AWS has launched a comprehensive AWS certification program. Lack of Certification from AWS was an issue in the AWS ecosystem, so the certification program is really exciting. I registered for the exam straight away and gave the exam today (05/08/2013). I am glad to say I cleared the exam for AWS Certified Solutions Architecture, and I am sharing my experiences.
Types of AWS Certification
Under the AWS certification program AWS will provide three kinds of Certifications:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator
- AWS Certified Developer
Under each of these different verticals AWS will have three different levels in future: 1) Associate, 2) Professional, and 3) Master. For now, AWS has only offered the AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification and only for Associate level. AWS says that the rest of the certifications are coming later.
Update: Since the initial blog post, Amazon now has released all the above three certification in associate level. Also Professional Level Exam is now launched for Solutions Architect and DevOps. For more information on Masters courses, please click on respective links.
What does AWS Solutions Architect Certification consists of?
According to AWS: “Earning an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Level demonstrates you have the ability to identify and define requirements for an AWS-based application, as well as follow best practices for building secure and reliable applications on the AWS platform.”
My experience: The certification exam was very comprehensive, and it covered almost all the services like EC2, VPC, EBS, S3, Route 53, IAM, RDS, SQS, DynamoDB, etc. Although a lot of the questions were based on popular services like VPC, EC2 and S3, you can expect questions from all the services. And although the questions about these services were more high-level having hands-on knowledge is definitely a must. A note here that from the exam, brand new services released only few months ago were missing, possibly because AWS realized that not everyone have had a chance to use them yet.
The exam is divided into four sections with different percentage representation:
1. Designing highly available, cost efficient, fault tolerant, scalable systems (60%)
This is by far the most important section of the certification with 60% representation. A lot of questions were simulations of what an architect would have to figure out when he designs an application on top of AWS. For example, characteristics of an application with multiple AZ deployment, deploying in multiple regions, what kind of AWS services would one use for a given use case, characteristics of VPC subnets, difference between private and public subnets, high-level costing topics like reserved-instances vs spot-instances, knowledge of strength and weaknesses of various services, etc . A good understanding of how different AWS Services work with each other is also required. Basically, you will need a lot of hands-on practice here.
2. Implementation/Deployment (10%)
This section deals with various deployment management scenarios. This includes Auto Scaling, Custom AMIs, difference between EBS backed AMI vs S3-Backed AMI (legacy instance store AMI), what happens to data stored in EBS, ephemeral storage, etc. in various scenarios like instance reboot, termination, etc. It also contains questions on the best instance type, EBS types, etc. for a given use case.
3. Data Security (20%)
This section has questions about various data encryption techniques in S3, various data protection mechanism in EC2 like security groups, use of IAM roles and users, etc. This also had use case kind of questions about what would be best method to protect data give a particular use case/scenario.
4. Troubleshooting (10%)
This section had various questions about how you would troubleshoot most common errors in AWS. This contains things like trouble logging into EC2 instance, trouble with VPC setup, common mistakes with S3 ACLs, etc. Another important topic here is disaster recovery and how it is implemented on AWS.
How to take the AWS Solutions Architect Certification test
Certification test is available immediately all over the world with Kryterion. It costs $150 to take this test. To signup for the test, go to the Kryterion link here.
Please share your views in comments below if you also took the certification exam, or if you have specific questions.
If you clear the exam, you get a badge like this:
How to Prepare for AWS Solutions Architect Certification test
The best way to prepare for the test is to have hands-on experience in working with AWS services. AWS also have various whitepapers that you can refer to here. I will be posting more blog and videos about this certification so keep checking this page. I will be conducting a bootcamp for this certification. If you are interested to join, please click here and fill out the form.
I recently also added sample questions for AWS Solutions Architect Certification. Try it out here.