Azure Certification Is Getting More Specialized

Microsoft plans to make Azure certification more specialized and specific, according to a blog post by Liberty Munson, Microsoft’s chief of certifications.

In the post, Munson says there’s “consistent feedback that our current Azure exams are too broad, covering a range of skills that very few individuals, even experts in that area, would have.”

I agree. If your job is to manage a virtual datacenter in Azure, pretty much all of Exam 70-532 and most of Exam 70-535 are irrelevant to you.

I’m also not too proud to admit I needed multiple tries to pass some of those certification exams.

The first of these new certifications is Azure Administrator, which appears to be closely aligned with running virtual machines in a virtual datacenter.

Says Munson:

(W)e’re removing the stuff that is out of scope for most Azure Administrators and ensuring that certification assesses more of the skills that you actually need to be successful.

It appears, from Munson’s post, the Azure Administrator certification requires passing two exams.

For people who have already passed Exam 70-533 (Implementing Microsoft Azure Solutions), there’s a “bridge” exam, AZ-102, that adds material that has not been part of that exam.

For those who have not taken 70-533, there are two new exams: AZ-100 and AZ-101. All three of these new AZ-10x exams are in beta.

Exam AZ-100, Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment

Exam AZ-100 is focused on the day-to-day, hands-on aspects of Azure. Its topic areas are:

  • Manage Azure subscriptions and resources (15-20%): Work with resource groups; use tags, resource policies and locks; run diagnostics and implement alerts; find unused resources; monitor spend; comb through logs.
  • Implement and manage storage (20-25%): Work with storage accounts; import and export blobs; implement and configure CDNs, Azure Files and Azure Backup.
  • Deploy and manage virtual machines (VMs) (20-25%): Create and configure Windows and Linux VMs; automate deployments with ARM templates; use Desired State Configuration; work with disks, network interfaces and the VM Agent; back up VMs.
  • Configure and manage virtual networks (20-25%): Peer networks; use virtual network gateways; implement routing; work with Azure DNS; implement and configure Network Security Group rules.
  • Manage identities (15-20%): Know the ins and outs of Azure Active Directory, including AD Connect.

Exam AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security

Exam AZ-101 is aimed at working with hybrid cloud deployments.

  • Evaluate and perform server migration to Azure (15-20%): Determine what can be hosted in Azure; identify network requirements; prepare basic governance for the migration; effect the migration using Azure Site Recovery or P2V tooling;
  • Implement and manage application services (20-25%): Implement and configure Logic Apps, Functions, Event Grid and Service Bus; implement and configure App Service, including scaling and diagnostics.
  • Implement advanced virtual networking (30-35%): Know the ins and outs of Azure Load Balancer; work with the Network Watcher; configure application gateways, VPN connections and ExpressRoute.
  • Secure identities (25-30%): Implement and configure multifactor authentication with Azure AD; work with role-based access control; work with Privileged Identity Management.
This exam covers skills that are under-represented in the current certification exams, but are essential to being a real-world Azure administrator.

For example, most enterprises with servers in Azure maintain on-premises servers, within a hybrid cloud network. And there is a ton of work out there for people who have experience moving servers to Azure.

The current Azure certification exams’ objective domains are largely silent on the skills needed to manage a hybrid network or migrate a server to Azure, so it’s nice to see them getting their due.

Exam AZ-102, Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Transition

Exam AZ-102 fills in the assessment gaps for those who have already passed Exam 70-533.

  • Manage Azure subscriptions and resources (5-10%): Work with alerts, metrics and diagnostics; monitor resources and spend.
  • Implement and manage storage (5-10%): Mostly Azure Files and Azure File Sync.
  • Configure and manage virtual networks (15-20%): Implement virtual network peering, virtual network gateways, and vnet-to-vnet connections.
  • Manage identities (15-20%): Use Azure AD premium features such as Azure AD Identity Protection, Azure AD Join, and Enterprise State Roaming; use conditional access policies; audit access; configure AD Connect.

I will take the AZ-102 beta exam at the end of the month and share my general thoughts on it afterward. All Microsoft certification exams are subject to non-disclosure agreements, of course, so don’t expect details.

Additional New Certifications Coming This Fall

Additional specialty certifications will roll out in September, Munson notes.

According to the Build Azure blog, two additional certs — Azure Developer and Azure Solutions Architect — are rolling out soon.

This aligns to the current exam structure, where 70-532 is the developer exam and 70-535 is the architecture exam, with 70-533 serving as the administrator exam.

Additional roles will be coming in 2019; I would expect them to focus on DevOps, containers, big data/Hadoop and the like.

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