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%|
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:
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.
New Content: Platforms, Programming, and DevOps – Something for Everyone
This month our team of expert certification specialists released three new or updated learning paths, 16 courses, 13 hands-on labs, and four lab challenges! New content on Cloud Academy You can always visit our Content Roadmap to see what’s just released as well as what’s coming soon....
Mastering AWS Organizations Service Control Policies
Service Control Policies (SCPs) are IAM-like policies to manage permissions in AWS Organizations. SCPs restrict the actions allowed for accounts within the organization making each one of them compliant with your guidelines. SCPs are not meant to grant permissions; you should consider ...
New Content: Focus on DevOps and Programming Content this Month
This month our team of expert certification specialists released 12 new or updated learning paths, 15 courses, 25 hands-on labs, and four lab challenges! New content on Cloud Academy You can always visit our Content Roadmap to see what’s just released as well as what’s coming soon. Ja...
New Content: Get Ready for the CISM Cert Exam & Learn About Alibaba, Plus All the AWS, GCP, and Azure Courses You Know You Can Count On
This month our team of intrepid certification specialists released five learning paths, seven courses, 19 hands-on labs, and three lab challenges! One particularly interesting new learning path is Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) Foundations. After completing this learn...
Which Certifications Should I Get?
The old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and companies. With all that in mind, the s...
The 12 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...
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide
Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020. The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some ...
New Content: AWS Terraform, Java Programming Lab Challenges, Azure DP-900 & DP-300 Certification Exam Prep, Plus Plenty More Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Big Data Courses
This month our Content Team continues building the catalog of courses for everyone learning about AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure. In addition, this month’s updates include several Java programming lab challenges and a couple of courses on big data. In total, we released five new learning...
Where Should You Be Focusing Your AWS Security Efforts?
Another day, another re:Invent session! This time I listened to Stephen Schmidt’s session, “AWS Security: Where we've been, where we're going.” Amongst covering the highlights of AWS security during 2020, a number of newly added AWS features/services were discussed, including: AWS Audit...
AWS re:Invent: 2020 Keynote Top Highlights and More
We’ve gotten through the first five days of the special all-virtual 2020 edition of AWS re:Invent. It’s always a really exciting time for practitioners in the field to see what features and services AWS has cooked up for the year ahead. This year’s conference is a marathon and not a...
WARNING: Great Cloud Content Ahead
At Cloud Academy, content is at the heart of what we do. We work with the world’s leading cloud and operations teams to develop video courses and learning paths that accelerate teams and drive digital transformation. First and foremost, we listen to our customers’ needs and we stay ahea...
Excelling in AWS, Azure, and Beyond – How Danut Prisacaru Prepares for the Future
Meet Danut Prisacaru. Danut has been a Software Architect for the past 10 years and has been involved in Software Engineering for 30 years. He’s passionate about software and learning, and jokes that coding is basically the only thing he can do well (!). We think his enthusiasm shines t...