Stephane Maarek

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a popular solution for companies building a DevOps practice across technical teams. Since there are so many products within the AWS ecosystem (165+), gaining expertise with on-platform DevOps practices requires extensive training. Enter the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional Certification. This advanced certification builds proficiency in the overall management and operation of the AWS cloud platform through the application of DevOps practices. 

What is DevOps?

“DevOps” is a technical philosophy in software delivery that improves collaboration across the teams who build/deploy code and oversee systems.

Before DevOps technical teams at organizations were not well integrated. The software development, data, QA, and IT operations teams often had misaligned goals that slowed down production cycles. DevOps breaks down organizational silos by aligning the goals and workflow of technical teams. These groups collaborate on the entire software lifecycle from design and development to testing and deployment. 

The AWS platform has tools that foster DevOps practices, but organizations will need to invest in training to fully leverage these tools. My new course, the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional Certification, can help train your team on these key skills. With over 20 hours of hands-on labs and training, the course will drastically improve the DevOps knowledge of your team members. Find out more about how Udemy for Business can help train your team on AWS DevOps skills.

DevOps aligns the goals and workflows of technical teams

5 principles that drive a DevOps culture in AWS

Even those experienced with AWS may not be leveraging its most beneficial services. With over 165 products, professionals likely don’t even know about all of AWS’s DevOps tools.

To power organization-wide efficiencies and build team confidence in DevOps practices, the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional certification focuses on five DevOps principles and how they relate to the AWS platform.

1. Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) automation

Central to a successful DevOps implementation is reimagining the SDLC through continuous integration and continuous delivery or deployment (CI/CD) architecture. The CI/CD process comprises the exam’s greatest focus with 22% of questions relating to this domain.

Continuous integration (CI), refers to code pushed often to a code repository, such as AWS CodeCommit. Then, a testing server like AWS CodeBuild checks the code as soon as it’s pushed and developers receive feedback on the pass/fail status of the tests. This allows product teams to find and fix bugs early in software development, thereby delivering code faster and deploying code often. 

Continuous delivery (CD) ensures software is released reliably whenever needed and that deployments happen quickly and often. This allows development teams to move away from one release per quarter to around five releases every day. Powering that many releases per day requires automating the deployment through AWS services like CodeDeploy, Jenkins, or Spinnaker. Continuous delivery, though, does require a manual step to approve the deployment. 

Continuous deployment differs from continuous delivery in that it’s entirely automated. Every code change is deployed all the way to production. There are no manual approval interventions. AWS tools used here include CodeDeploy, Elastic Beanstalk, and CloudFormation. The whole CI/CD process is orchestrated with AWS CodePipeline.

2. CloudFormation powers Infrastructure as Code

DevOps is all about driving efficiencies. For example, it can be challenging to reproduce work to another region or in another AWS account. Infrastructure as code (IaC) helps scale work without repetition. Infrastructure as code is a newer concept in IT where any deployed code will, in turn, create, update, or delete the infrastructure. The AWS answer to infrastructure as code is CloudFormation, a declarative way of outlining an AWS infrastructure for any resources you may want to spin up in your tech stack. 

CloudFormation helps to maintain version control and increases team productivity, thanks to the ability to destroy and recreate infrastructure as needed. It also helps engineers avoid recreating the wheel as templates are available for outlining infrastructure needs and to create those instances in the right order with the exact configuration.

3. Monitoring and logging

Critical in a DevOps practice is systems feedback, which is done through infrastructure monitoring and logs analysis. In AWS, these related tools are CloudTrail and CloudWatch. CloudTrail monitors and logs all API calls made in a company’s AWS instance. This offers a DevOps engineer visibility into which teammates are making changes to the organization’s infrastructure.

CloudWatch provides further visibility into the many cloud resources and applications a company uses within AWS. These applications produce metrics that CloudWatch monitors in the form of automated dashboards and notifications alerting teams when predetermined events occur so that swift action can be taken if needed. 

DevOps engineers talking

4. Policies and standards automation

Properly securing and enforcing the automation standards of DevOps requires the creation of governance strategies. This fourth principle of the DevOps Engineer Professional Certification uses AWS resources like Systems Manager Agent (SSM), Config, GuardDuty, and others to ensure sensitive proprietary and customer data is secured. Network protection is also an important step in security systems with user role assignments, VPN usage, and firewalls across AWS instances.  

5. Incident and event responses

An AWS certified DevOps Engineer should know how to apply concepts from the tools used in earlier principles like SDLC Automation and Infrastructure as Code to broader use cases. Services like CloudWatch and CloudFormation connect to the principle of Incident and Event Responses by allowing an engineer to automate all areas of an organization’s cloud architecture. Knowledge from principles like Infrastructure as Code informs how you’d troubleshoot and restore operations. Critical with earning this certification is the ability to apply related AWS services to automate event management and alerts as well as how to effectively troubleshoot and restore operations.

6. Disaster Recovery

Without a sufficient cloud disaster recovery plan, companies could see crushing repercussions if a disaster event does occur. Types of disaster recovery include traditional on-premise recovery (which is very expensive) or hybrid recovery using an on-premise main data center with AWS Cloud for disaster recovery. For companies 100% on-cloud, a possible recovery plan might see AWS Cloud Region A moving to AWS Cloud Region B. 

Engineers must also weigh business trade-offs in the face of disaster recovery and how those costs may grow with the scale of the disaster. Developing a multi-region recovery plan may be the most effective, but it also brings larger costs. AWS DevOps professionals should show expertise in how to use Route53 for high availability DNS customer rerouting, Snowball for on-premise data migration, and Aurora to replicate a structured database in the cloud, among many other tools. Remember, since AWS offers over 165 services, a major part of this exam is understanding which service configurations are the best options for end-to-end development and infrastructure.

Who is the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional Certification for?

Amazon recommends that candidates for the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional Certification have at least two years of experience in AWS environments. However, this exam is very challenging. Personally, it was the hardest AWS exam I have taken. The DevOps Engineer certification is in the Professional category, AWS’s most advanced level. Candidates should have already earned the AWS Developer Associate Certification and applied these skills e before they even begin preparing for the DevOps Engineer exam. 

I recommend tech professionals who want to develop themselves as team leads and own the implementation of cloud infrastructure across their organization add this certification to their skill set. 

Because of the deep knowledge required for this certification, watching theoretical lecture videos alone won’t help you pass the exam. This is why my AWS Certified DevOps Engineer Professional course is very hands-on with screencasts in the AWS ecosystem rather than traditional lecture slides. Passing the exam will be much easier if students follow along in an AWS environment and learn the tools alongside instruction. 

Don’t let the advanced level of this exam scare you or your team off! I’ve seen the DevOps process grow productivity across technical teams. While there’s an initial investment in upskilling yourself and your team, you’ll see an increase in efficiency during sprints, bolstered group morale, and a vendor budget that stays balanced. Adopting DevOps is the next step to bring your organization to new heights. Find out how Udemy for Business can upskill your IT team in the latest AWS DevOps skills.

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