Stephane Maarek

The AWS Certified Developer Associate exam is for developers who wish to demonstrate their ability to develop applications native to the AWS cloud. What’s new in the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam 2018 released in June? In my opinion, the updated exam is a lot harder and more challenging as it covers more AWS services – including lesser-known services.

Many global businesses from Airbnb to Nike host their applications on the AWS Cloud. It’s becoming increasingly essential for IT system architects and IT developers to build new cloud-native applications in the AWS ecosystem as well as know how to deploy and manage applications, services, and operating systems in the cloud. Building cloud-native applications help reduce costs, increase scalability and stability while lowering the operational burden. It allows organizations to move faster when deploying new products and offerings.

Here are 4 new skills you should master for the latest AWS Certification exam that I teach in my new course The Ultimate AWS Certified Developer Associate 2019 on Udemy for Business. It contains over 15 hours of content and ensures that you will walk away with an excellent, well-rounded understanding of AWS from a developer’s perspective. See how Udemy for Business can help your IT team stay up to speed on the latest AWS Certification skills.

1. Elastic Beanstalk

AWS is placing greater emphasis on Elastic Beanstalk, and subsequently, there’s an increased focus on this topic in the new 2018 exam. Why the big push? Using more of the AWS tech stack can help simplify the process as well as decrease the time from development to production.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a cloud deployment and provisioning service that automates the process of deploying applications on the AWS ecosystem. Amazon’s approach to a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) allows developers to deploy their applications in a safe and scalable way. Elastic Beanstalk handles all the architecture requirements such as load balancers and autoscaling groups. For example, if your application is a website, Elastic Beanstalk spreads the load to run on multiple servers, so the traffic is evenly spread and your risk is reduced. Elastic Beanstalk also handles autoscaling depending on your website traffic volume during the week or during e-commerce shopping spikes like Black Friday. Finally, Elastic Beanstalk also manages software version upgrade strategies with 5 different roll-out strategies (immutable, all-at-once, rolling, rolling with additional batches and blue/green) which I describe in my course. For the exam, you’ll need to become well-versed in Elastic Beanstalk deployment strategies, troubleshooting, environment promotions (e.g. how to move an application to test to production), and the runtimes that are supported.

2. Amazon X-Ray

Amazon X-Ray helps IT teams identify errors in a microservices architecture and remediate them appropriately. It’s part of the IT shift away from monolithic to microservices architecture. Instead of a monolith application built as a single, autonomous unit, an entire website might be broken into many separate microservice applications that each focus on one function like handling financial transactions or shipping products. This microservices architecture allows for greater agility and frequent change, however, its more fragmented nature can also make it more difficult to manage and identify errors.

At any given time, hundreds or thousands of microservices can power a website. For example, if a user buys items in their shopping cart, this action is supported by many different microservices. However, it’s sometimes hard to tell which specific microservices application can be malfunctioning. To solve this problem, Amazon X-Ray captures tracing data from individual microservices for requests traversing your systems and then builds out a service map of your entire infrastructure, so you can quickly visualize and pinpoint where the error is coming from.

Amazon X-Ray is also well-integrated with the rest of the AWS stack. You just have to tick a box to enable X-Ray on services such as AWS Lambda, API Gateway, or Elastic Beanstalk and it requires little coding work by your developers. While it is a service you have to pay for, the cost is reasonable and worthwhile when it comes to troubleshooting issues. (You will save a lot of time for your DevOps engineers!) To keep costs low, you can also just request a sampling of your microservices traces to do a random monitor of your system (for example: only keep 5% of the traces). For the new AWS exam, you will need to know how Amazon X-Ray works, how to enable it, how to troubleshoot errors in X-Ray such as why it’s not running or why it’s not showing up in your UI–which I cover in my course. Amazon X-Ray is a pretty basic and uncomplicated tool, but it’s a powerful tool you can easily leverage today.

3. Serverless is the future

Serverless is a new dominant topic on the AWS Certified Developer Associate 2018 exam, which is a massive shift from previous exams. In the past, they didn’t ask any serverless questions, but today there is huge industry buy-in in the power of serverless. Serverless offerings are something every engineer must now know and can’t ignore. Why is serverless so big? Again it’s related to the trend in microservices. You only pay for what you use. It helps reduce costs, maintenance, and time to production. For example, I have applications in the cloud myself which I deployed two years ago and I don’t even think about them. They’ve been running continuously, scaling automatically, and it costs me very little. I feel confident Amazon is taking care of managing my serverless stacks for me.

The AWS serverless stack that I cover in my course includes AWS Lambda, AWS DynamoDB, API Gateway, Cognito, and Amazon’s new serverless framework SAM.

With AWS Lambda, instead of renting and managing entire servers to run your website, you can pay for functionality usage based on demand. You only get billed when the function is being run, and you don’t need to provision or scale servers, hence the name “Serverless.” Read more about AWS Lambda in my blog here.

AWS DynamoDB is a serverless database that automatically scales throughput up or down and continuously backs up your data for protection. Amazon API Gateway makes it easy for developers to create and manage APIs at any scale. Amazon API Gateway handles all the tasks associated with API calls, including user management, authorization, authentication, and quota management. You pay only for the API calls you receive and the amount of data transferred. Amazon Cognito takes care of user sign-in and access control to your web and mobile apps quickly.

Amazon is also pushing for the adoption of their new AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) framework. SAM allows IT engineers to generate CloudFormation templates that are simple YAML descriptions and easily deploy their entire serverless applications containing AWS Lambda, DynamoDB, and API Gateway in two commands. Serverless is the future. IT managers need to learn about these critical new technologies to stay ahead of the game.

4. New focus on developer tools

The new AWS certification exam also features new developer tools that help support the CI/CD or continuous integration (CI)/continuous delivery (CD) trend and enables developers to deliver code changes more frequently and reliably. AWS CodeBuild, CodePipeline, CodeDeploy, and CodeCommit are part of the CI/CD ensemble that allows developers to handle all their CI/CD pipelines without managing a single server. When new code is deployed to production, these new AWS developer tools ensure the code is auto-deployed safely, predictably, and often. In the past, without CI/CD, new code changes were deployed manually and infrequently, leading to a high risk of failure or production downtime.

Today, when developers are working on new code, the code is committed often and pushed into a central repository. For example, AWS CodeCommit reduces the risk of working in silos when coding. If 10 developers are all working simultaneously on different features, at some point, you have to bring all the features together. If you get developers to commit the code often to a shared repository, then they will work out the kinks earlier. AWS CodeCommit is a great alternative to GitHub as your code stays within your own private cloud, and the repositories are considerably cheaper. AWS CodeBuild tests and builds the code every time it’s committed, ensuring continuous code quality. CodePipeline and CodeDeploy deploy the code as often as it’s built. By automating the coding workflow, when you finally push to code to production, you can feel confident your application will work reliably and safely. It’s important for IT pros taking the new AWS certification exam 2018 to come up to speed on these new developer tools and IT concepts which I cover in my new AWS course.

Learn often as IT is changing rapidly

Finally, although AWS Certifications expire every two years, IT is changing so rapidly, I encourage IT pros to learn more often and keep your skills up to date. See my Udemy for Business course The Ultimate AWS Certified Developer Associate 2019 for the latest AWS skills, or deeper dive courses such as AWS CloudFormation Master Class, AWS Lambda and the Serverless Framework, and AWS EC2 Master Class.

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