I am Toni, a full stack developer at Knowit and an AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate. In this post I will describe the first steps of my public cloud learning journey after some years of private cloud experience. I did this certification as a part of my personal development plan at Knowit.
I first started looking into getting AWS certified when I started in my current position at the end of the summer. In my new position, I was much more likely to face a public cloud environment than a private one. I had been working with private cloud for a couple of years and wanted to be confident that my cloud competence would also be useful in public cloud environment. In my situation, AWS certification provided a set of topics to study and a clear goal to study towards. Out of the AWS certifications, I felt that the AWS Certified Solutions Architect was the closest match to my previous experience.
As study material, I chose to follow A cloud gurus AWS certified solutions architect - associate 2019 course. This course was quite fast paced and included a lot of hands on examples. However, I would not recommend this approach for someone with no prior cloud experience. It turned out that for me, the studying process included a lot of connecting the names of AWS services to similar open source alternatives I had been using in private cloud projects.
Main difference between private cloud and AWS
Coming from private cloud I feel that the main difference between private cloud and AWS cloud is that AWS does a lot of the configuring and thinking for you. This allows setting up and developing cloud projects quickly as there are well defined best practices created by the cloud provider for the interactions between the components. However, the drawback of this might be that you will not be integrating as much open source components into your stack as AWS provides all you need. This can create a risk of getting quite dependent on a single cloud provider, in this case AWS.
While the exam requires quite a wide knowledge of AWS products it also features many questions about core cloud concepts and best practices. These core concepts and best practices are very similar coming from private cloud to public cloud and across different public cloud platforms. For example, the requirements for instance scalability, planning for failures, as well as the isolation of some of the application logic to private subnets are very similar in both private and public clouds. Similarly, the AWS well architected framework, which pillars make the focus areas of the exam, and the related white papers, are a good read for also someone who is exclusively working in private cloud.
About the exam
The certification exam itself was a bit more challenging than I expected based on the example questions provided on the AWS certification site. I didn’t take the practice exam offered by AWS as I had read that its questions are easier than the ones in the real exam. Instead, I tested my exam readiness with the exam simulator provided by the A cloud guru platform at various stages of my learning process. The questions in this exam simulator are not always as scenario based as in the real exam and some of the questions test mostly your ability to remember names and numbers. Nevertheless, I found the exam simulator to be a useful resource for preparing for the exam as it provided detailed feedback on what topics to study more and where to find more material.
As a conclusion, I feel that the AWS certification was a good way to start learning my way into public cloud. I feel that I have gained a better understanding of both my own knowledge and the AWS cloud catalogue. I would recommend at least playing around with public cloud for anyone with private cloud background. All the major public cloud provides have free resources available for getting to know their system and the jump from private to public cloud is not as big as it may seem at first.