AWS Loft Gameday

So today it finally happened… AWS Gameday came to London and what an awesome time it was! I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had signed up for a session. And how epic it was today! I ended up getting to Old Street station way too early so I did a little rambling through Shoreditch where I ended up having breakfast. It was about half past 8 and the doors opened at 9AM. The loft this year was based out of White Rabbit Studio/Cafe. The signs weren’t totally obvious on where I needed to be but a little sign saying “AWS this way” eventually got me to where I needed to be.

Upon arriving at the event location and walking through the door I was greeted by one of the coordinators of the event who said that they were not quite ready but would be opening up on time. I scanned in at the front, looked around, and grabbed a table to start checking emails etc. I ended up setting next to a technical account manager for Amazon who was super friendly and got me talking about my AWS experience and asked me what I was looking for at this game day.

The day kicked off with a coffee and a small amount of conversation with other attendees. I started chatting with a software developer who was attending to see what AWS had to offer to help him with his tooling. After about 10 minutes we were ushered into the main room where we were asked to sit down with two other people we had not met before. I placed with the developer I met before moving into the main room and a network manager who was looking to broaden her knowledge and looking to bring AWS into her environment. Both of them had mentioned to me that they were looking to take their AWS certifications and that this event would help them do this. The presentation started with a quick talk from Ian Scofield and Joe Fontes who are Solution Architects at AWS. They briefed us that the event was being live-streamed (yes, live on Twitch) and about the format of the day focusing on how we would all be joining Unicorn Rentals.

From what I understood about about the scenario, it’s our first day as the DevOps lead at the “hot” startup Unicorn Rentals! Teams work to keep users (and the boss) happy and costs low by managing their infrastructure in a live AWS environment during this competitive event. Throughout the day, teams are challenged to build and maintain highly available and highly scalable solutions.

Scott Ward another SA came up onstage and kicked off the challenge. He ran through a few outlining details about what was going to happen, We jumped right into it with the Unicorn Rentals theme. We were welcomed with a staff orientation presentation which was very entertaining.

We logged into our AWS dashboard and read over the unicorn rentals tech handbook, which somewhat reminded me of how I tend to do things and scribble down my notes on documentation. The booklet had the various challenges that we needed to accomplish. Another task was to come up with a team name. We had collectively chosen the name BrokenArrows in reference to the film Broken Arrow. So the stage was set. We had our team name, we had an information pack, and we got started. The game day throws across what a typically AWS account would look like and goals that needed to be achieved. The main outcomes were to have a resiliant infrastructure, be able to serve our applications throughout the day while keeping costs a minimum, and also have fun.


Our team started off the day not being in the best place. I think throughout most of the morning we were in dead last with things “blowing up” all over the place but once we worked on load balancing and autoscaling we managed to lift ourselves out of the bottom of the table. It got to a point where I forgot it was a game and started thinking about how this would be handed in a real production environment. Also, throughout various parts of the day Scott would advise of changes that other departments at Unicorn Rentals would make, such as the networking team and software developers, which we had to react to accordingly.

Each of us in the team took over a role and what we would be looking after, so at any point when we needed to move focus we could do so without forgetting that our highly scalable platform was crumbling. As mentioned above I got to a point where I had totally forgotten that this was a game and was loving every minute of it. Another point to mention is that the other SA’s on hand were awesome to throw help when we were looking puzzled.

This is how we ended up looking at the end of the day which was fairly respectable and we walked away with the Rising Star award for bringing it back towards the end of session.

AS a side note, The live stream of the event was recorded and is currently on twitch – AWS Gameday

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