I flew out Monday night on the 8 PM JetBlue flight to Vegas for re:Invent. I wasn’t the sole passenger headed to the conference, and met people from a variety of local companies on the plane, including Acquia, Fiksu, MathWorks, Constant Contact, ThreatStack, CloudTP, Mobiquity, CloudHealth and more. I wore my AWS hoodie from last year’s re:Invent, which someone told me was like wearing the band’s t-shirt to their concert (in my defense it is surprisingly comfortable). After an uneventful flight, I checked into the Venetian and crashed.

My morning was kicked off with a chance meeting with a recent trial customer, followed by the AWS Partner breakfast, which was attended by 50+ people from a variety of different companies across the AWS ecosystem. The partner team had set up tables with different topics (e.g. AWS Marketplace, AWS Partner Program, etc…) staffed by subject matter experts who could answer questions for partners. It was a great format, and kudos to the partner team for making it an effective format for both new and existing partners. Something very positive has been happening in the partner team over the last several months, especially within the emerging partner team. Over the last couple years I think AWS has been stretched to keep up with their rapidly growing ecosystem, but recently seems to be getting a handle again on supporting partners.

After the partner breakfast, AWS kicked off the Amazon Partner Network (APN) Summit with a keynote. The APN summit has been traditionally the day before the official kickoff of re:Invent, and is a great place for ISVs, SIs, VARs, consulting partners, etc…, to network and discuss their challenges. The biggest announcements of the keynote were the rollout of an MSP program by AWS, and a commitment to double its spending on its partner ecosystem in 2015 (with go to market being one of the areas of investment). Andy Jassy delivered two strong messages in his keynote: the movement to the cloud is going to be big ("We are at the dawn of the biggest technology shift in our lifetimes"), and Amazon cannot do it without its investment in its partners and ecosystem. Both are a great message, and reinforce what I heard on my trip to Seattle a couple weeks prior.

There were a lot of great partner sessions to attend in the afternoon, which I skipped to do some networking. re:Invent affords an unparalleled opportunity to get time with customers, partners and prospective customers / partners. I grabbed a sushi lunch with AWS’s chief evangelist Jeff Barr, who had just crawled out of his blog writing cave after five weeks of heads down work. As an attendee, in many ways re:Invent is like a broadway play in which its easy to forget your entertainment is the result of months of hard work and preparation. Since re:Invent is where the vast majority of Amazon’s big announcements rollout, and Jeff is the person we all turn to to understand what they mean, he is one of many people in the critical path this time of year.

I networked the rest of the afternoon and helped get our booth ready for the opening of the exposition floor. I thought last year’s event had a large expo floor, but this year was at least double in size. The list of companies is really staggering, and includes a surprisingly large number of my company’s customers. I also saw a good Boston presence at the expo, with booths for companies such as Acquia, Cloudant, Basho, CloudTP, AppNeta, Brightcove, ThreatStack and more. I should give CloudTP a shout out for funniest booth, with a recliner and box of tissues for attendees to sit down and discuss their cloud problems. The biggest booths belonged to AWS, RightScale, CSC, GitHub, Trend Micro and Twilio. A CEO I know from a New York startup was expressing astonishment at the booth investment made by companies no larger than his.

At 5 PM the show floor opened and the crowds streamed in for food, drink and to look at what vendors were offering. I liked our location on the main strip right next to the developer lounge. We had good activity at our booth, with a huge diversity of job titles and market segments. I wandered from the booth the do networking periodically. I ran into about a dozen customers, several former colleagues, and several people I know from the AWS product management / solution architecture teams just walking the floor. The most unexpected person for me was running into John Scumniotales, who was my dev lead in my first job out of college (“the first scrum team”). We hadn’t seen each other in years, and it was fun to catch up. I forgot that he had done a startup with and we both worked at Easel with the current CEO of Apptio in Seattle. We also swapped our vague recollections of how the first standup actually really occurred.

After a day of expo craziness, I grabbed dinner and headed to my room to catch up on work. The best part about being an east coast person doing business travel to the west coast is you get to start your day on east coast startup hours (5 AM EST/2 AM PST), but get to finish your day on west coast startup hours (1 AM EST/10 PM PST). It’s like being able to work two jobs at once. ;)

I’m headed downstairs now for breakfast. Today is the first big day of re:Invent. The rumors are abound of a torrent of innovation AWS is unleashing, and I am looking forward to it all getting started.

Related posts: Day 2 at re:Invent, Day 3 at re:Invent