Scott Duffy

What is Microsoft Azure?

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, allowing millions of companies worldwide to cost-effectively design and deploy computer systems. It provides a robust set of management tools to ensure the reliability, security, and performance of those systems. In this way, Azure provides all businesses (regardless of size) tools that would be extremely expensive to create themselves.

A cloud architect designs software systems to run in a cloud environment. The Microsoft Azure Architect Expert certification is a top-level recognition of the skills required to perform that task.

So what does an Azure Architect do? 

An architect designs software that:

While the architect’s job is to make processes easier for the user, this is no easy feat. Software that runs in the cloud has to be designed differently than software running on computing hardware that you completely control. The cloud is a shared environment with other Microsoft customers. Cloud architects are expected to be experts at the technology their applications are designed to run on. So you can think of a cloud architect as both an administrator AND a software designer.

AZ-305 Azure Architect Design Exam Prep 2021 (with AZ-304)

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Prove your Azure Architect Design skills to the world. Complete AZ-305 + AZ-304 course. Update as of JUNE 2022 | By Scott Duffy • 700.000+ Students, Software Architect.ca

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The Azure Architect Expert Certification

Candidates are required to pass two exams in order to attain the Azure Architect Expert certification. The first exam happens to be AZ-104, which is the exam needed for Azure Administrator Certification. Here is an article on How to Pass the AZ-104 Azure Administrator Exam.

The AZ-104 exam is a highly technical exam covering Azure Administrator skills. Candidates are expected to know how to create and manage Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Storage Accounts, Virtual Networking, Azure Kubernetes Service, and other advanced skills.

The second exam is AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. This exam covers the design considerations for designing solutions for Azure.

The AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions Exam

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The Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification was designed to recognize the wide range of skills and abilities required to fill this role. Candidates who get this certification can be proud of having their skills recognized after passing an advanced-level exam.

A candidate must pass the AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam to get this certification. Here is a breakdown of the exam.

Cost: US$165

Questions: 40-60

Time Limit: 120 minutes (150 if you include the surveys before and after)

Question Types: Multiple Choice, Case Studies

Experience Level: Expert

Certificate Expiry: Requires renewal every year

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This exam is quite technical, and you should only consider it if you have previously worked in Azure. Part of the preparation must include hands-on experience across a wide range of Azure services. If you want to pass, you need a plan. Even with Azure expertise, you will need to study to pass the exam. Azure consists of hundreds of services, and chances are that most applicants will not be an expert in all of them.

Microsoft is known for making frequent updates to its exam content. You can expect minor changes to the exam every few months and significant changes every year or so. So my first suggestion is to verify the current status of the exam, as outlined in the official Microsoft exam objectives. If the exam will be updated soon, that page will tell you.

This page also outlines the exam requirements, and if you go to the exam objectives section, you can download a PDF that describes the exam in more detail.

Microsoft breaks the exam up into four sections:

As you can see, the exam is broken up fairly evenly between identity solutions, data storage solutions, and infrastructure solutions. Business continuity is a relatively smaller element. 

The exam objectives almost all start with the phrase “recommend a solution for…”. This phrase shows you the level of knowledge required to take the exam. You need to be able to weigh the pros and cons of all the options for a problem and determine which is the most logical one for that situation. 

Identity

Microsoft’s favorite cloud-based identity platform is Azure Active Directory or Azure AD. Azure AD is a robust and powerful platform for managing user identity in the cloud. 

Since Azure AD is already covered on the AZ-104 exam, you should not expect questions on the basic concepts here. There will not be questions about creating users or groups or assigning roles.

The identity questions will be around the monitoring and logging of identity. There will be questions about the governance structure around identity, securing identities, and using Azure AD with applications. 

Data Storage

The AZ-104 exam covers the basic Azure Storage account. On the AZ-305 exam, you should expect questions about databases. Microsoft’s favorite relational database is Azure SQL Database, based on the SQL Server database engine. And their favorite non-relational database is Azure Cosmos DB — and how to scale each.

Also, this exam covers data analysis and data integration topics. You do not have to be a data analyst, but you should understand some of the challenges of moving large amounts of data around, including cost implications.

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Infrastructure Services

Since you would have taken and passed the AZ-104 exam before taking this one, almost all questions relating to the creation, modification, maintenance and deletion of an Azure infrastructure service will not be on the AZ-305 exam.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation where you are asked to make technology recommendations for a new application that your company is working on. As the cloud architect, it’s your job to choose between the various cloud service options. Why would you recommend a virtual machine (VM) in one situation, instead of an Azure App Service? Knowing the pros and cons of the technology choices within Azure is a key architect skill. Whereas the Azure Administrator knows how to use the technology, the Architect knows the strengths and weaknesses of each option and can recommend the best one.

One of the challenges of cloud computing design is that there are so many options to choose from. There are usually three or four ways to perform any task in Azure. If I asked you to connect two networks in Azure, which approach do you take? Do you use a Network Gateway to connect them? Or use network peering? Or perhaps you set up a company WAN to perform that task? 

Understanding the differences between the approaches, the cost implications, the ongoing maintenance required, security considerations, and whether existing applications need to be re-coded or reconfigured all factor into the decision.

This exam is one of the most challenging certification exams that Microsoft offers, and with good reason. Passing this exam means that you are an Azure Expert, and so you need to demonstrate that skill before Microsoft gives you the title. 

Having taken the AZ-104 exam before this one, you should have a good idea of Azure, and the skills tested here should be at a higher level. A few topics on this exam do not appear on the AZ-104, but nothing too surprising.

I recommend my Udemy video course on the AZ-305 Azure Architect Design Exam Prep. It does assume that you have some background in Azure and are not starting from zero. Over 25,000 students have taken the course, and I have been teaching the Azure Architect Design exam in all of its various forms over the last five years. 

I suggest you give yourself about four to six weeks to prepare for the exam, depending on how deep your current Azure skillset is. As I mentioned before, it’s essential to get lots of hands-on practice to reinforce the concepts of Azure at the practical level. 

If you haven’t passed the AZ-104 Azure Administrator exam yet, I suggest starting there. I do have a course on that as well. This exam is more practical, and you can practice in Azure alongside my course to increase your skills in a short period.

If you’re still at the beginning of your Azure learning path, you might want to consider the AZ-900 exam. You can find everything you need to know to pass the fundamental test in our blog. 

Whichever exam you decide to take — good luck, and please let me know when you pass!