Microsoft Azure is one of the hottest cloud services on the planet, and it’s growing at a phenomenal rate. This rapid growth has created a huge demand for people who know how to administer and manage Azure implementations.
To make it easier for employers to verify the skills of Azure administrator candidates, Microsoft has released the AZ-103 certification exam. If you’ve looked at Azure certifications before, you might be surprised to see that this is Microsoft’s only administrator exam. After all, Microsoft just released the AZ-100 and AZ-101 administrator exams in late September 2018. Seven months later, they retired both of those exams and combined them into one exam. If you pass the AZ-103 exam, you will earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification.
Here is Microsoft’s summary of the skills you should have before taking the exam:
“Candidates for this exam should have proficiency in using PowerShell, the Command Line Interface, Azure Portal, ARM templates, operating systems, virtualization, cloud infrastructure, storage structures, and networking.”
Here are the topics covered in the AZ-103 exam and the relative weight of each section:
- Manage Azure subscriptions and resources (15-20%)
- Implement and manage storage (15-20%)
- Deploy and manage virtual machines (VMs) (15-20%)
- Configure and manage virtual networks (30-35%)
- Manage identities (15-20%)
Managing Azure subscriptions and resources might seem like a pretty simple topic, but it’s actually very important because if you don’t get this right, you could end up with security holes and cost overruns. You need to know how to maintain governance by applying policies to subscriptions and resources. Azure enforces these policies to prevent actions your organization doesn’t want to allow. You also need to learn how to monitor resource consumption so you don’t end up with unexpectedly large bills to pay. The final topic on managing resources is role-based access control. This is how you can give users the right level of access to resources so they don’t have more privileges than they need.
Watch this short video to get an overview of how to manage Azure Subscriptions and Resource Groups:
Implementing and managing storage is the next section. It includes more than just Azure Storage. It also covers how to set up file shares using Azure File Sync and how to implement backups using a Recovery Services Vault.
Deploying and managing virtual machines (VMs) on Azure is pretty easy, but you need to know how to deploy VMs at an enterprise level. This includes automating the deployment of VMs using Azure Resource Manager, automating configuration changes using Desired State Configuration, and backing up your VMs using policies. You also have to be able to set up high availability and autoscaling.
Configuring and managing virtual networks is the biggest section of the exam. Again, this is about setting up enterprise-grade networks. First, be sure you know how to connect virtual networks together using VNet peering and network gateways, how to configure both private and public DNS zones for name resolution, and how to secure your VNets using Network Security Groups.
This section also covers advanced virtual networking. Topics include distributing an application’s load across multiple VMs using Azure Load Balancer, monitoring virtual networks using Network Watcher, and integrating your on-premises network with your Azure network using VPN Gateway and ExpressRoute.
Managing identities is the final section. It’s all about Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), which is a managed version of Microsoft’s tried and true directory software. Of course, you’ll need to know how to add users and groups to it, but Azure AD has lots of other features to help you keep your organization secure. For example, one practice that has become very popular is multi-factor authentication. This is where users have to use more than one authentication method to log in, such as having to enter both a password and verification code that was texted to their phone. You’ll also need to learn how to sync up your on-premises Active Directory with Azure AD and enable single sign-on.
Preparing for the Exam
That’s a wide range of topics covered in the exam, isn’t it? You’ll need to know how to use everything from Recovery Services Vault to Network Watcher to Azure Active Directory.
To fill in the gaps and to review all of the other topics, I recommend taking self-paced courses, getting hands-on experience in a few key areas of Azure and taking practice exams. The easiest way to do that is to go through Cloud Academy’s AZ-103 Exam Preparation Learning Path. It includes video-based Courses, Hands-on Labs, and a practice Exam.
Watch this short video for an overview of the AZ-103 Exam Preparation Learning Path: