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Amazon Web Services Certs Worth Investigating

Long a leader in cloud technologies and related service offerings, Amazon offers a substantial and growing certification program to support its Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings. Currently, credentials are available for architects, developers and sysadmins at associate and professional levels, with more on the way.

Amazon's certifications cover solutions architect, developer, and "SysOps Administrator" (sysadmin) designations, as depicted in the following illustration clipped from the AWS Certifications home page. It's a typical multi-track program hierarchy, with associate level credentials leading the way into the program, and professional level certs picking up from there. Over time, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the company add an expert or master level to this collection as well.

The Associate level covers all three tracks, while the Professional level is still being built out.

At present four credentials are available, three at the Associate Level, and one at the Professional Level. Practice exams cost $20 (Associate) or $40 (Professional); the real thing is $150 (Associate) or $300 (Professional), and Amazon offers a plethora of free Kindle books across a wide range of AWS topics, including certification prep stuff:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate:
    aims at IT pros with experience in designing distributed systems and applications using the AWS platform. Key exam concepts include designing and deploying systems that are scalable, highly available, and fault tolerant using AWS; "lift and shift" existing on-premise apps into AWS; ingress and egress of data to/from AWS; selecting appropriate AWS services to accommodate data, compute, database, and security needs; understanding AWS best architecture practices; and estimating AWS costs and cost control mechanisms. Class: Architecting on AWS.
  • AWS Certified Developer-Associate:
    aims to validate technical skills and expertise in developing and maintaining AWS applications. Key exam concepts embrace: picking proper AWS services for an application; leveraging AWS SDKs to interact with AWS services from within the application; writing code to optimize AWS service performance when used in applications; and implementing code-level security (IAM roles, credentials, encryption, and so forth). Class: Developing on AWS.
  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator-Associate:
    Seeks to identify individuals familiar with deploying, managing, and day-to-day operations of the AWS platform. Key exam concepts include: deploying, managing and operating AWS systems that are fault tolerant, highly available, and scalable; migrating existing in-house applications over to AWS; implementing and controlling data flow into and out of AWS; selecting appropriate AWS services to meet compute, data, and/or security requirements; identifying and employing best AWS operational practices; and estimating AWS usage costs and identifying AWS operational cost controls. Class: Systems Operations on AWS.
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional:
    Validates advanced technical skills, knowledge and experience in those who design distributed applications and services around AWS. Key exam topics covered encompass designing and deploying dynamically scalable, highly available, fault tolerant, and reliable applications on AWS; selecting proper AWS services to design and deploy applications to meet stated requirements; migrating complex, multi-tier applications into AWS; designing and deploying enterprise-wide scalable operations built upon AWS; and implementing cost control strategies. Class: Architecting on AWS - Advanced Concepts.

Though Amazon has yet to comment on when Professional credentials for developer and sysadmins will be made available, demand for qualified AWS professionals is such that these missing program elements should appear sometime within the next 12 months. Certainly, AWS training and certification program efforts seems to barreling along at full speed, which tells me that missing elements should make an appearance sooner, rather than later.

The AWS cert program is well-designed and includes the kinds of training and learning materials you'd expect from a company with a deep and thorough understanding of content, training, and services delivery. These are certs that many IT professionals will want to investigate, and possibly pursue, if only to ride on Amazon's coat-tails as the leading provider of cloud computing services and Infrastructure as a Service offerings to both service providers and a majority of global enterprises. That's a hard target population to miss, and a great source for potential future employment.