AWS re:Inforce 2019 review

Looking at new releases, sessions which I attended, comparison to re:Invent and overall value of the first-ever re:Inforce.

This year I attended re:Inforce, the first incarnation of AWS conference specializing in security. The conference was a two day event in Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

New releases

Amazon VPC Traffic Mirroring was probably the biggest new release in the event, but doesn’t touch my projects much. But, if you have systems for analyzing network traffic, this could be useful.

AWS Security Hub and AWS Control Tower are generally available. Haven’t yet tested much of these, but announced already in re:Invent.

Amazon EC2 Instance Connect was released in truth after re:Inforce, but should have been released during the conference. A new way to connect in case you don’t want to use Session Manager.

Attended sessions

Keynote by Stephen E. Schmidt, VP and CISO of AWS


The keynote speakers were great and overall the whole keynote was good. I would have liked to have more new releases, now the main content was importance of security and existing solutions.

GRC346 – DNS governance in multi-account and hybrid environments

Builder sessions were already available in the last years re:Invent, but it didn’t get into any of them. DNS is not really my main focus area, but interesting topic nonetheless. Still, probably leaving setup of this to network specialists.

The setup was a little bit let down, because the room was quite noisy with multiple builder sessions going on the same time and participants didn’t do much themselves. But, it was very easy to ask questions and there was good discussion between AWS architect and participants.

SEJ001 Security Jam

Hackaton / Jam was again a highlight of the event. Sadly, I was just in time in and hence didn’t have much time to talk with the team beforehand. The duration was actually 3,5 hours which felt a little bit short.

We had a three-person team, but we didn’t really achieve much synergy. At first, we decided everyone would begin as a solo player and ask help when needed. During the whole jam I worked with one other only for about one hour and the last one worked solo the whole time. We did call out some questions and answers to each other from time to time, but very minimal team work.

One lesson that I relearned again was to double check everything. In one task, there needed to be a private endpoint for API Gateway. In security jams, some of the setup is already done for you. So, when I checked the list of private endpoints and there was one, I thought that it was the correct one. But it was for AWS Systems Manager and therefore I would have needed to add a new one.

AWS has been improving the platform so that companies can request access to either AWS architect or company own personnel lead jams. Going to look into this and maybe holding an internal jam. But the cost was unclear and number of interested colleague was low last time that I tried to hold a GameDay.

Other sessions:

I also attended one lecture type session, one workshop and couple of chalk talks. To keep the length of the post manageable, I will skip them. But, feel free to ask about them.

Other activities

Security Hub (Expo)

Expo floor

Many of the partner solutions were of course about web firewalls etc., which aren’t the main interest for a data developer/architect. But there were also companies about data masking, encryption and audit trails. I have received many follow up emails and phone calls after the event. Luckily, many of them are interesting even though might not have a use case right away.


There was multiple unofficial after parties at Tuesday evening, but I only attended Nordic gathering sponsored by AWS. Quite small gathering, but made discussion easier. Most of the evening there was two from Sweden and one from Finland at my table, but couple of others visited.

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Closing reception was really informal with food, drinks and games inside the conference center and outside in a lawn. Very nice, but not the best setup for me network. I did exchange couple of words with the people I met in the Nordic gathering.

Comparison to re:Invent

From my point of view, one major reason for attending for re:Invent to be able to hear and question AWS about brand new systems that only selected companies have been able to test with strict NDAs. Even if they aren’t right away available in Europe, you know the basic capabilities of the system and can plan for the future. And usually the technical people giving workshops and sessions give much more honest opinions compared to marketing material released about the service. This was mostly missing from re:Inforce, because only Amazon VPC Traffic Mirroring was completely new service.

Good thing was that having everything in one place made logistics much easier and there wasn’t so much moving around. The expo was also much smaller and interesting companies were easier to find.

Re:Invent has four main days and two shorter ones. Compared to that, two days of re:Inforce is quite short time. You don’t get familiarity of the location which would make moving around faster and you don’t have time to reorganize calendar if you would like to learn more about a certain topic. Also, from a traveling perspective, travel vs conference ratio is much worse with re:Inforce.


First feelings after the conference was that it was ok, but it has risen to good level after some thinking about it more objectively. The first impression came mostly because I was automatically comparing re:Inforce to re:Invent. In that comparison re:Inforce is lacking in multiple areas. But, if we are looking at re:Inforce objectively there was quite a lot to learn and meeting of new AWS users. And to some, shorted length and cheaper tickets might make it possible possible to attend where re:Invent isn’t a possibility.

If attending again, I should keep more free time in the calendar and participate in the background events like ongoing security jam and capture the flag. Also, more planning beforehand, because conference being only two days there really isn’t much time to reorganize days during the event.

The next re:Inforce will be in Houston, but the feedback form had a question for re:Inforce outside USA. So, there might be hope for one in Europe at some time in the future.

Additional reading

Got a laptop case with badges from AWS booths.