By Andy Ritter, Global Cloud Practice Director – ePlus Technology

AWS-GameDay-2022

We all know that experience is the best teacher, but everyday business experience doesn’t often provide the best environment for learning.

Increasing your capabilities on the job requires risk, and how many of us can risk an outage for the sake of becoming more skilled? Building lab environments can be useful, of course, but not always practical. Labs can take weeks or even months to construct—time that no IT professional can afford to burn.

That’s why AWS GameDay is such a golden opportunity for everyone looking to transform their business with Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s a collaborative learning exercise that tests skills in implementing AWS solutions to solve real-world problems. The gamified, risk-free environment provides a hands-on opportunity for technical professionals to explore AWS services, architecture patterns, best practices, and group cooperation.

Using highly-specific scenarios designed to emulate live environments, AWS GameDay presents attendees with challenges such as:

  • Deploying modern, serverless applications with resiliency and scale capabilities.
  • Securing your application with AWS-native toolsets.
  • Cost optimizing your deployments for efficient AWS usage.

AWS GameDay allows teams to select the challenges you want to address—you can truly choose your own adventure. Help is available, but no one will feed you the next steps or stand over your shoulder with an answer key. This is way more than a guided lab—GameDay offers challenges that actually develop capability.

At ePlus Technology, an AWS Advanced Tier Consulting Partner, we participated in an AWS GameDay event called the Unicorn Polo League (UPL). Teams were comprised of 30 of our Technology Leadership Council (TLC) members across cloud, data center, networking, security, and collaboration, all with a joint goal to sharpen their AWS skills and have some fun while doing it.

AWS GameDay provides real-world experience without real-world consequences. It’s also super fun, and our ePlus engineers can’t wait to go back for their next GameDay event.

How AWS GameDays Are Structured

AWS GameDay has multiple game portfolios with independent focus areas and different experiences. Each is unique in both the gameplay experience and the AWS services being leveraged.

For these reasons, we can target specific training needs by choosing the most appropriate GameDay type for the event. Examples include, but are not limited to, migration and modernization, security, and microservices.

In the Unicorn Polo League event we participated in, ePlus teams completed AWS-related activities to earn coins, purchase unicorns, and unlock levels with the goal to train and send their unicorns into polo matches against other teams. Bragging rights were at stake for the team that could win the most matches!

In the UPL format, each team can choose which path to take and which challenges to complete in order to progress through the game. All teams complete core components that increase in difficulty as levels are cleared. These core components leverage AWS services like AWS Lambda, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon CloudFront, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), and more.

As teams complete these components, they are able to buy and train more unicorns. For example, in one of the beginning core components, players get the opportunity to see how Amazon Route 53 can be used as a domain name service (DNS) to route users to a website and as a highly durable data store using a private hosted zone.

In addition to the core components, the UPL format has quests where most of the “choose your own adventure” style comes into play. Within quests, teams can independently choose the focus area they want to learn about. There are quests focusing on big data and analytics with Amazon Athena, AWS Glue, and Amazon EMR services. There’s a quest focusing on reinforcement learning and AWS DeepRacer. There are also quests that focus on serverless, application modernization, and several other domains.

As players complete quests, they unlock new levels in the core games to upgrade the ability to purchase and train more unicorns (and hopefully win more polo matches).

Each quest has a different level of difficulty and an expected time to complete. Teams need to best decide which ones to choose based on their interest level, the time it will take to complete, and how difficult it will be. Quests are an excellent way the AWS teams can create shorter adventures on specific AWS services that can be part of the wider gameplay.

With all of the components, teams are graded on how well their solutions are architected, following the AWS Well-Architected Framework. The closer the solutions follow Well-Architected best practices, the more points the teams will earn. This helps teams that spend extra time on having a quality solution vs. trying to get end results as quickly as possible.

Why AWS GameDay is Worth It

AWS GameDay builds upon what you learn in the AWS sandboxes by letting you experience failures and resolve obstacles in a risk-free environment. As a result, you come away with ideas for addressing all sorts of issues—security, compliance, automation, performance, reliability, and cost efficiency—in your own environment.

Teams engage in tasks not required by their daily job responsibilities, and you come away from the event understanding how previously unfamiliar services can drive business innovation.

The event allows people to break out of their day-to-day silos and work together across disciplines—a critical requirement for supporting a public cloud environment.

For our customers at ePlus, the only successful way to operate in AWS and deploy an application is with cross-team collaboration. But many customers find it difficult to facilitate partnership among their teams, many of whom don’t have the opportunity to truly interact and understand each team’s critical responsibilities necessary in driving success. GameDay effectively removes these barriers between functional teams.

The chance to collaborate was incredibly valuable for our teams at ePlus. “AWS GameDay was a solid team building event. The platform allowed for purposeful and educational interaction with the larger ePlus engineering team. This has had a tremendous positive impact on me, personally, and on ePlus’s ability to deliver for our customers,” says Paul Lenhard, Director of ePlus Global Security Services.

GameDay Helps ePlus Optimize Customers’ AWS Journey

We put a lot of time and effort into making sure ePlus engineers are the best and brightest for our customers. AWS GameDay offers an excellent hands-on experience that evolves the skill sets of our teams. This is true for even our most senior and experienced engineers.

ePlus has five Technology Leadership Councils (TLCs), each made up of roughly 10 engineers, one for each major discipline—cloud, data center, networking, security, and collaboration. These are our subject matter experts who investigate new solutions, technologies, and services for our customers. They develop the best practices and documentation standards that ensure our operational excellence.

Our AWS GameDay teams represented all five TLCs so that each team benefitted from different perspectives on approaches and technologies. That opportunity for focused, cross-discipline collaboration was priceless. Our TLC leaders emerged from the event buzzing with new ideas for providing value to our customers.

“The feedback has been so positive, with teams already talking about their next chance to participate in AWS GameDay,” says Lenhard.

If you’re interested in AWS GameDay, learn more about the fun, gamified, hands-on learning experience for AWS experts and beginners alike.

The content and opinions in this blog are those of the third-party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.

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