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👋 Hey! My name is Wojciech Gawroński, but others call me AWS Maniac.

My goal is to safely guide you through the cloudy and foggy space of the AWS portfolio.

I have watched 155 AWS re:Invent 2020 talks, so you can watch just the best ones...

8 min read, last updated on 2021-02-11

Problem Statement

If you have lived under a rock for the last 3 months, I feel obliged to remind you that AWS re:Invent 2020 lasted 4 weeks and generated more than 800 videos in their YouTube channel. I am not a pessimist, but a well-inform realist, so I knew that there is no way to catch up, having such a mountain of content behind your back.

Instead, I have re-organized my time in December 2020 and January 2021 to watch as many talks as possible. I have managed to stop the counter at 155, which is a ton of content - some of that definitely worthwhile, and some being … not worth it at all, to put it mildly. 💩

Before even starting the process, I have decided to do this as a reliable project that will give me an excellent ROI (return of investment) - so I made notes, comments, even my own rating system. Why? To share it and document how I learn, in public.

The whole process of extracting the ratings and notes was not painful. However, it’s wasn’t trivial as well. How have I done that? You can read about it here. I can give you a small teaser now: I have used a newly released service called AWS Glue DataBrew.

You may say: Yeah, yeah - we’ve got it. You have recommendations for us. Share them! Sure, will do - but first, I want to present you my assumptions, which gives you a glimpse of what you can expect.


In the beginning, I had to admit that I am picky.

First, I prefer working with data, so anything from AWS Databases and AWS Data Analytics topics comes first. Then, I focus on services and talks that are fitting the serverless umbrella term. Last but not least: anything related to the new services. In the end, I have decided to form a bonus list created from the mixed content from the other categories.

However, being picky is not as bad as being demanding. If I see a talk 400 or 300, my expectations are set on a really high level - it’s not related to a flawless execution or delivery, but the meat and juice. 🍖 If I am spending 30-45 minutes, I want to learn as much as I can.

A few additional constraints:

  • No keynotes nor leadership sessions.
    • Only sessions that are available on-demand later.
  • If you have read the post about data preparation (aka backstage), you know that my rating is from 0 to 10.
    • I have decided to not waste anybody’s time for any talk rated below 7.

Knowing the prerequisites, I have selected the top 5 presentations from a given category and collected them in a section below, together with my rating and commentary.

Final results inside AWS Glue DataBrew


Let’s do it!

AWS Databases

As a first category, my favorites - videos about AWS Databases portfolio:

  1. Amazon DynamoDB Advanced Design Patterns - Part 1 and Amazon DynamoDB Advanced Design Patterns - Part 2 by Rick Houlihan.
    • I will treat those talks like one - because it’s a must-see. Pace, pragmatism, covered topics - one of the best presentations during AWS re:Invent 2020. 💎 For anybody that is either using or planning to use Amazon DynamoDB.
  2. Deep dive on Global Database for Amazon Aurora by Tobias Ternström.
    • Another 400 level talk that I wanted! Great talk, worth watching - I enjoyed it and learned a lot.
  3. Deep dive on Amazon Aurora with PostgreSQL compatibility by Grant McAlister.
    • Great talk! Worth watching, and I have learned a lot here.
  4. Deep Dive on PostgreSQL databases on Amazon RDS by Jim Mlodgenski.
    • Great talk! I love it. The amount of details and insights is overwhelming yet still very actionable and easy to grasp.
  5. Deep Dive on Amazon Aurora with MySQL compatibility by Murali Brahmadesam.
    • Great talk! If you are into AWS Databases and database internals definitely a worthwhile one.

AWS Data Analytics

Now it’s time for my another favorite category - anything related to the AWS Data Analytics:

  1. Building Real-Time Applications using Apache Flink by Steffen Hausmann.
    • Great Talk! Highly recommended for anybody interested even remotely in the topics of Apache Flink or Amazon Kinesis Data Analytics.
  2. AWS re:Invent 2020: Deep dive on best practices for Amazon Redshift by Harshida Patel.
    • Great Talk! A lot of useful information, explanation, actionable advice. Finally, a 400-level talk that we all deserved. 😉
  3. Serverless data preparation with AWS Glue by Mehul A. Shah.
    • Great Talk! Excellent insights, especially for me - as confirmation of the observations that I have made during daily work with AWS Glue. I tried to include this in my online course Data Lakes on AWS (which is available in Polish 🇵🇱 only at the moment).
  4. How FINRA operates PB-scale analytics on data lakes with Amazon Athena by Janak Agarwal and Alain Menguy.
    • It’s a good talk - a lot of experience, solid use case, valuable knowledge.
  5. Gameloft: A zero downtime Data Lake migration deep dive by Frederic Nowak and Alexandru Voinescu.
    • It’s a good talk: solid use case, pragmatic approach, very insightful elements about the live migrations.


Since the release of AWS Lambda, every re:Invent conference covers a lot of ground related to the serverless services. The last event was no different, and those are definitely worthwhile:

  1. Understanding AWS Lambda streaming events by Adam Wagner.
    • Great talk! Highly recommended for everybody interested in serverless architecture or streaming workloads.
  2. Understanding state and application workflows with AWS Step Functions by Rob Sutter.
    • Amazing talk! Definitely a 400 level, worth watching - primarily if you work with AWS Step Functions.
  3. Scaling containers on AWS by Vlad Ionescu.
    • Perfect benchmark with exciting results: AWS Fargate rules! 💪
  4. Scalable serverless event-driven architectures with SNS, SQS & Lambda by Justin Pirtle.
    • A must-watch talk for Serverless aficionados!
  5. Building out a serverless application with Amazon QLDB by Matt Lewis.
    • One of the best sessions with a tremendous amount of information, actionable advice, and meat. 🍖

Newly Announced Services

In 2020, AWS announced many services (many of them has SageMaker in the name 😅). Many of those are still in Preview, or they are marked as Coming Soon. Such presentations are the only way to learn more about them. I can recommend those:

  1. Enable predictive maintenance for your industrial equipment by Kartik Dalal.
    • It is about Amazon Monitor. New launch, so definitely worth it - especially if those are your topics of interest. 😉
  2. Deep dive on AWS Glue Elastic Views by Akshat Vig and Almann Goo.
    • New Launch + Preview + AWS Data Analytics: for me, it’s a perfect combination to watch! 😍
  3. Amazon Lookout for Vision by Barath Balasubramanian, Shreyas Subramanian, and Maikel van Verseveld.
    • Another new launch is in Preview so it is the only chance to see it in practice.
  4. AWS Proton: Automating infrastructure provisioning & code deployments by Rafa Alvarez.
    • AWS Proton is one of the hottest announcements, so yeah - it’s worth seeing this talk!
  5. AWS Fault Injection Simulator: Fully managed chaos engineering service by Adrian Hornsby.
    • I think it is a good talk, plus it shows and describes a newly launched preview service in action!

Other Categories

This is a strange category - I have collected everything that does not fit in the categories above, but you can also see that it’s a weird mix, and some topics are not pragmatic. So, viewer discretion is advised 😂:

  1. What’s new with AWS CloudFormation by Shashank Prasanna.
    • Fascinating talk, very informative, and actionable for me, as I need that insight during the daily work with Amazon SageMaker.
  2. Implementing MLOps practices with Amazon SageMaker by Shelbee Eigenbrode.
    • Great talk! Definitely worth attention, and I have learned a ton about practical Amazon SageMaker usage.
  3. Turbocharge the AWS CDK with AWS Solutions Constructs by Ryan Hayes.
    • Great talk! Very practical and actionable, highly recommended - especially for the people interested in AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK).
  4. AWS CDK: What’s new and what’s next by Jason Fulghum.
    • A good one! I really liked it. I have learned a lot about the process, open-source activities, and future plans for AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK).
  5. Deep dive on AWS Graviton2 processor-powered EC2 instances by Sudhir Raman and Arthur Petitpierre.
    • Excellent talk with a deep dive about benefits and real-world examples of how AWS Graviton2 and ARM-based processors can help.


For your convenience, I have collected all playlists in a single place. You can find all talks that I recommend per category listed above, not just the top five that I have presented there.

Obviously, I have not watched everything. 😅 So if you see a valuable talk that it’s not on my list please share it with me in the comments. I would love to learn what I have missed, add one more video to my pile of shame, and catch up eventually.

And last but not least: if you like what I did, maybe I inspired you, you agree with my recommendations, or you just think that this project is madness or I am a maniac (😂), please share this post in your favorite social media (and remember to tag me - afronski or afronsky are my handles). This will mean a lot to me! 🙇

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👋 Hey! My name is Wojciech Gawroński, but some people call me AWS Maniac. I am your trusted guide through the AWS Madness. If you want to learn more about me, you can start here.

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