The best way to start your Cloud journey in Azure
Do you want to learn what Cloud is ?
Or maybe you already have an idea but you would like to get better and be able to showcase your knowledge.
Microsoft AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals certification path is a perfect start.
After exploring a lot AWS Services, I felt the need to have a better understanding of other Cloud providers. This certification is interesting to have a first overview of the Microsoft Azure services. You will learn the basic Cloud principles as well as how you can find them in Azure.
In this article, I will help you understand how to pass the AZ-900 certification and some of the benefits to do so. I will talk about the new version released in November 2020.
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What is AZ-900 ?
The AZ-900 certification is the first level certification issued by Microsoft about its Azure cloud services.
If you have a look at the Microsoft Azure certification path compiled by Wizlabs (2020), you can see that AZ-900 is at the beginning of each road.
Microsoft Azure certification path by Whizlabs (2020)
The goal of this certification is to give you foundational knowledge of Cloud concepts and how Azure is implementing them into several services.
You don’t need any Cloud background to start learning and pass the exam. However a previous IT experience will make it easier and faster to achieve.
Here are the skills you need to learn about to pass the exam. I won’t just copy paste every requirement but I will give you an idea of what’s inside. You can find the details of every skill on the AZ-900 exam page.
Cloud concepts (20–25%)
Here we are talking about Cloud general concepts. You will learn about the benefits (CapEx vs OpEx…), the “y” drivers (High Availability, Elasticity, Scalability…). There is also some content about the different service levels (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS).
Be sure to well understand this section as it will be useful for every other certification you will take as well as for real-life situations.
Core Azure Services (15-20%)
In this section you should know the main Azure services. Like the one you will use every day as Azure technical people. You will discover the resources you can use as well as the patterns to manage them using Azure core architectural components (Regions, Availability Zones, Subscriptions, Management groups…).
This is about the shell of your future Azure architectures.
Solution and management tools in Azure (10–15%)
DevOps, monitoring, IoT, Data analytics, portal and shell…
If you think that they are very different topics, you are probably right !
This section is about the presentation of solutions to real-life problems, available through Azure services and how to manage them. I’m sure you will find here some tools that you are looking forward to use on your next Azure project.
General security and network security features (10–15%)
Because you know it (and if not, you NEED to learn it) security is of paramount importance in IT. And especially when you are using public cloud platforms.
You will find in this topic some details about how you can prevent security breaches using Azure network security features. Moreover, take time to have a deep look into the several compliance, alerting and prevention services (Sentinel, Security Center, KeyVault…).
Enjoy the cloud but stay safe !
Identity, governance, privacy, and compliance features (20–25%)
We keep the point about security, talking about identity and access management in Azure.
Identity federation with Active Directory, Multi-factor Authentication, Role-Based Access control policies… Everything to keep your Azure account and resources safe and secured.
You will also see how to manage resources using tags and package your environment resources to deploy them at scale using Azure Blueprint.
This section is also here to make your life easier when you will start to safely onboard your team on the platform.
Cost management and Service Level Agreements in Azure (10–15%)
Last but not least, there is a fairly consequent part of your learning about Costs, SLAs and services life-cycles.
The capacity to better optimize costs is one of the main assets of Cloud platforms, you need to learn how to do it ! And I’m sure you can’t wait to know how to comply with your business availability requirements or to try the next Azure features as soon as they are usable !
Face to face with the exam
You know what you need to learn, now let’s have a look at the exam details.
You have 60 min to answer between 40 and 60 questions.
Your time is global for the exam, you are free to divide it at your convenience between questions.
Be sure to plan at least 90 min to do the check-in process and read the instructions. You don’t want to miss anything. Right ?
All questions have checkbox style answers (nothing to write) and you will find different kind of questions:
- Multiple choice: 1 or more possible answers (the number is specified in the question ==> please, READ CAREFULLY THE QUESTIONS)
- Graphical answers: You will have for example a screenshot of Azure portal and you will need to select the correct service to click on for a particular situation
- Drag & Drop: You will need to match some Services or Concepts to the right definition
During the exam, you can flag questions to be able to quickly come back to it at the end if you need to spend more time on it.
This exam description is not the full requirement list. During the learning process, you should check the details on Microsoft website.
Schedule your exam
When you feel ready you can go to the exam page and plan it using the PearsonVue link.
The exam is 99$ but Microsoft run from time to time free virtual learning sessions with a free voucher at the end.
You can chose to take the exam from home or go to an exam centre.
You will have more informations about requirements for the exam during the scheduling process (identity papers, clean workspace…). Be sure to read everything and to check that you will be able to provide the necessary level of workspace confidence and peacefulness if you are doing this from home.
How to prepare the exam
The main resource for this exam is the Microsoft Learn platform. It provides modules for free that you can complete at your own pace. This is a full text journey.
There are also some free labs included that you can complete using sandbox. You need to create a free Azure account to have access to the Azure portal and services.
Microsoft Learn path for AZ-900
Beside that, there are a lot of courses over the internet. Free, not free, video, text… If you need more than Microsoft Learn, just choose one and deal with it.
Last step will be to find some question examples. Check free platforms like examtopics but be careful: they might not be up-to-date and you can have some wrong answers in the correction.
For more serious content, you can have a free exam session on Whizlabs and some other for a few $.
As a first step, try to have an overview of all concept and services included in the certification.
Then, when your ideas are a little bit more clear about Azure ecosystem, try to understand how services help to fulfil Cloud concepts (fault tolerance, elasticity, high availability…) and how they can interact with each other.
Think about real life use cases. Try to find how you could solve your team issues using Azure services. Or maybe how you would implement a certain architecture into Azure.
It does not have to be very complex example, but being able to refer to real-life helps you to memorize.
On your way, be sure to have a quick look at every concept you don’t understand very well at first sight. If you need, you can build yourself a Wishlist to keep track of the topic you need to check later. I wrote another article about how to use this concept. It is particularly efficient if your are new to the certification and cloud field.
I strongly recommand you to create a free account on the Azure portal. You will be able for free to explore the several services as well as completing the labs offered by the Microsoft Learn path (sandbox).
Spend some time on the Azure portal, especially if you are new to the Cloud field. You will get a better understanding of all the possibilities and you will have the whole picture in mind.
Last but not least, do not hesitate to ask people question. There is a great community of Cloud enthusiasts on forum and social media that can help you. You will solve your issues and meet with interesting people, you will see real-life experience and projects. In seven words:
You will build a strong background knowledge.
This AZ-900 certification is very useful, especially if you are new to the Cloud concepts. If you are already familiar with other Cloud provider, it is the occasion to quickly have an overview of Azure platform.
With some motivation, anyone is able to pass the exam and you will learn a lot in the way. It is very important to understand what you learn. Do not study just for the exam. Keep in mind that the goal is to setup the foundations for your future knowledge.
I hope you are ready to start learning and I wish you good luck on your journey !
Feel free to reach me on Twitter (FlolightC) to keep me updated about your Cloud journey or to ask me questions ! I’m always happy to discuss with you !