Looking at AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Cert

Apr 3, 2019

So I can now say that I am a Certified AWS Solutions Architect (CSA-A). It was a good decision to really dig into the AWS ecosystem - anyone from the layman to the government can utilize top-tier computing infrastructure. With a little bit of know-how, an entire fleet of resources can be configured in minutes. This is really friggin cool. I dabbled in ‘large’ datasets before, but that was only on my locals. With cost-efficient cloud resources, I have the clarity to implement AWS towards potentially petabyte-scale data science.

Looking back at the whole training process, about 4 months passed between my initial commitment and the grant of certificate. Given that my studies happened outside of work, that timeframe was possible because of my familiarity with the topics. I can only imagine what the experience would be for people without a computer science degree and development experience.

AWS’s Solutions Architect certification is rooted in the knowledge of best-practices in AWS’s cloud infrastructure. AWS offers many resources with inherit performance and security characteristics, but an architect can still easily misconfigure those resources. The CSA-A basically means that you can make generally acceptable recommendations about AWS’s cloud resources.

Of course, the next step is Pro and possibly Subject Matter Expert.

If you’re interested in the AWS CSA-A

A Cloud Guru(ACG) helped quite a lot. I relied heavily on this third-party resource because it was widely recommended by the online community and through some acquaintences. I ended up going through videos at 1.3x speed and making a total of 40 pages of notes. I followed many of the hands-on walkthroughs to visually recall and get adjusted to the AWS dashboard. At the time of this post, ACG rennovated the AWS CSA-A course, but the Pro course is deprecated.

On the side, it really helps finding at least two projects that utilize AWS resources. ACG provides one good one, but you should step out of your comfort zone to find creative projects.

None of the practice exams provide a suitable 1:1 relationship to the actual test. I noticed that all of the scenarios in the main AWS resource docs (e.g. VPC Senarios) provided significant insight into the basis of the questions. Also, the $20 practice exam (offered by the same testing company) looks exactly like the real test - honeslty, it helped calm my nerves. It’s worth to take the practice exam because you quickly get similar testing results.

Make sure to understand the following

  1. It’s ridiculous, but know the domains you are being graded on:

     Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures
     Domain 2: Define Performant Architectures
     Domain 3: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures
     Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures
     Domain 5: Define Operationally Excellent
  2. Know every component that uses VPCs. VPCs configurations host a suite of security and performance scenarios:
    • Public/Private Security Groups
    • NAT Gateways
    • VPC endpoints
    • The implications of Autoscaling Groups
    • ELB vs. ALB
  3. Really know the features, technical limitations, and general cost of the following resources as wel as how to compare mix and matched resources in real-world set ups:
    • S3
    • EBS
    • EFS
    • DynamoDB (and DAX)
    • Elasticache
    • All of RDS
  4. Lastly, you’re going to need to read the whitepapers. The handful of necessary whitepapers are about 90 pages each, so give yourself two weeks just to read through the whitepapers.

Get in touch