I saw the future at AWS reInvent

I spent last week in Las Vegas at AWS reInvent. It was my first visit and was very different from the other conferences I’ve been to in the last couple of years.

The food was terrible, the sessions and hallways were uncomfortably packed, and we didn’t have the fast-track access to product managers and other experts that I’ve become accustomed to at other conferences (Thanks, account teams!), but it quickly became one of my favorite events.

The attendees seemed equally split between startups and enterprise – from single person companies to behemoths like GE and CapitalOne. And they were mostly dev and devops. Unfortunately, they were almost entirely white and male, but I have hope that is starting to change.

You will be replaced by a very small shell script

I talked to very few people in traditional infrastructure roles. This was a conference for the new guard. These are the people who are building the future of IT – a future that has little need for sys admins and network engineers. Those jobs will still exist for a while, but they’ll get pushed further into the fringes: small business services and cloud-vendor/ISP back-offices.

Everyone seemed excited. They were making things and focused on what the world will look like tomorrow and how they need to meet those challenges. Even the enterprise folks were launching full bore into the future. They seemed hyper-aware of the risks of traditional enterprise IT sluggishness. “Our business cannot afford to keep doing things the same way.”

Sure, there were buzzwords and the standard marketing pitches, but for the most part, people were able to back it up. When someone said “big data” I generally had the impression they knew what they were talking about.

These attitudes were universal across both AWS employees, vendors, and attendees. Everyone got it. Everyone was on board. They’re pulling away from the station and leaving everyone else behind.

It was an exciting place to be and I came away from it feeling stronger than ever that traditional IT folks(including myself) need to rapidly adapt to the new landscape or find a new career. I got home and spent a significant portion of the weekend brushing up on my Ruby skills.

Glued to the past

Comparatively, at other conferences and events this year, I’ve seen companies completely lost as to where they should head. Some have plans to buy their way forward without a cohesive strategy other than “follow-the-buzzword” and I mourn for each acquisition.

Others are crippled by their legacy customers and internal division. They have good intentions (and plans) to move forward but struggle with execution. A good idea would be put on display followed by shouts of terror from the audience (“Witchcraft! Heresy! Burn them!”). I saw product managers with their face in their hands and have great empathy for them.

I got the same reactions when I talked to attendees about what I considered to be relatively conservative ideas like cloud identity and Desktops-as-a-Service.

“Whatever, fancy wizard. If my baby turns into a goat, I’ll come find you.”

That, honestly, gets a little disheartening when you hear it all the time.

But reInvent got me recharged. I’m going to continue to move forward and pull everyone I can with me. No more servers, no more managed devices, no more unwieldily corporate IT.

There’s a great big beautiful world out there, full of potential and interesting problems to solve. Let’s go build awesome stuff together.

Image Credit: Tom Simpson