Getting a Cloud Architect Certification can be a daunting task. With a growing number of cloud providers and certification programs, deciding how to begin is imperative. The most challenging task to understand is this: It’s not just about achieving the certifications. Your experience as well as your breadth and depth of knowledge in infrastructure directly relates to how strong of a Cloud Architect you will become.
Amazon Web Services
If you know nothing about Cloud Architecture, I will highly recommend the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam, which is a solid exam to start your AWS journey, providing a non-technical professional with knowledge of what AWS has to offer.
There are 11 certifications currently available from AWS:
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
- AWS Certified Developer – Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
- AWS Certified DevOps – Professional
- AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty
- AWS Certified Security – Specialty
- AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
- AWS Certified Database – Specialty
- AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty
Here are the recommendations of experience directly from AWS:
- Also, occasionally AWS offers beta exams. AWS Beta exams leverage your skills across all domains to ensure the certification validates knowledge and skills for current AWS services and best practices. AWS produces beta exams to try out content with the cloud community, hoping to get traction on new content and pulling analytics on the testing data before making the certification GA. Note that some will not make it to GA.
- Keep in mind: What beta really means is there isn’t a lot of study content out there, as well as the fact that your discount code for 50% off you receive for passing other AWS certifications will not be valid.
- After achieving all 11 AWS Certifications, I would say 3 things:
- Take your time. You don’t need to rush through the certifications. Build out your knowledge base.
- I recommend spending time developing your understanding of how the different AWS services intertwine. This is how you will be a stronger AWS Cloud Architect.
- If you fail, don’t get discouraged. Look at the training content I wrote below and then try the test again.
Microsoft Azure can be a complicated certification path but from an Azure Cloud Architecture standpoint, there are only three tracks that I see being valuable:
- Azure Solutions Architecture Expert
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Any Azure Specialty Track
Here is how you achieve the Azure Solutions Architecture or Azure DevOps Engineer Expert:
If you are just beginning in the Microsoft suite, I recommend investing time in the Administrator Paths for Azure: Windows, 365, Security, Voice, etc., before getting into DevOps, Solutions Architecture, Data engineering, AI engineering, etc.
Note: There is a plethora of application-specific certification tracks from Salesforce, Adobe, etc. I tested and passed a few of these and do understand the use from a functional standpoint but didn’t see the long-term value (you’ll get more out building/troubleshooting the application yourself). The track I really enjoyed and saw as being the most beneficial was the Microsoft Power Platform Expert path. The Microsoft Dataverse (included in the Power Platform tests) plays a huge part in the future of Azure and I do recommend it.
GCP (Google Cloud Platform)
GCP or the Google Cloud Platform is an astonishing ecosystem that offers greater flexibility, speed, wins on On-Demand pricing, and provides a range of products and services.
Personally, I did not find these certifications overly difficult, and this was because the content was well-orchestrated, the services were easy to understand, and everything was seamlessly integrated.
Here is the certification path for GCP:
I passed the Cloud Engineer Associate, Cloud Architect Professional, and the Data Engineer Professional in the same week with little hurdles. The content to study is listed below.
The certification proctoring company, Kyterion, who manages all Google Cloud testing was not only kind but checked in with me throughout the test to see if I needed a break. This level of customer service was unseen by any other exam company.
- Note: In the new era of remote proctoring due to Covid-19, keep in mind that you will be on video, you will need to show your ID, and will need to be in a quiet isolated area, free of screens (had to unplug mine, even though it was across the room)
Other Cloud Providers
I wanted to explore other cloud providers outside of the Big 3 (AWS, Azure, GCP), so I looked at OCI, Alibaba Cloud and Tencent.
1. OCI, or Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, offers a certification path (currently free for your first certification) with training modules and practice tests before you take your certification. This was an easy way to achieve my Cloud Architect Associate. Overall, OCI has a long road ahead to catch up with the Big 3. In the end, I would still recommend taking these certifications to build out your cloud knowledge reservoir.
2. Alibaba Cloud has one of the fastest growing and most economical ecosystems, and many services that mirror AWS. I began their certification track (Associate ~> Professional ~> Expert), tested and passed 5 Associate certifications as well as a Professional certification. The content was robust, which will help build your cloud skills, and is worth the time. Unfortunately, the negative is their testing system needs an overhaul. There is one proctor to over 20 students, who seemed overwhelmed, but I would still highly recommend Alibaba Cloud to build out your well-rounded cloud architect foundation.
3. Tencent Cloud, which is known for gaming and streaming, also has an up-and-coming certification program. I tested and passed their Cloud Practitioner certification as well as their Cloud Architect association certification, which were well-organized and content specific.
- This (and Alibaba Cloud) are great solutions if you don’t want the hassle of dealing with the ‘AWS in China’ or ‘Azure China’ requirements, external teams, having your own entity, obtaining an ICP, etc.
Here is an example of the other certifications I have taken to build up my cloud breadth and depth
- For virtualization, look in the VMware track for VPC Data Center Virtualization as well as Cloud Management and Automation
- For networking and monitoring, I would recommend Cisco, SolarWinds, Splunk, CloudCheckr, CloudHealth and many more
- For security, I achieved the CompTIA Security+ and the CISSP, would I would highly recommend
- For containers, try the certification tracks for K8S (Kubernetes) or Docker
Trainings and Courses
First, I would highly recommend taking courses directly through the Big 3 or their training providers.
AWS pointed me to their partner, TechData, where I took Security Engineering on AWS. The content was phenomenal. It was on-site, and even though I have done six separate on-site week-long trainings with other companies in the past (Cisco, VMware, Hitachi Dell), I found this one to be the most detailed and relevant.
An incredible free digital training option is the AWS Partner Training and Certification path. It will explain how AWS differentiates their business, and how to better serve their joint customers. I completed the AWS Partner: Accreditation (Technical) and AWS Partner: Accreditation (Business), which I would recommend if you currently work, or want to work, in the GSI/ISV partner space.
Here are some thing training tools to explore:
- A Cloud Guru is where I acquire most of my training. It’s subscription-based and absolutely worth the fee. Even though they were acquired by Pluralsight, it doesn’t seem to have rattled their surge forward to deliver quality cloud content and courses.
- For learning DevOps and Containers, I would recommend Kode Kloud, which is also subscription-based and worth the price.
- Coursera & LinkedIn Learning: I took over 100 courses on these platforms and while some are useful, some are a waste of time. Read the reviews on the course tracks.
- Udemy, an open course marketplace, with a series of modules and lessons with over 183000 courses and 40 million students
- I love this content because it’s dynamic and comes directly from architects who have recently taken the tests. The practice questions are also all-encompassing and many times mirror those on the exams.
Note: NEVER TRUST THE ANSWERS ON PRACTICE TESTS! Look at the questions and the answers, then do your research. This is the proper way to study. It is a known fact that some vendors/users will put out bad content, or correct questions with wrong answers, so make sure to do the research.
Last, I would recommend doing some project management training (PMI-ACP) if you plan on running projects around Cloud Architecture. Agile sprints within a SDLC are something I spend a lot of time constructing and using Kanban boards has truly revolutionized my architectural thought process.
(This was written in January 2021 so keep in mind certifications roadmaps and requirements change quickly. Stay up to date with the below and their certification tracks, such as the AWS certifications here.)
If you have any questions about training or certification paths, contact us at CloudReach for more information