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%
TOTAL 100%

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

Amanda Cross
Amanda Cross
— January 7, 2021

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— December 17, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS re:Invent
  • cloud security
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— December 4, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Glue Elastic Views
  • AWS re:Invent
Bryony Harrower
Bryony Harrower
— November 6, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • GCP
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 25, 2020

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...

Read more
  • AWS
  • careers
  • champions
  • upskilling
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 14, 2020

New Content: AWS Data Analytics – Specialty Certification, Azure AI-900 Certification, Plus New Learning Paths, Courses, Labs, and More

This month our Content Team released two big certification Learning Paths: the AWS Certified Data Analytics - Speciality, and the Azure AI Fundamentals AI-900. In total, we released four new Learning Paths, 16 courses, 24 assessments, and 11 labs.  New content on Cloud Academy At any ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 15, 2020

New Content: Azure DP-100 Certification, Alibaba Cloud Certified Associate Prep, 13 Security Labs, and Much More

This past month our Content Team served up a heaping spoonful of new and updated content. Not only did our experts release the brand new Azure DP-100 Certification Learning Path, but they also created 18 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At any time, y...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 28, 2020

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 12 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Patrick Navarro
Patrick Navarro
— August 25, 2020

Overcoming Unprecedented Business Challenges with AWS

From auto-scaling applications with high availability to video conferencing that’s used by everyone, every day —  cloud technology has never been more popular or in-demand. But what does this mean for experienced cloud professionals and the challenges they face as they carve out a new p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud Adoption
  • digital transformation
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 18, 2020

Constant Content: Cloud Academy’s Q3 2020 Roadmap

Hello —  Andy Larkin here, VP of Content at Cloud Academy. I am pleased to release our roadmap for the next three months of 2020 — August through October. Let me walk you through the content we have planned for you and how this content can help you gain skills, get certified, and...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Content updates
  • DevOps
  • GCP
  • Google Cloud
  • New content
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 5, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Foundation, Python 3 Programming, 16 Hands-on Labs, and Much More

This month our Content Team did an amazing job at publishing and updating a ton of new content. Not only did our experts release the brand new AZ-303 and AZ-304 Certification Learning Paths, but they also created 16 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 16, 2020

Blog Digest: Which Certifications Should I Get?, The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications, 6 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach, and More

This month, we were excited to announce that Cloud Academy was recognized in the G2 Summer 2020 reports! These reports highlight the top-rated solutions in the industry, as chosen by the source that matters most: customers. We're grateful to have been nominated as a High Performer in se...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs