Podcast - AWS Series 'Cloud Academy Parking Lot' Episode #3


Cloud Academy Parking Lot
AWS Certifications
PREVIEW21m 26s
AWS Certifications

In this episode of our Cloud Academy Parking Lot podcast, you will follow along with our AWS team, including Stuart Scott, Danny Jessee, Jorge Negrón, and Will Meadows, as they discuss various AWS certifications. They look at the SAP specialty, the newly announced Solutions Architect Associate, and the Cloud Academy Cloud Practitioner Learning Path. 



Hi everyone. Today, we're going to be talking with the team again. We have Danny Jessee, we have Will, we have Jorge, and myself, Stuart. So, today we're just going to be focusing on AWS certifications and the different ones that are coming up. And some of the new learning paths that we've recently launched here at Cloud Academy, covering certifications. So, we're going to be talking about, firstly the cloud practitioner learning path that has just been updated. We're going to be talking about the SAP specialty, the new networking specialty that's coming out in July I believe, and then also the newly announced Solutions Architect Associate, which is coming out at the end of August. So, Danny, do you want to kick off and just highlight some of the changes that have been made with the new cloud practitioner certification?

Because obviously we had that certification learning path on Cloud Academy for a long time, but you've recently revamped it and updated it. So, if you can give us an update as to what was changed there?

Absolutely, Stuart. So, as as you mentioned, we did release our refreshed learning path for the cloud practitioner certification earlier this week. As part of that process, we've gone through and mapped all of the content from the exam blueprint to a series of courses, which we have basically consolidated into some core service offerings that help to streamline the way that we present the material, mapping into the domains from the exam. We've added some hands-on labs and as always, there's a preparation exam at the end to make sure that you're good and ready when you're ready to sit that exam.

Nice. So, it sounds like you've refined some of the existing courses down to really focus on the assessment points of the exam guide itself, just to make it a bit more focused and a bit more directed into all the elements that we need to know. Is that correct? Yes, that's exactly right. Where there were areas where we needed to add some offerings and some service offerings from AWS have changed and evolved over the last few months, we've done that as well. Excellent. And I think you've added some additional content around the billing and cost management because we've had some new content in that area recently. So, I know that, I think that's the domain four. Is it domain four, the power practitioner slide? It's great to see additional content around that side of things because I know that's focused on a fair amount in the exam, the last time I took it. Anyway, there was certainly offerings around that. So, that sounds great. How long is it? Is it about 16, 17 hours, or something like that?

The total amount of content actually comes out to about 19 hours. There are some hands-on on labs, so your experience may dictate shorter or longer based on the time you spend interacting with those. But we came in right around that 18, 19 hour mark. Nice. And the labs really help to solidify that knowledge learned in the lectures. That hands-on experience is, although you don't get as many lab questions in the cloud practitioner, but just having that hands-on experience by doing the labs, really helps to reinforce your learning. Would you tend to agree on that guys, either Will or Jorge, like the effectiveness of the labs for these exams? 

Absolutely, they cement home. The anatomy, as well as the moving parts for a particular service and in the case of cloud practitioner, that is exactly what the exam tests. It tests that you're able to idea service, what the service does for you, and under what circumstances do you use it? So, you'll be presented with a situational and asked which service will be the most appropriate service to solve that. And one of the items that Danny has been working on, is the fact, that now this version of the exam actually covers a significant more service, including the code developer tools, understanding that functionality is relatively new. And as you mentioned Stuart, this particular exam stands unique in that test for AWS support tier knowledge. 

So, understanding the business tier as well as the enterprise tier of support, what do they bring to the table? This exam stands unique that it verifies for you to have clarity on that knowledge. Definitely. It's that foundational exam, isn't it, to get your entrance into the world of AWS, understanding the terminology, just the core services, and what they do. It doesn't dive into the deep technical elements, but it gives you that really good baseline foundation of AWS before working on to the associates and then professionals, specialties, and all the other ones that are flat out. Which leads us nicely onto the next certification, which is the SAP specialty, which is coming out towards the end of April, I believe. And we're all busy as a team working on new content for that exam coming out next month. Can you give us some kind of overview and highlights on how that learning path is going to pan out for us, Danny? 

Sure. So as you mentioned, since our last episode, AWS actually did announce formal dates for the release. You can begin to register for the exam on April 7th. And the first day to take the exam will be April 26th. So, as we're crafting this learning path, there's a lot of mapping between just traditional solutions architect knowledge, just knowing basically again those core services of AWS as well as the process for assessing on-premises infrastructure and identifying AWS services in a migration context. So, there are SAPs specific components to the exam. 

Obviously, you're going to need to know about Hannah, you're going to need to know about the various database offerings, the operating systems, and the databases that are supported by SAP, as well as, what they call homogeneous and heterogeneous migrations. So, things of that nature with your SAP background, also having that AWS foundational solutions architect knowledge, marrying those two together into this SAP on AWS specialty. So, do you think it would be advantageous to people to have perhaps one of the associate level certifications before attempting this? Because it sounds like it's based on a lot of that architectural design and principles and methodologies that AWS uses in its design etc. So, do you think it would be preferable for people to take maybe one of those certifications before this specialty?

Very much so, yes. So, while AWS does not formally require you to have any prerequisite certifications to take any of these exams, including these specialty exams. I think again the solutions architect associate would be a great first level, particularly if you haven't taken any AWS certification exams before. There's going to be a tremendous amount of overlap in the material that's covered on that exam as well as the specialty exam. So, studying for that you're going to get most of the way to that associate anyway. And I think that would be a great transition point from that associate to that specialty level. Because there might be people out there that have familiar with SAP and they might have done maybe the cloud practitioner and may have put two and two together thinking, "I know SAP, I know a bit about AWS, let me do the specialty now". But perhaps not the best course of action, maybe take one of the associate levels first. Does it kind of focus on having a deep understanding of SAP and SAP applications itself or is it more to do with the integration and how that integration works with AWS? So, there's a focus on the integration with AWS and again particularly when you're talking about migration scenarios and upgrade scenarios, things of that nature. 

So, there may be some questions in terms of just foundational essay key knowledge, but this specialty is going to be geared towards the implementation of SAP workloads on the APBS. Nice. Have any of you guys worked with SAP before, have you used it at all? Will or Jorge? No, I haven't. I have been aware of SAP for a while. In a prior experience in that particular space. And I am aware of the SAP ecosystem is about as complex as AWS ecosystem. It's an enterprise, compute platform, with over 5000 customers and it's been around for a while. And like most things, AWS is customer-driven. So, migrating SAP workloads to AWS is, a lot of times, it's going to entail to have a specific AMI with the SAP software to have a specific AMI with the SAP software install. And then you're basically capitalizing on the elasticity of the cloud to implement these very same workloads that you've been implementing perhaps for the past decade in some cases. I'm certainly learning a lot about SAP at the minute, in the research and writing of new courses, so that's all good. Hopefully, I can get to take and sit the exam and pass it with our learning path afterwards, which would be great. 

So, is anything else to mention on SAP specialty from anyone? All excited about taking the exam? April 7th, first day to register. Nice, I'll get straight on it. Okay, next up we have the networking specialty, that's coming out. Obviously, we already have the networking specialty learning path with Cloud Academy already. But with the new exam coming out it's going to have new assessment points, new areas to focus on, new topics, and categories and services, no doubt. So, we've taken a look at that exam guide already and already begin working on new content. How do you think it compares to the, like from the existing to the new one, Danny? So, now you've got both exams booked quite close to each other to do a comparison. Can you tell us a bit about that? Sure. So, I am planning to sit the current version of the exam tomorrow, and then the following Monday I'll be taking the beta exam of the updated release. 

So, obviously, we've been reviewing the blueprints for both exams and have identified most of the things around new service offerings. So, you expect to see questions about gateway load balancers, UBC, readability analyzer, things of that nature, on the new exam. But I do intend to blog about my experience taking these two exams over the course of the week. And we'll certainly share any study tips or any other things to highlight, in terms of structure of the exam or how you may want to change your study plan based on what's covered in that new exam. That's good to know. It'll be good. It'll be interesting to see that comparison specialists are taking them so close. 

So, I look forward to reading that blog and seeing the kind of generalized differences between them. I mean in preparation for the new learning path, we've already got a number of new courses underway with production to do a network and so, we've got new courses coming out on using network firewalls to secure your VPCs, CloudFront design patterns, AWS routing, VPC sharing with the Resource Access Manager, looking at private application connectivity with private link, understanding direct connect, what it is, how to implement its configuration. I know that's generally covered quite a lot on the networking specialty.

So, we're expanding all of that area as well, looking at network security and encryption, interregional and interregional communication patterns, and also IPv6 stuff as well. So, that's some of the content that we're working on at the moment to add to the new networking specialty. But as we go through the exam guide and following some of Danny's feedback from the beta exam, next week we should be building a lot more content around that as well. So, lots to learn, lots of courses to write. I know you've kind of got some good experience with kind of networking and infrastructure in general, Will. How do you feel these differences are going to kind of compare to the networking specialty that was first out two or three years ago?

Do you think there's going to be a considerable amount of some of the new network and services in there that's going to be dived into? Probably. Before I think what I would say it was about the basics, the fundamentals, and sort of the advanced of networking and how it works on the AWS infrastructure. I wouldn't be surprised to see some more things like transit gateway making an appearance though briefly, maybe like 3% of the questions. So, not a whole lot but some. You'd have to know about it. There's been a lot of new adaption to the AWS network since the original specialty came out. So, I'm excited to see what they switched it up with.

It will be an interesting view into what they think is important for networking to see the difference between the two.  Definitely and I know in the past few months, you've created some great networking courses. You've done some good tablet talks on AWS networking. I think you have done one of the transit gateway if my memory serves me correctly. So all of that content is definitely going to help with this specialty. Are you going to be taking a whole hive or have you already? I plan to take it once it's released and it will be the first time I sit the exam. So, I'm looking forward to it. Nice. We'll make sure all the team has it by the end of the year.

A little target for the team. No pressure. no pressure too. And finally, we have kind of the big one which is the AWS Solutions Architect Associate, which is arguably the most sought after AWS, has been for a number of years. C03 is coming out at the end of August. So, obviously, we updated our learning path when C02 come out and we built a new learning path to focus on all the assessment points and the main points of that exam and we'll be doing exactly the same with C03. So, we'll have that built and ready before that's made generally available.

So, you guys can prepare and sit the exam for when it comes out. We'll certainly have all of the content for that ready and available and built into the learning path. There will be new content in there, there'll be some new labs in there and there will be a new exam as well. So, I'm looking forward to sit in that one again to see the difference from the current version and the new. What do you think some of the biggest changes will be? So, I know in reviewing the exam blueprints for C02 and C03 and I think Horde actually did the math on this. But from C02 to C03, they went from covering 63 services across 10 categories in C02. But that number grew to 131 services across 16 categories for C03. So, definitely expect the amount of content in our learning path to grow, to meet that as well. A lot of new services going from 63 to 131. Obviously, there are many new offerings that are going to be a kind of in play for what could be asked on the exam, some new domains that weren't there before include all of the machine learning services, so things like comprehend and recognition as well as just expanded the number of database services and even some of the developer tooling and services that are covered as well.

I would imagine a lot of these kind of newer services, especially kind of the ML side of things. You're not going to be required to have a deep understanding and knowledge of those areas more, probably more of an awareness of what they are and what they do as opposed to how to kind of configure and implement them. Would you guys agree with that? It's an interesting take. But for me, I don't think of the ML stuff is particularly important for architecture of systems and design. That's sort of an additional thing you put on top of your architecture. So, I think the original architecting cert and then the second one that they came out with was already very beefy with content you had to know. So, I'm a little nervous but interested to see how they've expanded it. You will be interested to see some of the questions that come up in the beta to see if they do kind of pull in these more kind of outside services from the traditional architecture exams that happened. Because like Danny said, there's already a lot of content in these learning parcel ready for the Solutions Architect Associate because it does cover a broad set of services.

AWS support out a ton of new services and have done kind of almost every month. So, you do need to become aware of those, but I think being aware of those a real deep level across all of them is quite a big ask, especially at the associate level. When you're talking professional level, then you need to know more in-depth, more how it integrates with other services and the dos and don'ts and the why's and how's, etc. So I'm looking forward to taking the beta to see how these other services are involved. I mean on the exam blueprint, it mentions all these services but it doesn't mean that they're going to be covered and it doesn't explain at what depth either.

So, I think we need to use our own kind of knowledge, our own experience over the years of sitting this exam multiple times, and kind of creating the content based on our own experience of sitting the beta, our own experience of previous sittings of the exam and build it accordingly. Because we don't want to overload people with way too much information that the depth that just isn't required, but enough information to understand detractors and questions and distracters, etc. I think that's probably my take on at this stage that might change over time. I don't know. What all your guys' thoughts? I will go with a similar interpretation as Danny in that. At least from the exam guide what I interpret is that then if we go by the number of service and features covered alone we can say that the amount of material has doubled. I mean in terms of service coverage, the number of services has doubled. And as you clearly explain, the depth of knowledge for those additional services may just be at the level of recognizing what do they do for you, perhaps how do they integrate with other services that tend to work with them on a average use case. But still it represents investment, a little bit of an additional investment in terms of time for you to be able to get your head around this new material. That is fair game now for the exam. Sounds good.

Well, I look forward to it. I'll look forward to working with all you guys to building out the new learning path. We've certainly got our work cut out for us in the next few months, just on certifications alone. Let's not forget all the other content that we're building that sits outside of the certification world. Because let's be honest it's not just about AWS certs, when learning about AWS certs, when learning about AWS. Has anyone got anything else to add on the certifications that we spoke about today? Any other comments? So, the first day to register for C03 if you're just itching to be one of the first ones to take this exam and get that new certification is July 26th, but C02 will be available to take through August 29th. C03 will replace that on August 30th. Cool. Okay. We better get busy then. Excellent. 

Well, it's been great speaking with you guys again. It was interesting to hear the latest things on the idea of the certs that are coming up and also to hear about the latest update to the cloud practitioner we made. So, feel free to take a look and give us your feedback on the new cloud practitioner that Danny released and look forward to speaking to you all again next time. Cheers guys.


About the Author
Learning Paths

Stuart has been working within the IT industry for two decades covering a huge range of topic areas and technologies, from data center and network infrastructure design, to cloud architecture and implementation.

To date, Stuart has created 150+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 180,000 students, mostly within the AWS category and with a heavy focus on security and compliance.

Stuart is a member of the AWS Community Builders Program for his contributions towards AWS.

He is AWS certified and accredited in addition to being a published author covering topics across the AWS landscape.

In January 2016 Stuart was awarded ‘Expert of the Year Award 2015’ from Experts Exchange for his knowledge share within cloud services to the community.

Stuart enjoys writing about cloud technologies and you will find many of his articles within our blog pages.

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