AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam Review

I recently took the AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam bringing me my third fundamental cloud certification after CompTIA Cloud+ and AWS Cloud Practitioner. Not a bragging moment; I mean, they’re entry-level exams after all.

I am, however, advocating for one certification over the rest. Not to completely derail us, but the AWS Cloud Practitioner is by far the way to go out of the three exams. The complimentary exam resources and their content are superior to the other two. Does this make me an AWS fanboy? Unsure. But the content was logically laid out, the speakers and visual aids were excellent, and I learned a lot. I haven’t taken the GCP test yet, so that could change things for me, but as of today, I’d recommend your first cloud certification be the AWS Cloud Practitioner. I digress; let us move back to our topic.

The AZ-900 exam is the entry-level exam for Azure, Microsoft Cloud Computing service, with no prerequisite.
You will need to understand Azure-specific services from Data Bases like Cosmos DB, Analytics like Azure Synapse, Networking, and Storage. You can find a complete list of skills you will be measured against here.

Through the course material you will learn and rehears Azure services reasonably quickly. If you have the fundamental cloud concepts down Azure Specific services, become table-stakes.

If you aren’t familiar with Azure services or cloud fundamentals, rest assured that you can learn these topics in the free course they provide. The content alone is enough to pass the exam. However, I found it difficult to follow and found myself lacking the motivation to complete the course. It took me about ten hours to finish the content with diligent note-taking. I did like that there were hands-on labs or sandboxes as they refer to it throughout, but it requires a phone number and a credit card for identification purposes.

There’s a little XP tracker in the top right-hand corner of the course you earn experience points (XP) after completing a section or a sandbox lab. I found myself wanting to drive up XP like a video game. It was a stimulating reinforcement measure for sure.

Pearson VUE provides the test for USD99 but what’s pretty cool and little known is that you could get a discount on the exam or even have it completely free depending on your situation. Even if you don’t get the test entirely free for a limited time, Microsoft offers job seekers impacted by COVID-19 and students for USD15. You can look for the exam discounts under your certification dashboard. Choose the MCP Home tab and after signing in, navigate to your profile. You will see ‘Exam Discount’ on the left. Be sure to check!

Mike

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

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