Serverless Days ANZ 2020 Retrospective

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The first ever Serverless Days ANZ event run on Friday September 4 and, boy, what a success it was! In this post I'll go into the online event in a bit more detail and look at some of the stats along with my highlights.

Apart, yet more together

From early 2020 the organisers of Serverless Days Sydney had been looking at running an event in the August time frame, but as we all know, a fair bit changed in the world between the start of the year and August!

As we worked through cancelling the in-person event we decided to look at running a virtual event and collectively decided to broaden the event scope given it would be online. To that end the serverless communities in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth came together to help plan and deliver what became Serverless Days ANZ 2020.

Local, but global

Once we made the decision to run a combined regional event we opened up the Call for Speakers via Sessionize who supported us for free with their community offer (thanks Sessionize!)

In 2019 the local in-person events had some great speakers, but the pool of submissions was fairly small and didn't necessarily represent the entire ecosystem of serverless technologies, platforms or use cases.

Well, in 2020, I can tell you we had a much richer set of submissions covering many platforms and subjects, with 42 speakers submitting 66 sessions which made it fun (but hard) to pick the best topics for the live streams. Our speakers came from all corners of the globe as well - South Africa, Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States!

Let's breakdown of the submitted sessions in a little more detail to give you some idea of what we had submitted.

Mature market and content

It can be hard to get the mix of introductory, intermediate and advanced content right at conferences, but with our submissions this year I think it's fair to say we focused primarily on the intended audience - those who are aware of, or using, serverless technology to the point they don't need a "Serverless 101" type talk. There's more work to do here in future, but our speakers for 2020 seemed to aim their talks at the right audience experience level.

Serverless Days ANZ 2020 Session Target Audience

My eyes, my eyes, my eyes!

After many months of working from home I think it's fair to say that screen fatigue is real. Keeping this in mind we aimed to have sessions run for no longer than 25 minutes and have a live Q&A. We had a small handful of topics submitted that fitted into longer slots, especially those like John Liu's keynote (more on that later).

We had a good mix of session types, with most falling into the 'Session' category at 30 minutes duration which meant speakers had time to dig into their topics. As we had a few lightning talks submitted that allowed us to break up the middle of the day to give attendees a bit more flexibility in sessions they could attend and maybe have a bit longer lunch break if that suited them.

Serverless Days ANZ 2020 Session Types

Broad brushstrokes

Finally, what a great spread of talk themes. Lots of good sessions were submitted around managing and deploying serverless solutions, along with the rapid growth of no code solution platforms like Azure Logic Apps and Power Automate Flow.

Serverless Days ANZ 2020 Session Themes

Diverse technology, but what about speakers?

We did alright, but there is still room to improve. This year's event had just over 25% speakers from diverse groups and I'm proud that the majority of those were talking about technology in the Microsoft ecosystem. We also had a range of experience levels in our speakers which is something that is important to help grow the pool of people who can present. Needless to say that the organisers goals continue to be to provide a space for new and diverse speakers.

Engaging attendees, not just talking at them

Given the number of sessions submitted and selected we decided to run two concurrent livestreams on the 4 September. Additionally there would then be a set of "on-demand" sessions from speakers whose content we loved but that we couldn't fit into a reasonable length day! You can see the resulting agenda on the Serverless Days ANZ 2020 website.

But.. we're all tired of just watching yet another video!

Most people have been stuck starting at a screen for most of 2020 so we wanted to do something a little different to provide that extra reason to hang out with us on the day. As a result the majority of talks had a live Q&As with the speaker, and I have to say that speakers came to the party on this and the result was some great discussions, including with some special guests (thanks for staying up late Jeff!!)

Livestream stats

We tuned our schedule to suit Australia and New Zealand time zones with the agenda laid out to have speakers join us for Q&A at something resembling a reasonable hour for them!

We peaked at 153 concurrent viewers of our main stream and 97 for our second track and stayed above 100 concurrent viewers (combined) for the entire day which is pretty amazing given the event was almost 8 hours long!

Since the event these two streams have been watched over 3,000 times (up until 16 September 2020) which I think shows the value of the sessions delivered on the day.

The Azure and Power Platform lens

Now clearly I'm a tad bit biased when it comes to content and while there was a great mix across all platforms and technologies, I was really happy to see the wide variety of content from people who work with either Microsoft Azure or Power Platform.

The one example I'm going to call out is John Liu's session on his serverless startup (Flow Studio Solutions) that focuses on managing Power Automate and Power Apps. I love what John is doing with serverless technology and it was fantastic to have him as the keynote speaker covering more than just the technical nuts and bolts of how his business hangs together.

This type of content really shows to me the maturation of the serverless technology ecosystem because people are building real world, money making solutions using it right now. Check out John's talk below.

Now I could flood the rest of this post with every speaker's video, but instead I would recommend checking out all the sessions delivered by these fantastic speakers:

As I said before, there is a great breadth to this content that includes no code solutions, AI solutions, parallel fan-out / in solutions as well as hyperscale NoSQL solutions with Cosmos DB and Azure Functions.

That's a wrap!

I'm going to close with a big thanks to the organisers of Serverless Days ANZ 2020 - Peter Hanssens, Monica Mendes Montanha, Matt Gillard, Andreas Mueller, Stephen Leidig, Elliot Wood, Bill Chestnut, Darshit Pandya and the team that helped run the event on the day!

See you all in 2021!