AWS Certification and Training

Cloud has been a hot topic for more than 10 years, but I started my cloud adventure only recently, mainly focusing on managing infrastructure on AWS.

In the current situation, staying at home can be boring, and I must find a goal for myself out of work. So I prepared for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam and passed it this week.

Well, it’s kind of work-related, but I have more meaningful goals for work than that. Certification systems are games designed by software/hardware vendors or training institutes to fortify and grow their ecosystems. Instead of playing computer games, I played this one. It’s healthier than computer games and may help me expand my knowledge a little.

It turned out to be quite an easy game. With only a few months’ real-world experience on AWS and a couple of courses from Udemy, I was able to pass it with a 96% overall score. Of course, if you treat it more seriously and don’t take the shortcut with Udemy courses, you can definitely learn more about AWS. But the exam is designed in such a way that it only scratches the surface of the AWS platform. What else can you expect from 60 multiple choice questions?

Be careful with Udemy courses

Most Udemy courses related to AWS are just targeting the certification exams, and they’re very good at listing the bullet points that help you trim down the daunting knowledge base. But be careful and turn on your critical thinking mind!

I was watching A Cloud Guru’s course when I discovered a fresh post on Reddit complaining about the quality of it. Before that I found Ryan’s videos quite enjoyable and I always love the fact that he’s a huge fan of Elon Musk, mentioning Tesla/SpaceX many times in his lectures. After reading the Reddit post I came back and found a problem right away. In a lecture about security groups, he made a mistake when explaining the stateless nature of it. It’s not clear whether he clearly understood security groups or not at the time of recording the lecture, but he might be confusing response traffic with outbound traffic. It’s very misleading to say “by deleting the outbound rule, nothing happens”.

Then following the advice of the post, I bought Stephane’s course. This one allows you to download the slides used in lectures (though I didn’t use that), and tries to teach some real-world architectures. It explains security groups more accurately. However, as I moved on I found more problems in his lectures than Ryan’s. To name just a few:

  • 10. One AZ corresponds to one datacenter. Actually Ryan got it right – one AZ consists of multiple physical facilities.
  • 11. IAM roles are for resources. Truth: there’re other “trusted entities”.
  • 39. ELB stands for EC2 Load Balancer. Truth: it’s Elastic Load Balancer. Someone raised this in the QA section and the TA still defended that they are used “interchangeably”. Come on maybe it was the canonical name when there was only Classic Load Balancer, but now I can’t find “EC2 Load Balancer” anywhere in AWS documentation.
  • 77. He’s calling domain names as “URLs” and domain name resolution as “redirection” in this lecture and many to follow. It doesn’t hurt if you just want to get certified by AWS but it’s dangerous if you answer questions using these phrases “interchangeably” in a job interview.
  • 213. Layer 7 is HTTP, and layer 4 is TCP. He may know what they mean, but it’s misleading students to think that there’s a single protocol in each layer.

I only quickly (1.5x to 2x speed) went through both courses and I don’t have a clear preference of one over the other. Both can help you know key points useful in passing the exam, but don’t rely on them too much and stay alert. As someone said, real-world architecting is 100x harder than passing the exam.

Stay safe, and learn more.

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