AWS Certifications Study Guide, Part 4: AWS Solutions Architect Associate Level

(Update) We’ve recently added some great new content to prepare for the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification. This hands-on oriented Learning Path provides over 70 hours of interactive content comprised of hands-on labs, video courses, and a preparation exam. Take a look at the Solutions Architect Associate Learning Path.

 On top of that, we’ve also released some great new content to prepare for all AWS certifications, visit Cloud Academy’s AWS library for the latest on AWS certifications.

After the previous posts where we have seen how AWS certifications are structured and how to get ready for them, it’s now time to better understand each one of the available paths and see all the details about them. This new post of the AWS Certifications Study Guide will talk about the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Level certification, often considered the entry level in the AWS Certifications system, and also the first one to be launched by Amazon. We will see what it is thought for, what are the topics of this certification, and a few hints to become a certified AWS Solutions Architect.
AWS Solutions Architect Associate Level

The AWS Solutions Architect Associate level path

As the name implies, the AWS Solutions Architect certification aims at certifying your skills and knowledge as a Solutions Architect, that is designing complex architectures taking in due accounts the needs of the client and the requisites with regard to availability, data security, and safety, fault-tolerance, etc.. Applicants will be tested about their skills in identifying solutions built according to the AWS best practices, and about their capacity of providing guidance to developers and system administrators along the project lifecycle.

For example, some of the concepts that you will be tested about during the exam includes the capacity of selecting the right AWS service according to the computing, database or security requirements, assessing costs for the solution and identifying the strategies to implement cost control, import/exporting data to and from AWS and on-premises migrations in general, helping devs and sysadmins in troubleshooting the architecture and maintaining it, and so on.

This all means that this certification’s breadth and scope are particularly wide, ranging across many if not all the AWS services. On the other hand, people who went through it already say that this certification is not extremely difficult, and some hands-on experience plus an adequate study of the AWS documentation should be enough to pass the exam.
Amazon Web Servicese

Skills needed to pass the AWS Solutions Architect Associate level

First things first: there are some skills that are extremely important for you to have, and are not strictly related to AWS and its services, though:

  • a good understanding of basic concepts like Elasticity and Scalability;
  • mastering at least one high-level programming language, and having some familiarity with common software development practices;
  • general knowledge of both relational and NoSQL databases;
  • experience with RESTful Web Services, XML, and JSON: this is a mandatory one;
  • some good experience with multi-tier architectures;
  • deep knowledge of networking and TCP/IP protocols.

The last item is extremely important. Most of what you do from an AWS Solutions Architect point view involves networking, and you can expect a huge amount of questions about VPC, so it’s really important that you are familiar with both basic and advanced networking concepts.
More specifically to AWS, you should have some direct experience with the AWS console, interfaces like the SDK, the APIs, and the CLI. Of course, what’s most important is that you know all the AWS services and how they interact with each other.

All the core services like EC2, S3, ELB, AutoScaling, VPC, EBS, etc will be a topic for the exam, and you can expect to find more specific questions even about minor and less common services like Elastic Transcoder or Direct Connect. It’s not a hard exam, but it’s very thorough, and spanning across each and every AWS service. Mostly, all the questions will be about real-life scenarios where many services work together: that’s the purpose of being a Solutions Architect, after all! So, it’s really important that you focus not only on each service peculiarities and features but that you really understand how they work together.

How to get ready for the AWS Solutions Architect exam

The list of recommendations I already gave you in part 3 of our AWS Certifications Study Guide is still valid, and especially the first one: know your enemy! Aim your browser at the AWS Certifications website and thoroughly read the page dedicated to the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Level certification, and in particular, read the exam guide.

Once done, start playing with the AWS Console using the free tier. It’s quite easy to create architectural scenarios to see how the services work together (I will never be enough repeating that: this is all about how the AWS services work together!) and what happens when things get broken. This is probably the most important and useful advice, and of course, feel free to use our labs if you need some help in getting started with some of those services.

Practical sessions should meet some theoretical study too, though. The AWS documentation is extremely rich and thorough, and you should at least skim it to find the areas where you lack some knowledge. Cloud Academy’s AWS Training Library can help you here, since they both focus on specific services, and also on designing complex architectures, like in the course: How to Architect with a Design for Failure Approach There are courses about the AWS Storage Services, Security, Data Management, the AWS CLI, and much more: you should definitely take a look at them.

Next post of our AWS Certification Study Guide will be about the AWS Certified Developer Associate Level.

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