Skip to main content

Virtual Private Clouds and the AWS Solutions Architect exam

A solid understanding of Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) architecture is central to just about everything connected to the Amazon Web Services universe. But if you’re thinking of taking the AWS Solutions Architect Associate level exam, it’s critical.

In this post, I will explain why I believe this to be true and specify which VPC elements will require your greatest focus if you’re serious about passing this exam.

Take a look at the AWS Solutions Architect exam blueprint. You will see a table breaking the exam material down into four areas:

Designing highly available, cost-efficient, fault tolerant, scalable systems.60%
Implementation/Deployment.10%
Data Security.20%
Troubleshooting.10%
TOTAL100%

As you can see, 60% of the exam is specifically focused on Designing highly available, cost-efficient, fault tolerant, scalable systems. In my experience, what that really means is…understand the virtual private cloud.

So let’s outline the virtual private cloud elements I think are the most critical.

Critical Virtual Private Cloud Elements

1. Security Groups and Network ACLs

Amazon virtual private clouds come with two built-in security tools:

  • Security groups work at the instance level to control all traffic into and out of associated Amazon EC2 instances.
  • Network access control lists (ACLs) work at the subnet level to control all traffic into and out of associated subnets.

As a complete guide to VPC security is way beyond the scope of this post, be sure to read through the excellent Amazon documentation on the subject. A valid course to deep dive into AWS Networking is this Networking Fundamentals for AWS course in the Cloud Academy library. 

For now, here’s an excellent illustrative diagram from Amazon’s documentation:

Virtual Private Cloud networking with security groups, subnets, network ACL, routing table, VPG, and internet gateway.
An example of virtual private cloud networking with Security Groups, Subnets, Network ACL, Routing tables, VPG, and Internet Gateway

2. Public and Private IP Addresses

Make sure you understand the difference between public and private IP addresses. Simply put: private IP addresses are not accessible from the Internet but are used for communication between instances within your virtual private cloud. Public IP addresses, on the other hand, are accessible from the Internet and can be used for communication between your instances and the Internet, or with other AWS services that have public endpoints.

The Solutions Architect exam may contain some tricky IP-related questions. You might be expected to know how to connect a private IP to the internet or to understand how specific protocols can affect connectivity. You’ll also need to understand how public and private IP Addresses interact with Security Groups and Network ACLs.

Again, AWS documentation and the Cloud Academy’s Creating and Configuring Basics for Your EC2 Network course are your two best friends here.

3. NAT Instances

You are almost certain to see at least one Network Address Translation (NAT) question on the exam. How, for instance, can you connect an instance from a private subnet to the internet (to allow software updates)? You could create a special NAT instance in a public subnet in your virtual private cloud to provide controlled outbound connectivity to instances in the private subnet while restricting all inbound traffic.

If you’ve never set up a virtual private cloud on AWS, I suggest that you do it now. Play around with various VPC configuration profiles to see for yourself how your public and private networks interact between themselves and the outside world.

4. Virtual private cloud peering

A VPC peering connection is a networking connection between two virtual private clouds that enables you to route traffic between them using private IP addresses. This configuration scenario is important enough that you might face a related question on the exam. Again, the best option is to play around on the AWS console and try and set up 2 or more VPC’s and then play around with routing traffic between them using private IP addresses.

Conclusion and other virtual private cloud concepts

I cannot overstate the importance of fully understanding VPCs for passing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam. This article obviously doesn’t cover the whole topic. You’ll still need to work on other pieces of the puzzle like Network Interfaces, Route tables, and Internet gateways, and how they all interact with each other.

The AWS exam is well designed as a challenging test of your practical skills. As there are very few obvious or easy answers, you should definitely not take passing for granted, and perhaps more than any other topic, you should focus your preparations on VPC.

Avatar

Written by

Michael Sheehy

I have been UNIX/Linux System Administrator for the past 15 years and am slowly moving those skills into the AWS Cloud arena. I am passionate about AWS and Cloud Technologies and the exciting future that it promises to bring.

Related Posts

Avatar
John Chell
— June 13, 2019

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some clear benefits: Increases marketability to employers Provides solid credentials in a growing industry (with projected growth of as much as 70 percent in five years) Market anal...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
— June 11, 2019

Moving Data to S3 with Apache NiFi

Moving data to the cloud is one of the cornerstones of any cloud migration. Apache NiFi is an open source tool that enables you to easily move and process data using a graphical user interface (GUI).  In this blog post, we will examine a simple way to move data to the cloud using NiFi c...

Read more
  • AWS
  • S3
Avatar
Chandan Patra
— June 11, 2019

Amazon DynamoDB: 10 Things You Should Know

Amazon DynamoDB is a managed NoSQL service with strong consistency and predictable performance that shields users from the complexities of manual setup.Whether or not you've actually used a NoSQL data store yourself, it's probably a good idea to make sure you fully understand the key ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • DynamoDB
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— June 6, 2019

The 11 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in cloud computing.As the market leader and most ma...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Sam Ghardashem
Sam Ghardashem
— May 15, 2019

Aviatrix Integration of a NextGen Firewall in AWS Transit Gateway

Learn how Aviatrix’s intelligent orchestration and control eliminates unwanted tradeoffs encountered when deploying Palo Alto Networks VM-Series Firewalls with AWS Transit Gateway.Deploying any next generation firewall in a public cloud environment is challenging, not because of the f...

Read more
  • AWS
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— May 3, 2019

AWS Config Best Practices for Compliance

Use AWS Config the Right Way for Successful ComplianceIt’s well-known that AWS Config is a powerful service for monitoring all changes across your resources. As AWS Config has constantly evolved and improved over the years, it has transformed into a true powerhouse for monitoring your...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Compliance
Avatar
Francesca Vigliani
— April 30, 2019

Cloud Academy is Coming to the AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago

Cloud Academy is a proud sponsor of the 2019 AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago. We hope you plan to attend these free events that bring the cloud computing community together to connect, collaborate, and learn about AWS. These events are all about learning. You can learn how t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Summits
Paul Hortop
Paul Hortop
— April 2, 2019

How to Monitor Your AWS Infrastructure

The AWS cloud platform has made it easier than ever to be flexible, efficient, and cost-effective. However, monitoring your AWS infrastructure is the key to getting all of these benefits. Realizing these benefits requires that you follow AWS best practices which constantly change as AWS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Monitoring
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— April 1, 2019

AWS EC2 Instance Types Explained

Amazon Web Services’ resource offerings are constantly changing, and staying on top of their evolution can be a challenge. Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances are one of their core resource offerings, and they form the backbone of most cloud deployments. EC2 instances provide you with...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
Avatar
Nitheesh Poojary
— March 26, 2019

How DNS Works – the Domain Name System (Part One)

Before migrating domains to Amazon's Route53, we should first make sure we properly understand how DNS worksWhile we'll get to AWS's Route53 Domain Name System (DNS) service in the second part of this series, I thought it would be helpful to first make sure that we properly understand...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— March 14, 2019

Multiple AWS Account Management using AWS Organizations

As businesses expand their footprint on AWS and utilize more services to build and deploy their applications, it becomes apparent that multiple AWS accounts are required to manage the environment and infrastructure.  A multi-account strategy is beneficial for a number of reasons as ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Identity Access Management
Avatar
Sanket Dangi
— February 11, 2019

WaitCondition Controls the Pace of AWS CloudFormation Templates

AWS's WaitCondition can be used with CloudFormation templates to ensure required resources are running.As you may already be aware, AWS CloudFormation is used for infrastructure automation by allowing you to write JSON templates to automatically install, configure, and bootstrap your ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • CloudFormation