My road to AWS Certified Solution Architect

WARNING: Before reading this doc đź™‚ đź™‚

1: As everyone needs to sign NDA with AWS, I can’t tell you the exact question asked during the exam neither I have GB of memory, but I can give you the pointer what to expect in the exam

2: As we all know AWS infrastructure updates everyday, so some of the stuff might not be relevant after a few days/weeks/months…

3: Please don’t ask for any exam dumps or question, that defeats the whole purpose of the exam.

Finally, after waiting for 5 years(Journey started at way back in 2014 when I first logged into AWS Console) yesterday, I cleared my AWS Certified Solution Architect Exam.

Why it took me so long to write my First AWS Exam?

  • Let me first start with trying to introduce myself; I am an X-RedHat Certified Architect(yes that’s true, I cleared all the 5 RedHat Exams). RedHat exams are mostly hand’s on which are based on the scenario you need to deploy or create some server/application
  • My initial assumption regarding AWS exam was it’s mostly theoretical, i.e. they will give you a series of questions(single/multiple choice), and you need to select one/multiple options, so basically you are not implementing anything. On the top of that to answer these question you need to memorize a bunch of stuff.

So how everything changed?

  • Initially, when I started preparing, I realized there is a lot of stuff which I completely miss/not paid attention. But later on, I paid special attention to those, e.g., S3 seems to the pretty straightforward concept, but when I start exploring it(mentioned below some of the different S3 services), I came to know its one of the amazing services.

Exam Preparation

  • If you don’t have any experience with AWS service, I will recommend first start with acloudguru. Please don’t miss AWS — 10,000 Foot Overview, this will give you a good overview of all the AWS Services

https://acloud.guru/learn/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate

  • The second, one of the most useful resource is Linux Academy. One of the advantages of using Linux Academy is its hands-on lab. This will give you enough hand’s on experience required for the certification.

https://linuxacademy.com/course/aws-certified-solutions-architect-2019-associate-level/

  • AWS Re: Invent Videos: I highly recommend going through these videos, as they will give you enough in-depth knowledge about each service.
  • AWS Documentation: Best documentation ever provided by any service provider. Don’t miss the FAQ regarding each service(especially for EC2, S3, VPC)
  • Exam Readiness

https://www.aws.training/Details/Curriculum?id=20685

  • Last but not the least, hands-on experience, there is no substitute for that. As per certification pre-requisite

https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-solutions-architect-associate/

Services

You must know these three services in order to clear this EXAM

  • EC2
  • VPC
  • S3

Some services which I under-estimate and I saw at least 2–4 question related to those services

  • DynamoDB
  • Kinesis Firehouse
  • CloudFront
  • SQS

I am not using any of these services in my day to day operation, and that’s why I didn’t pay much attention. Also, it’s time for AcloudGuru and Linux Academy to add some more in-depth content related to these services

Some surprise packages

  • AWS Athena
  • AWS Inspector

My Idea about the exam

  • As this is an associate level exam, my initial perception about this exam that I don’t need to go in-depth of all of the services but this exam surprises me with some in-depth questions. So please make sure to read/implement as much as possible about (EC2/VPC/S3).

Let’s talk about different Services and what concept you should know in order to clear this exam

S3

  • This table is the key to understand different S3 storage classes. Make sure you understand
* Durability and Availibility of each class
* In which situation you are going to use specific class

Cloud Storage Classes — Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) — AWS
Explore S3 cloud storage offerings for different durability and availability levels, including Amazon S3 Standard, S3…aws.amazon.com

  • Understand S3 Object Lifecycle Management and when to move an object to S3-Standard-IA/S3 One Zone IA vs Glacier

Object Lifecycle Management — Amazon Simple Storage Service
Use Amazon S3 to manage your objects so that they are stored cost effectively throughout their lifecycle.docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Difference between Server access logging vs Object Access logging

Serve access logging vs Object-level logging
Currently after creating my S3 buckets under properties, I see Server access logging and object-level logging. What is…acloud.guru

  • Understand how encryption(both Server/Client) works for S3

Protecting Data Using Encryption — Amazon Simple Storage Service
Use data encryption to provide added security for your data objects stored in your buckets.docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Cross region replication in S3

Cross-Region Replication — Amazon Simple Storage Service
Set up and configure cross-region replication to allow automatic, asynchronous copying of objects across Amazon S3…docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Surprise package Amazon S3 inventory

Amazon S3 Inventory — Amazon Simple Storage Service
Describes Amazon S3 inventory and how to use it.docs.aws.amazon.com

Key takeaways
* It provides CSV and Apache Optimized Row Columnar(ORC) outputs files that lists objects and corresponding metadata 
* You can query AWS Inventory using standard SQL by using Amazon Athena, Amazon Redshift Spectrum

AWS Storage Gateway

  • Difference between different storage gateway and which one to use under which situation(Especially when they ask migrating services from on-premises data center to AWS cloud and how to keep data in sync)

What Is AWS Storage Gateway? — AWS Storage Gateway
Find an introduction to AWS Storage Gateway, which connects your on-premises environment with cloud-based storage.docs.aws.amazon.com

AWS Snowball

  • Whenever they ask about Petabyte(even terabyte) this is the best bet(Again migrating on-premises data center to AWS)

EC2

  • Understand the difference between different purchasing options(On-demand, Reserved, Spot and Dedicated)

Instance Purchasing Options — Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
Amazon EC2 provides different purchasing options that enable you to optimize your costs.docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Pay special emphasis to Dedicated Hosts(Look for Keyword like compliance requirements /server-bound software licenses)
  • Understand the difference between Instance Store Volumes vs EBS(Look for Keyword shutdown as in case of Instance Store Volumes your data will be Wiped)

Understand the Instance Store and EBS
For data you want to retain longer, or if you want to encrypt the data, use Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS)…aws.amazon.com

  • Security Group(They are not going to ask you this question directly but mostly scenario based questions like multi-tier environment where you have web frontend vs MySQL as database and which port you are going to open in your backend DB(MySQL), As you only need a connection from the web frontend, you only need to specify Mysql DB security group)

LoadBalancer

  • Difference between Application vs Network Load Balancer and in which scenario you are going to use which one

Elastic Load Balancing Features
Elastic Load Balancing provides integrated certificate management and SSL/TLS decryption, allowing you the flexibility…aws.amazon.com

VPC

  • Create VPC from scratch(At least 2 Private Subnet and 2 public Subnet)
  • What is the use of Internet Gateway and what changes you need to make in your routing table to route the traffic to the internet(0.0.0.0/0 to IGW)
  • How Private Instance is going to talk to the Internet(NAT Gateway)(again create it from scratch)
  • VPC Endpoints(understand the difference between Gateway Endpoint vs Interface Endpoint)
  • Difference between NACL vs Security Group

CloudWatch

  • Remember Cloudwatch now is not only to display metrics but you can also push application logs via Cloudwatch agents

What is Amazon CloudWatch Logs? — Amazon CloudWatch Logs
Describes the fundamentals, concepts, and terminology you need to know for using CloudWatch Logs to monitor, store, and…docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Placement Group: Justbrief idea about EC2 Placement group and what is the purpose of it(keyword low latency between ec2 instances)

Placement Groups — Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
Launch instances in a placement group to cluster them logically into a low-latency group, or to spread them across…docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Elastic File System(EFS): Look for a key term like the instance need to be simultaneously mounted on the bunch of EC2 instances(Choice between S3/EBS/EFS)

Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) — Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
Use Amazon EFS to create an EFS file system and mount it to one or more of your Linux instances.docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Lambda: Whenever they talk about cost optimization then lambda is your go-to choice(But please read the scenario carefully)

Route53

  • Understand the difference between different routing policy

Choosing a Routing Policy — Amazon Route 53
Choose a routing policy before you create records in Amazon Route 53.docs.aws.amazon.com

  • Pay special emphasis to a latency based(key word user in specific region facing latency, so key choice is between Route53 vs CloudFront)and failover routing policy

Autoscaling: Just a brief idea about how auto-scaling works

Databases

  • For RDS MySQL understand the difference between read-only replication(performance gain) vs HA(in case of failover)
  • AWS is paying special emphasis on Aurora, so in case if they ask migrating on-premises MySql/Postgres to AWS Cloud then Aurora is the best bet

IAM

  • Make sure you understand the purpose of roles and use roles to communicate to different AWS Service, rather than using Public Internet Route

BONUS: AWS goodies during re-invent 2018 đź™‚

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