Nordcloud Reaches more than 200 AWS Certified Cloud Architects

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We’re excited to announce that we have reached more than 200 AWS certified architects!

APN Certification Distinctions provide AWS partners with the opportunity to showcase how many active AWS Certifications the company has collectively achieved and highlights the value AWS Certifications brings to customers.

 

aws certified

Nordcloud is proud to be an AWS Premier Consulting Partner since 2014 and an AWS Managed Service Provider since 2015.

This highly-valued status is awarded to leading cloud companies that have extensive experience in deploying customer solutions on AWS, a strong bench of trained and certified technical consultants, at least one APN Competency, expertise in project management, a healthy revenue-generating consulting business on AWS, and have invested significantly in their AWS practice.

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At Nordcloud we know the AWS cloud

We can help you take advantages of all the benefits Amazon Web Services has to offer.

How can we help you take your business to the next level? 

Contact Nordcloud AWS Experts

 

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

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    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 😀

    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.
    Pass/Fail
    • 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)!

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      My journey to AWS Certification

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      Getting AWS Certified is only half the battle. A certification is much more than a piece of paper – it is used as an assurance to showcase that you have the basic understanding of the product that you’re looking to be certified in and each certification uses strict requirements and procedures.

      AWS certified

      Understanding the organisational challenges

      Everything starts with you and ends with you, but of course, having an organisation that values training and improving employees is a big plus. Organisations are constantly weighing in options for transitioning into the cloud. Everyone has heard of the vast number of enablers like faster time-to-market, infrastructure as code, DevOps, automation, a fresh start, and most of all the growing cloud services.

      Organisations have been overworking IT employees for a long time and now they want them to be trained in a new mindset. This is easier said than done because people usually resist change, but in fact, the organisation already has these invaluable resources. This knowledge usually consists of networking, operating systems, database, managed services, and so much more.

      The issue now is that some organisation’s executives do not have the understanding of the key services provided by the different cloud platforms. So they push the employees to get this training, but don’t provide the incentives.

      Employees who are willing to continuously self-develop and improve themselves are becoming very valuable in the market. This increases the competition in the growing market. Every day, certified employees are being contacted by HR or headhunters who are offering 10%+ raise. Money is a big enabler for a lot of employees, but so is dedication and respect of the current organisation. Most people are juggling life and work responsibilities, but some still have the motivation to add another commitment to their already hectic schedules, especially the ones that are taking technical courses to gain proficiency.

      Offering competitive wages and keeping those wages fair amongst current and future employees should be something that the organisation automatically does, but since this is usually not the case providing incentives can be the motivation that keeps that employee committed to their current organisation. This can be anything from a pay raise, one-time bonus, stocks, donation to a charity of choice to something as simple as giving flexible work hours during the study period.

       

      How to become an AWS Partner

      It is not just for you to show growth in the industry, but your organisation also needs it to become an APN Partner. Currently, there are three performance tiers (Standard, Advanced, Premier) based on training, customer engagements, and overall business investment and getting certified will help your organisation look more mature compared to other competitors.

      At re:Invent 2014, they announced a change to the APN Partners requirements for 2015, showcasing that AWS wants to help customers identify successful APN Partners. One way was by increasing the certifications needed to achieve the different tiers. The Premier Tier was “8 Associate Levels” and “4 Professional Levels” certifications needed. Below is the current 2016 requirements:

      As you can see from the 2016 APN Partner requirements that Associate Level has increased by 250% and Professional Level by 200%.

      AWS Certification roadmap:

      There is a lot of material available to help you prepare for an AWS certificate, but the internet is also full of older material that can lead you down the wrong rabbit hole. The first place to start is by looking at the AWS Certification Roadmap:

      *Note that you have to take an associate certification before you can take a professional cert. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate is broken up into 5 domains.

      Each domain will challenge your understanding of AWS Services, AWS Best Practices, and most of all the Well-Architected Framework.

      AWS recommends a three-day training course titled “Architecting on AWS” and a 4-hour “AWS Certification Exam Readiness Workshop”. Before taking the certification exam, I recently joined a Nordcloud “Architecting on AWS” Training course and was able to use it as a refresher course. Architecting on AWS is a course designed to teach solution architects how to optimise and get a deeper understanding of AWS Services and to showcase how the numerous services fit into Architecting on AWS.

      The key focus for the Solution Architect – Associate is High-Availability, In/outs of VPC, EC2, RDS, and the plentiful storage solutions.

      My journey to Amazon AWS Certification:

      I am going to share with you how I prepared for the certification because I believe it’s best to hear from the source. When I was new to AWS, I started by taking the AWS Accreditation courses: “AWS TCO and Cloud Economics” and “AWS Technical Professional” AWS Accreditations are only provided to APN Partners. It took me just under one week to get accredited following the curriculum during my spare time.  

      As I started to prepare for the Architect exam, another exam called “Cloud Practitioner” came out and I wanted to make sure that I knew the basics of AWS and had a good feeling about how to take the exam. I changed gears and took some AWS training courses that focussed on “Cloud Practitioner” exam. This took me about 3 weeks.

      My cloud practitioner training path

      AWS Free Training Path:

      AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials

      AWS Solutions Training for Partners – Best Practices: Well-Architected

      AWS Well-Architected Training

      Nordcloud Training

      AWS Technical Essentials Day

      I picked a date and signed up for the exam. I also knew that I was going to take the Architect exam about 1 month later so I  registered for this too as I didn’t want to wait until I felt like I could take the test. Nobody is ready to take a test because of the fear of failure!

      Note: If you do not hold a passport from a Native Speaking Country you are able to request up to an additional 30 minutes.

       

      Non-English Speaker Steps:

      To request a 30-minute extension for your exam, please log into your AWS Certification Account (not the PSI account) and take the following steps:

      1. From the top navigation, click Upcoming Exams
      2. On the right, click the Request Exam Accommodations button
      3. Click the Request Accommodation button
      4. Select ESL +30 Minutes from the accommodation dropdown
      5. Click Create

      Now when you go to schedule your exam the time will be 30 minutes longer than normal. Note that you MUST request the accommodation BEFORE you schedule the exam.

       

      My solution architect: associate training path:

       

      AWS Free Training Path:

      AWS Security Fundamentals

      Preview Course: Deep Dive into Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)

      Preview Course: Deep Dive into Elastic File System (EFS)

      Whitepapers

      Nordcloud Training:

      Security Operations on AWS

      Architecting on AWS

      QwikLabs

      Introduction to AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)

      Introduction to Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

      Introduction to AWS Lambda

      Introduction to Amazon DynamoDB

      Introduction to Amazon Route 53

      Challenge Lab

      Maintaining High Availability with Auto Scaling (for Linux)

      Working with Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)

       

      Days leading up to the Exam

      My mindset ever since my first test/exams in grade school has always been understanding things and not just memorising them. The same goes for AWS exams because I really want to understand how each service works and all each feature helps to enhance the key services.

      Does this hurt me on exams? Of course, as I can’t remember the exact IOPS or throughput of the various EBS Volume Types. I do know that HDD EBS Volumes are mainly used Big Data or log processing. I know that Provisioned IOPS SSD allows for more than 10,000 IOPS and are mainly used for large databases.

      Spot Instances cost more than a regular EC2 instance, but I do not know by how much. I do know it depends on the region and that they are primarily used for a short burst of intensive jobs in CI/CD pipelines or batch processing jobs.

      Exam Day!

      It was finally the exam day and I was very nervous. I didn’t want to let the organisation down or be a failure. I arrived at the testing centre about 20 minutes before and had a coffee to try to calm my nerves.

      Exam Tips!

      Sometimes I didn’t understand what the question was trying to ask. I just moved on and came back to it at the end of the exam. AWS Exams allow you to mark the questions so you are able to identify the ones you skipped or needed more in-depth thinking on.

      Scenario-based questions are time to consume, but what I did was skip them until later. I understand this could be risky if I didn’t finish the exam on time, but spending a long time on understanding the harder question could make me miss out on easier ones later.

      Exam Results:

      When I finished the Solution Architect: Associate and Practitioner Exam the results came about 2 days later. PASSED

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      Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.