AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam Review

The AWS Certified Cloud Practioner Exam (CLF-C01) is an entry-level exam, 65 questions of multiple-choice, multiple response questions. The test is intended for individuals who have basic knowledge of the AWS platform and the available services, conceptual AWS cloud architectural principles, security, common use cases, and compliance.

The exam includes four domains; Cloud Concepts, Security and Compliance, Technology, and Billing and Pricing. Each section of the domain has a specific weighting, so some sections have more questions than others.

Domain% of Examination
Domain 1: Cloud Concepts26%
Domain 2: Security and Compliance25%
Domain 3: Technology33%
Domain 4: Billing and Pricing16%
TOTAL100%
AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) content

I recently sat and passed the AWS Cloud Practioner Exam and wanted to provide an overview of the exam, share with you my study resources and the outlook on the certification. 

What to expect

The exam’s primary focus will be on identifying the AWS core services like EC2, connection methods like AWS Direct Connect, EBS, S3 and S3 classes, CloudWatch, Trusted Advisor. The previous isn’t a comprehensive list but indeed services you should know. You will be tested on your understanding and identifying AWS-specific services. It would be best to understand how they work at a high level rather than understanding how to configure or deploy the services. Although, this would be an added value if you did. 

You will want to know the advantages of cloud computing the way AWS defines it. AWS defines six advantages of cloud computing:

  1. Trade upfront expenses for variable expenses
  2. Stop spending money to run and maintain data centers
  3. Stop guessing capacity
  4. Benefit from massive economies of scale
  5. Increase speed and agility
  6. Go global in minutes

Lastly, I recommend understanding the shared responsibility model.

The shared responsibility model divides into customer responsibilities (commonly referred to as “security in the cloud”) and AWS responsibilities (commonly referred to as “security of the cloud”).

You can think of this model as being similar to the division of responsibilities between a homeowner and a homebuilder. The builder (AWS) is responsible for constructing your house and ensuring that it is solidly built. As the homeowner (the customer), it is your responsibility to secure everything in the house by ensuring that the doors are closed and locked.

Study resources

To help you prepare for AWS exams, AWS has a training and certification section. Fortunately, the training for the AWS practitioner exam is free, and it’s fantastic. The AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course is roughly six hours if you read and watch the videos without taking notes. It would be best if you had an Amazon.com account as it is required to access the material. With note-taking, it took me about 20 hours to complete the course.

The video content is incredible. It offers a video transcript so that you don’t have to constantly rewind the video as you take your notes because of something you’ve missed.

Although you can pass the exam with this resource alone, I recommend David Tucker’s course, “Understanding AWS Core Services” on Pluralsight. I like this course because it solidifies your understanding of the services exposed during the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials training. It also has a section for you to try practice questions to gauge your readiness. I would do this after completing the AWS training material.

Outlook on CLF-C01

Today’s applications use cloud resources to provide the best in bread user experience, data quality, and high-availability. For the same benefits that the applications leverage the cloud, so do organizations and enterprises. It’s essential for us as engineers to design well-architected networks both on-prem and in the cloud. The skills obtained from working through the AWS Cloud Practioner Exam won’t make you a cloud architect alone. However, it will enable you to be comfortable speaking on cloud-specific technologies, why they exist, and some of the benefits over traditional on-premise technology.

AWS Cloud practitioner provides a tremendous foundational approach to cloud and AWS-specific services and products. It is a test that I recommend to any engineer.

Mike

Certification:. (2005). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-cloud-practitioner/

Aws training and certification. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.aws.training/Details/eLearning?id=60697

Tucker, D. (2021, February 04). Understanding AWS core services. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/understanding-aws-core-services

EoS and EoL roll-up for Cisco AirOS Wireless, ASA, and Switching

End of Sale and End of Life dates for AireOS Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers – AIR-CT-3504AIR-CT-5520AIR-CT8540AIR-CTVM 


End of Sale and End of Life dates for ASA 5506, 5512 & 5515, 5508 & 5516, 5525, 5545 & 5555, 5585-X, 5585-X FP

End of Sale and End of Life dates for Cisco Catalyst – 2960X/XR2960L/P3650SUP9E

Mike

Evolving Smart Licensing, what’s coming and when?

Does anyone else feel like they need a Ph.D. in Cisco licensing?! Good news is that there are some changes coming to help make our lives easier.

Most of you are likely familiar with Smart Licensing. However, you can go here if you need more information. During Cisco’s transition to subscription-based licenses, Smart Licensing (SL) was introduced. Cisco believed Smart Licensing would streamline the way customers activate and manage Cisco licenses across the organization. Transitioning from the traditional PAK based licensing method to SL wasn’t the only goal for Cisco. Amongst others, it served as a way to combat the grey market gear. The thought was that upon purchasing a product from Cisco, a Smart Account would be associated with the order, which in return would entitle the organization to their licenses, products, and services.

A Smart Account is hierarchical and serves as the top-level domain for the organization. You can further organize your Smart Account into sub-accounts, known as “Virtual Accounts.” It is very much structured, like a domain. A “DEFAULT” Virtual Account serves as your catch-all bucket and is persistent and can’t change.

After Cisco launched the new licensing model, they found that the customers purchasing processes became complicated, increased their operational overhead, and challenged their security practices. Therefore, Cisco took this feedback and decided they needed to evolve SL to be less detrimental. 

You can find the current list of Smart License enabled products here

Introducing Smart Licensing Using Policy

Starting with IOS-XE 17.3.2/17.4.1 all products running these versions of the software will only support Smart Licensing Using Policy. These currently include. 

  • Cisco Catalyst 9000 series switches. 
  • The routing platforms such as the ASR1K, ISR1K, ISR4K. 
  • The Next Generation virtual routers starting with Polaris IOS-XE release 17.4.1 
  • Cisco Catalyst 9800 Series Wireless Controllers and APs. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Next Generation platforms such as Industrial Router IR 1101, Industrial Ethernet IE
  • 3200/3300/3400 and any Next Gen IoT products will also adopt Smart Licensing Using Policy. 
  • Collaboration products; CUBE, SRST, and CME with their November release.

With Smart Licensing Using Policy you can expect: 

  1. The product will not boot in evaluation-mode (see screen shots below)
  2. per product software registration is not required
  3. And on-going communication every 30 days with Cisco isn’t needed.

Registering a device before use and on-going communication is going away. However, reporting to Cisco may still be a pain point. The good news? Reporting is only required if there is a change in software level for Perpetual or Subscription. Changing software levels doesn’t happen too frequently, so it may not be too big of an issue. 

For example, if you purchase a Catalyst 9120 access point with DNA Essentials from the factory and 30 days later, you realize you need EasyQoS. You’d have to change to DNA Advantage, which means you now need to report this change to Cisco. 

This change would need to be reported within 90 days to Cisco. 

What happens if you don’t? Most of the products will turn into a nag box, sending out syslog/alarm notifications. However, you should review the enforcement rules specific to the particular device to avoid potential interruptions.

You can find the enforcement rules per product here

Reporting

You can report to Cisco in a couple of different ways. 

1. New reporting utility called Cisco Smart Licensing Utility (CSLU): which is a small Windows application that can be configured to send the data to Cisco in with a push or pull operation. 

2. Cisco DNA Center controller with Cisco Smart Licensing Utility (CSLU): Cisco DNA Center has connectivity to Cisco Smart Software Manager (CSSM). Periodically, exchange information with Cisco to keep in sync with CSSM. 

3. Offline: where the data is taken off the device onto a storage and then uploaded into CSSM.

In the end, not having to register a product before makes sense but reporting may be still be cumbersome. I’m thinking theres a way you could script this with Python.

Here’s a screen shot of pre IOS-XE 17.3.2 and post IOS-XE 17.3.2.

Mike

Smart Software Licensing Overview. (2020, November 26). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/software/smart-accounts/software-licensing.html

Cisco DNA Software Subscription Matrix for Wireless. (2020, November 17). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/m/en_us/products/software/dna-subscription-wireless/en-sw-sub-matrix-wireless.html?oid=porew018984

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/products/collateral/software/smart-accounts/smart-licensing-feature-roadmap-by-pf-external-v20201102.xlsx

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://software.cisco.com/download/home/286285506/type/286327971/release/1.0.0-2

Networking Hype, Cisco’s SDWAN Catalyst 8000 Edge Platform

Cisco announced the Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms designed to accelerate the next generation of WAN, 5G, and enable connectivity to hybrid and multi-cloud applications. The Catalyst 8000 Edge Platform includes the 8500 Series for aggregation, Catalyst 8300 Serries for access, and Catalyst 8000V Edge software for virtual/cloud deployments.

The Catalyst 8000V will be available with Cisco SD-WAN 17.4, so you will have to wait just a bit longer.  

 It’s an “edge platform.” Not a router. 

Typically the Catalyst family line is analogous to Cisco switching; however, the branding and messaging align with Cisco’s intent-based networking (IBN) portfolio. The “Catalyst” name now unifies the LAN and the WAN.

With distributed locations, flexible deployment models, and hosting containerized services, the term “router” has evolved to be more of a WAN edge device. Calling these devices “edge platforms” versus “routers” seems to be more appropriate. 

The platform fits nicely into the Cisco SD-WAN portfolio as it addresses security, on-box, and support for Umbrella’s cloud base FWaaS. Cloud-native agility provided by Cloud OnRamp for IaaS and SaaS for distributed applications. (If you haven’t seen this in action, it’s eye-opening!) 

Expect other vendors to begin adopting these features into one solution as Gartner has already coined the term “SASE” (Secure Access Service Edge) pronounced “sassy” to describe the solution. 

In addition to the above, the edge platform functions as an edge router like you’d expect with some new beefiness to it. 

Catalyst 8300 Series, compared to the ISR 4400 Series offers:

  • Up to five times faster data plane performance 
  • Up to 12 Core CPU 
  • Native support for 10GE 

Catalyst 8500 Series, compared to ASR1001-HX and ASR1002-HX offers:

  • Improved data plane with Cisco’s custome 3rd gen ASIC Quantum Flow Processor (QFP)
  • Inline Cyrpto
  • Native support for 100GE and 40GE

Catalyst 8000v Series, compared to CSR1000V offers:

  • Support for up to 16vCPUs
  • 25Gbps Interfaces

and Many more

Lastly, there is no End-of-Life announcement for the previous platforms that the Catalyst 8000 line intends to replace, as of 10/20/20. I’d be willing to bet that these platforms adopt ThousandEyes at some point, which is an absolute game-changer.

Mike

Valente, Jean-Luc “Introducing the Catalyst 8000 Edge Family, Cisco’s New SD-WAN Platform” Oct. 20, 2020, Retrieved From https://blogs.cisco.com/networking/catalyst-8000-edge-platforms

Cisco “Cisco Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms Family” Oct. 20, 2020, Retrieved From
https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/routers/cloud-edge/index.html?ccid=cc001903

Lener, Andrew “Say Hello to SASE (Secure Access Service Edge)” Dec. 23, 2019, Retrieved From
https://blogs.gartner.com/andrew-lerner/2019/12/23/say-hello-sase-secure-access-service-edge/

AWS Well-Architected Framework

Businesses require more computing and networking resources to meet their current market and future growth trends than they may have anticipated only a few months ago. The lack of leasable space or the desire to build out existing data centers drive many to adopt a cloud or hybrid cloud deployment model. In fact, According to Amazon, one of the “Six Advantages of Cloud Computing” is to stop spending money running and maintaining data centers and focus on projects that differentiate your business (Sajee Mathew, 2014).

Unfortunately, overestimated cost-savings often overlook the value of cloud-accredited guidance. An enterprise must understand the associated trade-offs when architecting in the cloud. To assist in navigating these trade-offs, AWS has a Well-Architected Framework. 

Similar to Cisco Validated Design (CVD), AWS Well-Architected Framework is a set of best practices and strategies for architecting systems in the cloud. It emerged from AWS principal engineers working with customers during customer cloud architect reviews and defining best practices from those sessions. The Framework allows CTOs, architects, and developers to understand the trade-offs and risks when architecting in the cloud.

The Framework identifies a set of general design principles known as “pillars” and best practices to facilitate excellent design.   

The five pillars

  • Operational Excellence
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Performance
  • Cost Optimization

Each pillar has an associated white-paper that you can review in much more detail. I have mind mapped the AWS Well-Architected Framework and have made it available for your reference. 

If you need to understand how to align your engineering efforts with your business need or require a foundation of AWS best practices, I suggest starting with the Framework.

Amazon “AWS Architecture Center” (n.d), Retrieved From   https://aws.amazon.com/architecture/?nc1=f_cc

Sajee Mathew “Overview of Amazon Web Services” January 1, 2014, Retrieved From https://docs.aws.amazon.com/whitepapers/latest/aws-overview/six-advantages-of-cloud-computing.html

Mike