Google Cloud Certified: Comparing and Contrasting GCP exams

Stanley Zheng 20th August 2018
Google Cloud Certified

The Google Cloud Certified designation means you’ve demonstrated the necessary skills to leverage Google Cloud technology in a way that transforms businesses and meaningfully impacts the people and customers they serve. Largely, the exams aim to be a practical baseline assessment of day-to-day duties at a Google Cloud Platform-oriented company. Previously, I have done the Solutions Architect Associate, Professional, and the Associate Developer Certifications for AWS. Personally, I found the Google exams more practical and fair in their assessments of candidates comprehension when compared to Amazon.

These summaries are also in the outlines and course guides but I would summarize in their respective guides. IE the one for the associate engineer outlines at a high level the topics and competencies you should be required to know.

 

Assessment

Cloud Architect

Goal: Test someone architecting solutions on Google Cloud Platform from either migration or greenfield development.

– Focus on Compute Engine
– Focus on Networking concepts
– Focused on case studies and migrations for right-sizing workloads

Data Engineer

Goal: Assess tradeoffs revolving around processing, analyzing, and storing data on Google Cloud Platform.

– Focus on using Dataflow vs Dataproc
– Focus on different data retention strategies and trade-offs
– Focus on Big data processing workflows
– Focus on the underlying the cases to use BigTable and BigQuery and their trade-offs
– Some case studies for choosing data sources

Associate Engineer

Goal: Maintain and expand Day-to-Day knowledge working at acompany building and deploying applications on GCP.

– Focus on App Engine
– Focus on Kubernetes
– Focus on Google Cloud SDK Console
– No Case Studies

What is the Associate Engineer?

As the newest exam it has the least information and most misconceptions out about it that I wanted to call out. How is the associate cloud engineer different from professional cloud architect?

> Apples : Oranges 
> AWS Solution Architect Associate : AWS Developer Associate  
> GCP Cloud Architect : GCP Associate Engineer 

I think they are very different; The Associate Engineer is poorly named;
It’s not like AWS SA Associate to – SA Associate Professional in AWS parlance. (A logical progression of step 1 to step 2).

GCP Associate Engineer is akin to the AWS Developer Associate certificate.

The assessment covers “how would a day-to-day engineer focused on app development run workloads on cloud and use the tools in their tool bots”. For Google Cloud this means lots of Google Container Engine/Kubernetes, Google App Engine, Storage, Instance template/managed group questions.

I think it is by far a more “hands on” approach. In the Cloud Architect exam, there were case studies and “migration” situations, whereas the Engineer exam did not. Compared to Data Engineer no real heavy questions on BigQuery or Big Table optimization or storage constraints; just knowing what these services are at a high level (relation/not relational/managed/not managed) was good enough.

I had 21 questions I was sure about, 16 I was 80%> sure and 13 that were about 50/50 educated guesses. I ended up finishing in 70 minutes and reviewed the rest of my questions.


My Timetable to completion

I did these in an expedited fashion for my work but also having deep prior experience, I did it at an accelerated pace. Google does not reveal scores, so the pass threshold is unclear, unlike AWS where 60% correct is usually a pass on their averaged exams.

For my first exam, I prepared for the Cloud Architect by studying intensely one weekend culminating in 30 hours of review and study. I took it the following Monday and was able to earn a pass. (2 May 2018)

My second exam, I did the Data Engineering, by studying that following weekend with the same below resources, equally putting 30 hours of review and study. I was able to take it the following week again and earned a pass (8 May 2018).

Later on, to compete on a contest at work for a trip to GCP next, I decided to do the newer beta engineer exam with a weekend of prep but I likely spent only 8 hours in preparation. I had to spend prior to this 3 months working knee-deep working in GCP actively again which made it easier.

 

Preparation

GCP: Complete Google Data Engineer and Cloud Architect Guide – Udemy Course. Most comprehensive set of courses for all 3 overview.
Cloud Academy Courses – These were very comprehensive and I felt more intermediate-expert courses that gave you really useful information for the exam but also for day to day.
– Case Studies Partner Portal – Google runs a partner portal for GCP, that people can sign up for. There are lots of great discussion and resources on the site.
Solutions Slides –  familiarizing with icons and common architecture patterns. This is great for building diagrams also
– Storage Options – Review heavily the storage options, costs between Storage, Datastore, BigQuery BigTable, CloudSQL, Persistent disk/SSD and the different time and latency tradeoffs.
– Practice Quizzes for each exam – on their respective site there’s a google form that gives you a good assessment to judge your familiarity after your first round of studying.
GCP Solutions – site with common GCP architect patterns flashcard style.

 

Final Thoughts

The exams were great but do not beat real-world experience with the platform. I felt like I was in high school again studying for the SATs. General good test taking and studying practices was the key. These exams are a great starting point for your journey to the Cloud. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to drop me a line on any of my social media or email channels.

 

All of my certifications can be verified respectively below: