Google Cloud Certified: Comparing and Contrasting GCP exams

Stanley Zheng 20th août 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: