In a nutshell, Direct Connect Gateway allows connectivity that spans VPCs in multiple regions. This feature will reduce complexity as well as cost and will help to ensure that Direct Connect remains a star in the AWS galaxy.

What’s your experience with re:Invent registration? What seminars are you most looking forward to attending? What are the services you are most excited about and would like to see Linux Academy feature in upcoming courses? Come see us at the Linux Academy booths (#737 and #738) at re:Invent – we’re excited to meet everyone and welcome your input on content you’d like to see us provide!

Want to see more of our top re:Invent picks?

Check out Linux Academy’s event guide for more info about some – ahem, extracurricular – activities that you won’t want to miss!

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