Why not Both: Learning AWS and Azure Fundamentals Hands-On

Post • 6 min read
The two biggest cloud vendors have of course their own certifications:  AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and AZ-900 (Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamental). These certifications allow you to have a deep dive on the basics of AWS or Azure. Both providers recommend that you have basic IT knowledge and at least 6 months of experience working with the provider in question before starting the process. I'll admit it, the task may sound daunting. Who has one minute to spare, let alone 6-12 months, watching videos that you have to pay attention to really closely, or reading a ton of boring white papers, 300+ pages long each? But what if I told you about another way: learning by doing. 
I didn't want to just pass the exam. I wanted to learn new technologies surrounding the cloud and expand my understanding of what the cloud actually was.
In this post, I'll give you an overview of both of these certifications and explain how I skipped reading hundreds of pages of manuals and learned by building my own solutions hands-on. Below in detail I have included the curriculum to study to pass the exam. However, I didn't want to just pass the exam. I wanted to learn new technologies that would expand my understanding of what the cloud actually is.

AWS Cloud Practitioner

I have previously written about my Cloud Practitioner journey, but in that post I didn't exactly touch on how I prepared for the examination. So here we go. I fired up my desktop computer and created an AWS account first. I went over to Qwiklabs and started to create real-life scenarios like "Introduction to Amazon Virtual Private Cloud", "Creating an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud with AWS CloudFormation", and "Introduction to AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)". How do I create a basic website or create a blog like the one you are reading from now. From here I started to understand the AWS Cloud architectural principles and basics.
Then comes the wallet hit; Oops, I didn't know how much AWS resources started to add up. Lucky for me, it was only $5, but that is money that I didn't want to spend. I navigated over to the Simple Monthly Calculator provided by AWS and started to build my solutions here before implementing them in my Free-tier account. Sometimes it would say I needed to pay a lot, but it was a monthly calculator and not based on my usage for 1-2 days. Now that I understand the billing, account management, and pricing models it was time for me to learn how I can create a support ticket. Sorry AWS, but I had to learn. I wanted to see if I could get a soft-limit of 5 VPC to increase to 6. So, I wrote a nice mail to AWS Support: Hi AWS Support Team, Can you increase the VPC limit to 6. Just testing out how to increase AWS limits. Thanks :D Shocking to me it was done the next business day. That was with the basic support plan. Kudos to AWS.  

Azure Fundamentals

With the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam passed, it was time for me to understand more about Azure. When I got to the Azure exam in January 2019, they already released AZ-900 (Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamental). As you might have already figured out, I do not like reading white papers, but rather work things out on my own. Once again, I tracked down my stationary desktop and got down to business.

Microsoft launched a new learning platform called Learn. If you have ever used the Microsoft Virtual Academy, it is an updated version of that. First thing I started with was Introduction to Azure and  Azure Fundamentals. Both courses took me just about 1-2 hours to complete. What I really liked about Microsoft Learn was the ability to have Hands-on-learning. It allowed me to put my reading skills to practical use. I finished up my AZ-900 training with Architecting Great Solutions on Azure and Manage Resources in Azure. Both of the courses took me about 1-3 days to finish and I also went back to do more of the modules.

AWS vs Azure: Certification Comparison

Here you can see the similarities and differences between the two certifications.
AWS Azure
Exam Objectives
  • Define what the AWS Cloud is and the basic global infrastructure
  • Describe basic AWS Cloud architectural principles
  • Describe the AWS Cloud value proposition
  • Describe key services on the AWS platform and their common use cases (for example, compute and, analytics)
  • Describe the basic security and compliance aspects of the AWS platform and the shared security model
  • Define the billing, account management, and pricing models
  • Identify sources of documentation or technical assistance (for example, whitepapers or support tickets)
  • Describe basic/core characteristics of deploying and operating in the AWS Cloud.
  • Describe the benefits and considerations of using cloud services
  • Describe the differences between Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
  • Describe the differences between Public, Private and Hybrid cloud models
  • Understand the core Azure architectural components
  • Describe some of the core products available in Azure
  • Describe some of the solutions available on Azure
  • Understand Azure management tools
  • Understand securing network connectivity in Azure
  • Describe core Azure Identity services
  • Describe security tools and features of Azure
  • Describe Azure governance methodologies
  • Understand monitoring and reporting options in Azure
  • Understand privacy, compliance and data protection standards in Azure
Main Subject Areas
  1. Domain 1: Cloud Concepts 28%
  2. Domain 2: Security 24%
  3. Domain 3: Technology 36%
  4. Domain 4: Billing and Pricing 12%

  1. Understand Cloud Concepts (15-20%)
  2. Understand Core Azure Services (30-35%)
  3. Understand Security, Privacy, Compliance, and Trust (25-30%)
  4. Understand Azure Pricing and Support (25-30%)
Preparation Notes
  • Create an AWS Account
  • Explore using the Free-tier access
  • Read AWS Whitepapers
  • Third-Party training material (Youtube, LinuxAcademy, Pluralsight)
  • Create an Azure Account
  • Setup a Free-tier subscription
  • Microsoft Learn
  • Third-Party training material (Youtube, LinuxAcademy, Pluralsight)
Exam Process
  • Most testing centers allow you to start the exam 1 hour before, but do consult with your exam center of choice.
  • Currently, the exam is 65 multiple choice questions that need to be completed within 90 minutes. It requires a score of 700 to pass.
  • Most testing centers allow you to start the exam 1 hour before but do consult with your exam center of choice.
  • Currently, the exam consists of 51 multiple choice, drag & drop, and drop down list questions. This all needs to be completed within 60 minutes and requires a score of 700 to pass.
  • If you are not living an a non-native English speaking country, you are able to ask for extra time. To do this, please request test accommodations from Pearson VUE or Certiport.
  • Amazon scores out of 100-1000 and is scored very similarly to the USA education system by taking the best score and curving it.
  • Do not expect to see the exam results after finishing, but you might notice a message either congratulating you for passing the exam or thanking you for participation. If you are like most of us, you might have never seen the message, because you got up and out of the testing center or simply didn't remember what you just read. You will receive a separate email within 5-7 business days.  Once you get the results back, you will not be able to see what the grade curve was, but for this exam, anything above 700 is passing.
  • Microsoft scores out of 1-1000 and is scored very similarly to the USA education system by taking the best score and curving it.
  • The actual percentage of questions that you must answer correctly varies from exam to exam and may be more or less than 70%, depending on the input provided by the subject-matter experts and the difficulty of the questions delivered.
  • You will get your results back once you finish the exam. You will then be provided with a printed paper with a bar graph showing what you need to work on and what you did well on. Do note, that if the bar graph shows everything above 70% it doesn't mean that you passed. The reason for this is because the passing score is 700; however, this is a scaled score.

I would state that doing the AWS training first definitely helped me pass the Azure training. Wish you the best of luck on passing AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and AZ-900 (Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamental)!
Zach Olinske
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Ilja Summala
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Ilja’s passion and tech knowledge help customers transform how they manage infrastructure and develop apps in cloud.