October 23, 2015

445 words 3 mins read

I'm an AWS Certified Solutions Architect!

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
I’m pleased to report that as of Wednesday afternoon I’m an AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate. While I’ve been working in/on/around AWS for years now, it’s nice to have the certification that proves I know what I’m doing. Amazon’s testing, unlike a lot of the certifications in tech (I’m looking at you CompTIA A+), is 100% about the real world. While that makes it harder, it makes the testing all the more invaluable.

When I say “real world” I mean that the testing is heavy on the use of situational testing. So rather than having to memorize a bunch of facts and figures (like say the EC2 instance types, something that

anyone could easily google), the testee needs to have a solid grasp of using AWS and what solutions fit best for a particular problem. The certification page recommends “One or more years of hands-on experience” and that is not a suggestion that should be taken lightly. In fact I encountered a question that was almost identical to a problem I experienced when Josh and I re-built www.okta.com into its current extremely-scalable infrastructure.

While I’m not at liberty to share any questions on the test (of course), I do have a few recommendations for others who might be interested in taking the Solutions Architect Associate certification:

2015-10-23 15_06_31-Amazon Web Services Simple Monthly Calculator

  • Sign up for CloudAcademy, even if only for a month. Their exam questions are very good and will help you identify your weak points. One area it illuminated for me is Direct Connect — a service I’ve never used, but which is critical to many on-premise to cloud migrations.
  • Study what is AZ vs Region vs Account specific. While you might not get asked directly, knowing what can and can’t be transported across AZ boundaries will be immensely valuable.
  • For any service you’re not an expert on, read the user guides. The Amazon provided docs are great and even though I’ve used EBS volumes a fair amount, I learned several valuable lessons reading the user guide.
  • Run a “production” environment. If you aren’t running a real production load in AWS today, build one. Follow the best practices for a webapp, including a VPC, NAT instances, Web App instances, ELBs, Cloudfront, Route 53, and Multi-AZ RDS. Using just a little data in each and the smallest instance sizes you can run a fully-AZ redundant infrastructure for less than $100 a month. Or you could run it for a few days and it’d only cost you a couple Starbucks.
This testing experience was enjoyable enough to make me want to go out and get more certifications, something I previously never thought I’d say.

Relax, have fun, and enjoy the cloud!