AWS Certified Solutions Architect

AWS Solution Architect Certification & How I Aced it..

I recently passed the AWS Solution Architect – Associate Certification and decided to give you a quick run down of the exam process. The Amazon AWS Solution Architect Exam is currently one of the most highly sought after technical certifications  in the industry and is ranked as the top IT certification for 2016 & 2017. This does not come as a surprise as we witness the large scale shift of focus as most organizations attempt to move their infrastructure on to the cloud. There is therefore, a great market demand for professionals with the relevant technical knowledge in this area of expertise. AWS Solution Architect Certification & How I Aced it..

However it is important to note that I do not yet see this demand being translated explicitly into  job requirements when employers post advertisements. You would seldom see jobs on LinkedIn or with recruiters specifically asking for a particular cloud certification. I believe that this is due to a general lack of awareness amongst technical recruiters about AWS Certifications.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that every employer seeking a Technical Program Manager would eventually require the individual to have a substantial knowledge of cloud solutions depending on where the organization is with their cloud implementation.

Certification Ranking 2016
Certification Ranking 2016

As always certifications are never mandatory. It just gives you an added competitive edge when a recruiter glances at your resume. I have expressed my opinion on this before. However as a Technical Program Manager it is imperative that you understand the basic workings of cloud infrastructure. My opinion is that if you have the opportunity to achieve the certification, then you must go for it. It would validate your credibility when you attend an interview and you would not have to figure out a way to elaborate on the depth of your knowledge. It would also save the interviewer the need to get intensely technical in order to assess your expertise on the subject.

Having talked to a few individuals who have successfully completed the exam, I believe the number of people who are pursuing this certification are rapidly increasing. Currently there are over 20K AWS Certified Solution Architects and this number is steadily growing. Approximately 3k people pass the AWS Solution Architect exam every month globally !! I know this because I chatted with several people who have passed the certification. More numbers here.

Now that you have decided to go ahead with your certification, you need to decide on the cloud provider you want to learn about. At the current time, I believe it comes down to either Amazon’s AWS or Azure. I picked AWS as it has the highest market share. Also in terms of feature set AWS is come a long way compared to Azure. AWS is a very mature product today when compared to Azure. AWS also gives you a micro EC2 instance for free for an entire year.

The numbers may be slightly old but as you can see AWS is a clear marketplace leader.

Cloud Market Share,Source: Massive-Scale Cloud, April 30, 2016, Structure Research
Cloud Market Share

The various Amazon AWS Certifications

AWS Certifications
AWS Certifications
AWS Certifications
AWS Certifications

You have two levels of certifications- the associate and the professional. Additionally, you also have the newly launched beta exams for speciality disciplines like Security, Advanced Networking and Big Data. Note that you can do the speciality certifications only after you have passed any one of the associate certifications.

The Amazon AWS- Certified Solutions Architect Exam (AWS-CSA)
Duration: The Exam duration is 80 Minutes, for 60 questions, that’s 1 minute and 30 seconds per question. All questions are of multiple choice format and some questions have a “choose two” requirement. I was able to finish the exam in 60 minutes and had 20 minutes to review the questions I was unsure of.
Course work:  There are quite a few places like lynda, pluralsite, cloud academy that can help you in preparing for the AWS-CSA exam. After doing some research on the subject, I finally settled on the ‘A Cloud Guru’s Course’ by Ryan Kroonenburg. He specializes in AWS courses for all areas. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of cloud computing to get started. I did the class on Udemy, AWS- Certified Solutions Architect Exam (AWS-CSA) it was on sale for $20 !! Can you believe that ?

It was recently brought to my attention by one of my readers that there is also a great book – AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam, this come highly recommended from a couple of my readers.

To pass the certification you need to have a formidable understanding of designing highly available, cost efficient, fault tolerant, scalable systems,, implementation & deployment of infrastructure, Security and Troubleshooting in general. You need to have an in-depth knowledge and a strong proficiency in these areas before you can add the cloud expertise on to it. For example, you should already know how or what one would need to do in terms of architect a global photo sharing website, the difference between a Cname and an Alias record or the various RAID configurations, fundamentals differences between a noSQL and a relational db Etc.

Possessing an inadequate proficiency in these concepts would not make it impossible to take the exam but it would make it harder. It is imperative to understand that the AWS-CSA exam utilizes your existing architecture knowledge and just adds the AWS Cloud icing to top it!

Validity: The certification is valid only for 2 years. However, this again is like the PMP or the CSM, some people see the value in maintaining it while others don’t.

AWS Solution Architect Certification

Preparation Time: Depending on how often you are using AWS and your familiarity with the concepts the amount of time required to prepare for the exam would vary. When I was speaking to my DevOps guy at work he said he brushed up on stuff over the weekend and took the exam. But that’s his job, if you work on AWS all day at work, then it’s going to be considerably easier. For someone who is starting afresh I think you would need a month or two of preparation with an hour or two of dedicated study. If you are doing “A cloud Academy’s Course”, I believe it requires around 20 hours without the labs. The labs, however, are crucial to picking up all the nuances of what is required for the exam and that would take at least 40 hours of preparation, in my opinion. AWS Solution Architect Certification

Balancing personal priorities, family, work and study is very difficult. I started studying early in the june of 2016 and gave up after a month. My priorities had changed and I found my preparation getting mired down as I was not using a structured course to cover the required curriculum. Then I started preparing again in late October, took the exam in December and passed it.

What to study: You need to have a thorough understanding of AWS’s core services like EC2, ,Kinesis, EBS, S3, VPC, Route53, ELB, RDS, Lamda, SQS, SNS and their different use cases, functionality etc. Be proficient in the various ways one can secure the variety of AWS infrastructure and its various services. Make sure you do a lot of practice labs and take the mega quiz on acloud guru. AWS Solution Architect Certification
Best of luck !!

As always reach out to me if you have any questions 🙂

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