Thoughts from AWS re:Invent 2019

This week, I was at AWS re:Invent 2019.

It was the usual mass of humanity pitted against each other for space and mind-share. Then you add the vendors and talking heads… and it’s pure pandemonium.

And yet …we all go.

These are some random observations, from my four days in Las Vegas.

  • I continue to be disappointed in how people present themselves, mostly the attendees but this applies in general. If you’re a speaker or other professional — dress up. You don’t have to wear a suit, but at least throw a button-down on so you stand out. So many people can’t even seemingly bother to adhere to some basic rules of personal grooming, or can’t be bothered to put on a decent button-down shirt. No, your camo shorts and frayed t-shirt aren’t appropriate even if you’re a “developer” … respect yourself and others enough to at least dress up a little in public. Grow up and be an adult. Take a shower, look in a mirror … how disappointing.
  • There aren’t many decision-makers at these things… I mean yes there are some, but it’s unlikely you’ll get someone that has authority to talk to. That’s disappointing to the endless sea of vendors hocking wares and services — they’re there to sell. There just aren’t many buyers, which makes me wonder if the conference is way over-committed, or vendors are that desperate to find anyone, anywhere, to talk to about their kit. In the several dozen conversations over 3 days on the show floor, I realized I was mostly talking to other vendors/providers, or someone who wasn’t going to be able to affect change. That’s disappointing on a professional, and personal, note.
  • There were a lot of security vendors this year. In fact, there were significantly more than I expected as I walked around.
  • So many features, masquerading as product companies. I assume these start-ups and small companies are not really selling to individual buyers, but rather to other vendors. “The Feature Economy” is what I’ve been calling this mess… don’t get me wrong I understand the role features play in raising the bar but when you’ve got 5 distinct booths that have made a company out of a single feature — that’s concerning. One or two will likely be swallowed up by a bigger company, another one will survive as an ankle-biter for a while, and the other two will disappear. This isn’t alarming, except that the attendees I spoke with didn’t seem to understand this without a more in-depth discussion. That concerns me. Because as the CISO or security leader, or someone else in a leadership position I suppose, you are going to be getting a fragmented buying experience at a time when you’re trying to consolidate vendors. Also, good luck trying to buy the one that won’t fail.
  • Vendor pitches masquerading as thought leadership — OK so this isn’t anything new but the fact that it persists is annoying. Kids, if you’re sitting down at some vendor’s booth to hear “thought leadership” and you don’t have your bullshit detector turned up to 11, you’re doing it wrong. Always be wary…always. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t value there, but hell, some of the ones I listened to this week were staggeringly blatant sales pitches.
  • There was a noticeable absence of the ‘tech giants’ of the security space. Yes, Cisco and Trend were there… I suppose McAfee had some minor presence too… but where was Symantec? Where were the other big ones? I wonder if it’s that big security companies don’t see the security buyer at the conference so they don’t attend, or if they simply see no value in exhibiting, or if it’s something else?
  • Security OGs are moving on to solve other problems. I met up with at least two people I know from the way past that are now working in non-security roles, in non-security companies. After a few long conversations, it turns out that they were just sick of the echo chamber, and wanted to go try and solve a problem in an adjacent industry that they thought could leverage their skills. If this turns into a trend the security industry could be in trouble.

I was going to comment on swag but I didn’t bother doing the rounds this year to look for any.

Oh, and the Trend Micro party at Tao was fantastic…if you missed that one you may commence kicking yourself. Food, excellent. DJ, excellent. Venue, excellent.

That’s it, until next time… be safe out there.

I’m Rafal, and I’m a 20+ year veteran of the Cyber Security and technology space. I tend to think with a wide-angle lens, and am unapologetically no-bullsh*t.

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