Tung Nguyen
Founder at BoltOps
San Francisco, USA

This guide is for attendees looking for sessions focused on containers at AWS re:Invent 2018. It tries to group the sessions in the same hotel for the same day to minimize travel time. It also tries to choose different hotels on different days so you get a chance to explore and enjoy the different venues. Session locations can change though, so be sure to check the session catalog for the latest updates on their final location.

Monday

  • CON310 - Breaking Containers: Chaos Engineering for Modern Applications on AWS
    Have always enjoyed Adrian Cockcroft’s talks. Adrian was formerly the Chief Architect at Netflix and was a big driver behind Netflix's move to AWS. He now works at AWS. It's worth it to see at least one session where he’s presenting during re:Invent.
  • DEV303 - Instrumenting Kubernetes for Observability Using AWS X-Ray and Amazon CloudWatch
    X-Ray provides an easy way to monitor application traces quickly. I’ve noticed that X-Ray has recently been rolling it out to more and more AWS products. For example, to enable X-Ray monitoring for API Gateway, it’s now a single checkbox on the console. So thinking X-Ray will become more important in the AWS world. Interested in how the Kubernetes world is leveraging the same X-Ray performance monitoring tool in the container world.
  • GPSCT309 - Accelerating Customer Workloads Through Containers
    There’s Amazon ECS, Amazon Fargate, and Amazon EKS. There so many options for running containers on AWS that it can be confusing for newcomers. This session provides an overview and useful comparison between the services for those learning and deciding on which option to go with. It also offers tips for taking a traditional application and containerizing it.

Tuesday

  • ARC214 - Using Containers and Serverless to Deploy Microservices
    Two popular choices for running microservices in today’s world are containers and serverless technology. This talk sounds interesting because it’ll talk about both of them. It’s interesting to see both perspectives to help decide which one is the better fit for an application.
  • CON201 - Building Microservices With Containers on AWS
    Microservices and containers are a match made in heaven for many applications out there. Docker has provided a standard binary format which companies are using to deploy their application with consistency. We also get the additional container density benefit that saves costs. In a world of microservices, it becomes more important to use our resources more effectively. This session sounds like an excellent general introduction to the world of Microservices with containers on AWS.
  • CON334 - Operations for Containerized Applications
    Interested in the CI/CD and infrastructure provisioning tooling part of this session. Building and deploying Docker containers from your machine is great for local development when the focus of your work is on the Dockerfile. But when the attention of your work is on the application development side, the build and deploy process should really be happening remotely in a CI/CD pipeline. Guessing that CodeBuild and Code Pipeline will be seen here.

Wednesday

  • NET410 - Workshop: Deep Dive on Container Networking at Scale on Amazon EKS, Amazon ECS, & Amazon EC2
    This is an advanced deep dive session into container networking. Bring your laptop for this one. With Docker on AWS, there are 2 main networking options: awsvpc and bridge. Awsvpc mode allows for more fine grain security group control and bridge mode allows for the use of dynamic port mapping. Both have pros and cons and which one you should use depends on the use case. Also, EKS and ECS networking work a little differently since EKS has an extra pod networking control layer.
  • DEV201 - Remove Undifferentiated Heavy Lifting from Jenkins
    An excellent use case for ECS is with Jenkins. Once your Jenkins environments become popular with your team and everyone starts automating more you’ll end up needing additional Jenkins slave nodes. This usually becomes a pain to manage. Leveraging Amazon ECS for the worker tier simplifies the heavy lifting and scaling of Jenkins.
  • CMP201 - Better, Faster, Cheaper – Cost Optimizing Compute with Amazon EC2 Fleet #savinglikeaboss
    EC2 Spot Fleet is a game changer when it comes to using EC2 Spot. This session sounds like it’ll cover a little bit of ECS also. EC2 Spot Fleets and ECS are a perfect fit together. Because of the speed of spinning up new containers, we can take advantage of the spot 2-minute warning and move them between Spot Fleet instances. This is one of the keys to building a highly available architecture with Spot and ECS. Spot fleets are definitely worth your time to learn about.

Thursday

  • DEV309 - CI/CD for Serverless and Containerized Applications
    Deciding to run your application on serverless and or containers is part of the story. The other part is making sure that developers do not have to spend time thinking about how to deploy their applications out to development or production. This is where we can automate things with CI/CD solutions and take away the need to think about these things for developers. AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, and AWS CodeDeploy are all making appearances in this session.
  • CMP403 - Running Amazon EKS Workloads on Amazon EC2 Spot Instances
    This is one of my favorite infrastructure setups: a highly available containerized architecture that runs on EC2 spot. Been running these types of workloads myself on with ECS for up to a ridiculous 90% savings of on-demand EC2 prices, without having to commit to instance types like reserved instances. Interested to see the architecture pattern in the EKS world.
  • CON411 - Management and Operations for Amazon EKS
    EKS requires some hands-on experience to learn how to operate and manage it. Bring your laptop and get that valuable experience. Learning this at re:Invent is a great use of time because you can get help and questions answered right then and there.

Friday

  • DEV336 - Microservices Insights with AWS X-Ray
    In a microservices world with Docker containers, we’ll run into a different set of debugging and tracing problems. X-Ray provides an easy way to debug and trace errors. Learning how to debug your errors more effectively can save you plenty of time down the road. So it's likely worth your time to check out and learn X-Ray.
  • DEV311 - Breaking Observability Chaos: Best Practices to Monitor AWS Cloud Native Apps
    This session covers how to debug with X-Ray. Though the session showcases an IoT application instead of a containerized application, the X-Ray part will be useful. Both containerized and IoT applications are distributed in nature. With distributed applications, you must use tools to debug and trace down errors. It quickly gets old if you’re taking the traditional approach of SSHing to servers to track down errors. Tools like CloudWatch and X-Ray make you more efficient.
  • API307 - Deploy a Resilient and Cost-Effective App with EC2 Auto Scaling and CI/CD
    This session talks about some AWS essential foundational patterns with CI/CD and AutoScaling. This remains a popular session because it provides fundamental AWS knowledge. If you’re newer to AWS it is an excellent fundamental session before diving into the worlds of containers.

Tips

  • Tip 1: Sessions have different levels: 100s, 200s, 300s, and 400s. 100s are an introductory level and 400s are a super advanced level. So if you’re familiar with a specific AWS service and want to learn more, then skip the 100s and 200s and go straight for the 300s and 400s. If you are looking for introductory sessions then the 100s and 200s are right up your alley.
  • Tip 2: Plan for the sessions you want to attend to be in the same hotel for that day. The map might make the hotels seem close, but these are Vegas blocks we’re talking about here. The travel time between hotels will dramatically eat into your session schedule. Choose a hotel for the day and stick to it if possible. The agenda provided above actually attempts to do this.
  • Tip 3: Show up early for the sessions. The lines can be long, and the rooms get packed quickly. You might be out of luck if you don’t show up little early. Fortunately, AWS is planning many repeat sessions this year, but I would still plan to show up early just to be safe.
  • Tip 4: You can plan and schedule your session agenda with the re:Invent mobile app or website. The mobile app provides meeting room maps for the different hotels. Download the mobile app and plan the sessions you want to attend ahead of time.
  • Tip 5: Attend or stream the keynotes. Though it's packed, the keynotes are 100% worth it. This is one of the main reasons to attend the conference. AWS makes significant announcements during the keynotes and simultaneously updates the catalog with additional sessions for the newly announced products or features. This is a good time to add and update your session agenda also.

Have fun! I found that just being physically at the conference, you will learn through osmosis. So don’t forget to have some fun at the event.