One of the subjects IT professionals have been debating for years is of cloud storage certifications. Is it worth investing your time and money in getting a Microsoft, Cisco or Red Hat badge to put next to your name on your CV or LinkedIn profile? Certification advocates say it looks good in interviews and can help land a future career. Those against certification state that certification is just for show and that practical knowledge is always much more valuable than some three- or four-letter abbreviation next to your name.
The cloud may have ended that debate. Besides disrupting the way we think of IT, the public cloud has also had an impact on IT skills.
While infrastructure engineers used to be classified into the ranks of system, network, or storage engineers, today’s cloud architects need to be a jack-of-all-trades: With knowledge of one or two popular coding languages and the skills to deploy compute, storage and network resources in cloud environments.
So given all that, how do you get “certified” for the cloud? How can systems, network and storage engineers transition their current expertise to the skillset tailored for the cloud? This article will answer those questions as we take a closer look at cloud storage certification.
AWS Cloud Storage Certification Paths
When it comes to the public cloud, AWS certification exams are the most popular choice among cloud architects and potential cloud architects.
AWS has three main certification paths: Architecting, Developing and Operations, plus a separate Speciality path which serves as an add-on to exams from the three main branches.
All three main paths have an entry level exam called an Associate exam, and a higher level Professional exam that covers more advanced AWS topics. In each path, the Associate exam is the prerequisite for the Professional exam. The Professional exams contain more questions at a higher difficulty level than the Associate exams, though AWS does give you more time to complete the exam (170 minutes as opposed to the 80 minutes available to complete an Associate exam).
Exams in the Architecting path will validate your knowledge of core AWS compute, storage and network services with an emphasis on architecting highly-available production workloads designed to be always-on and cost-efficient, while ensuring scalability and elasticity.
The Solution Architect Associate exam is probably the best starting point for any engineer wanting to begin journey in world of AWS cloud storage certification.
Developing exams are designed for software engineers who want to migrate their existing apps, or architect new ones for Amazon cloud, which they will then maintain using AWS SDK and AWS CLI. Exams in this branch are also suitable for DevOps engineers who want to automate common AWS tasks by utilizing API calls to AWS services.
It’s highly recommended to be fluent in at least one high-level programming language, and to know the basics about application security and transactional and NoSQL database engines as well.
Operations exams will test your system administration and engineering skills related to deploying, maintaining and monitoring AWS environments. Just reading the description of this path may make it sound like the easiest path available, but don’t let that fool you.
Operations exams cover a wide variety of topics, including material from both the Architecting and Developing branches. They are quite focused on details, so it’s usually recommended that you wait until you have certification in one of the other branches before you start your AWS certification with this path.
Topics in AWS Certification Exams
For many enterprises, the first step into the cloud is with storage.
Managed cloud storage will make any CIO/CTO’s life easier, since it is highly available and durable, scalable on demand, and it doesn’t require any upfront payment.
In the world of enterprise IT, where you need to maintain both storage hardware and storage software, the idea of having a cheap, redundant and easily accessible way of storing files and VM volumes seems like a match made in heaven.
All three AWS cloud storage certification exam paths cover cloud storage in many details:
1. Architecting exams will cover the basics of four main AWS storage types:
- Amazon S3 (highly scalable object storage)
- Amazon EBS (block volume storage for Amazon EC2 instances)
- Amazon EFS (shared file storage for Amazon EC2 instances)
- Amazon Glacier (low-cost data archiving storage).
Most of the questions in these exams deal with the differences among these services and best practice usage scenarios.
Specifics are also important, as the test expects you to know details, such as the durability and availability of Amazon S3, the different types of Amazon EBS volumes, and Amazon Glacier’s minimum object size and retrieval time.
For engineers only concerned with cloud storage, topics covered on the AWS Solution Architect Associate exam will be the most useful for successful utilization of AWS storage services.
2. Developing exams mainly focus on AWS CLI commands and SDK API that deals with provisioning and maintaining storage.
You will be asked to give specific commands, such as how to create an Amazon S3 bucket, how to enable cross-replication of Amazon S3 buckets, and how to restore a snapshot of EBS volume.
Even though you might think that this knowledge won’t be useful in everyday tasks, we would strongly object: When you start to develop backup scripts to offload data to AWS, AWS CLI will be your best ally.
3. Operations exams mostly cover the performance tuning and monitoring of your cloud storage.
To successfully answer storage questions on Operations exams, be ready to dig deep down: You’ll need to know all the details of IOPS and throughput measurement of Amazon EBS volumes and how to set up CloudWatch alarms for storage monitoring, in addition to being proficient with all the AWS CLI commands that appear on the Developing exams. Questions regarding metrics can be specifically hard, so be prepared.
NetApp Cloud Storage Certifications
As a market leader in enterprise storage solutions, NetApp also offers products tailored for the AWS cloud in order to help its customers to easily integrate with AWS storage services, such as Amazon EBS volumes or Amazon S3.
Even though it’s quite easy to set up a basic replication to S3, or deploy instances with EBS volumes, establishing proper bi-sync between on premise storage and AWS cloud is not an easy task.
If you’re already utilizing these technologies in your enterprise environment, or working for a MSP that is a NetApp partner, getting NetApp Certified Storage Associate – Hybrid Cloud certificate might be a good idea. The exam will test your knowledge of deploying, configuring, and managing hybrid cloud storage solutions powered by NetApp.
But don’t forget that, in order to successfully pass this one, you need a solid understanding of AWS storage options as well. So think about completing this certification first.
If you’re planning to utilize NetApp products in order to set up hybrid cloud storage, and you don’t have practical experience in such deployments, the necessity of earning such certification is even greater.
We highly recommend that you enroll for NetApp University training courses and go through the recommended preparation steps before you enroll for this exam, and more importantly, before you plan to move your critical data to such a hybrid cloud solution.
Once the exam is passed, you can be sure that you possess the knowledge needed to tackle even the most complex storage environments that need to be synced to AWS.
Even though some IT gurus will often criticize various IT certifications, in the last couple of years AWS cloud storage certifications have helped enrich careers and solve complex problems that can arise when utilizing AWS cloud services.
If you see yourself in the AWS world for the next couple of years, passing at least one associate exam seems like a logical step.
In the same way that data needs to be redundant, available, and secured both on-premises and in the cloud, it helps to have a level of added insurance when it comes to cloud certification.
Storage engineers already using or planning to use NetApp hybrid cloud solutions will find it highly beneficial to upgrade their knowledge with a NetApp Certified Storage Associate – Hybrid Cloud certification in conjunction with the AWS Solution Architect exam.
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