Systems Operations on AWS (Associate)

Systems Operations on AWS (Associate)

Between Monday the 22nd and Wednesday the 24th of July 2019, I attended the AWS Sysop Associate course. It was hosted by Torque IT. This is a review of that course.

Available AWS Certifications

AWS offers a selection of certification paths. There are four levels of certification: Foundational, Associate, Professional and Speciality. The recommended track is to start at the Foundational level and move up through the Associate level and then to the Professional Level. The Speciality level focuses on advanced topics of security, networking and big data. Since 2018, AWS has removed the prerequisites on candidates. Candidates are no longer required to have an Associate certification before pursuing Professional certification, and they are no longer required to have Cloud Practitioner or Associate certification before pursuing Specialty certification.

For more information on AWS certifications check out the Certifications Page at AWS.

The Course Experience

Torque IT is a South African learning institutions that offers multiple courses and certifications. They have branches in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. Their Cape Town branch is situated in Bellville. The facilities are easily accessible from the N1 highway. There are some parking spaces available for students or exam candidates but the institution does not prioritise parking. Luckily enough there is free parking available across the road near the Tyger Valley Mall.

On arrival for the first day of the course, you are provided with a notebook, pen, bag and water bottle. You are obliged to sign in for attendance and on each day, you choose what lunch you will be having from a choice of three meals.

The classroom for the course was equipped with multiple desktop computers running Windows and accommodates for 8 students. The room, although small, was comfortable enough and adequate for a 3 day course of 8 hours a day. On the first day, we did experience some internet latency that affected the progress of one of the labs. This was eventually resolved and we were able to continue.

The course lecturer was Erica Vismer. I found Erica to be very knowledgeable on the course material. Her challenge was to get through a lot of information in 3 days while still being accommodating to student questions while presenting and during lab exercises. This meant the pace of topic presentations were rapid with little opportunity to go into any considerable detail on specifics.

For lab exercises, the student could choose which operating system he or she would prefer to work with. The choices were Windows or Linux. If one chose Linux, you would access the lab instances via a putty terminal. The lab exercises were not excessively challenging as one was able to follow each lab requirement step by step with the occasional optional challenge to get to the solution on your own. There was adequate time for each student to complete each lab exercise.

Course material was supplied via digital copies accessible online or through the app. The material is hosted by VitalSource via their Bookshelf application. All students have lifetime access to the material up until the next major version and can download the next version when is becomes available. The material used in this course was the Systems Operations On AWS Student Guide Version 3.3.10

Lab exercises were accessible online via QuikLabs. A copy of the lab details are also included in the course material and students also have lifetime access until a major version is updated. The lab guide used for the course was the Systems Operations On AWS Lab Guide Version 3.3.9

Torque IT has a requirement of at least 6 students to be available to run any course. I shared the class room with candidates from Vodacom . The team from Vodacom were friendly and willing to share their own experiences, challenges and concerns of moving their services to AWS. It was also interesting to hear the anecdotes from their team on operational structures and procedures in a large organisation with over 7000 employees.

During the classes there were 3 break periods. One at 10:30 am, one at 12pm and another at 2:30pm. During lunch time all students gathered in the cafeteria to enjoy the meal supplied by Torque IT. Each student could have one out of a choice of three meals. Beverages were also provided. Halaal options were available.

The Course Material

The course material was the official AWS material for Systems Operations on AWS (Associate) course. The course was broken down into the following categories:

  1. System Operations on AWS Overview
  2. Storage and Archiving in the Cloud
  3. Configuration Management in the Cloud

The material consisted of 11 modules. The course material cannot be distributed in whole or part but I will list the modules below:

Module 1 - Understanding System Operations on AWS

Module 2 - Tooling and automation

Module 3 - Computing (Servers)

Module 4 - Computing (Scaling and Name Resolution)

Module 5 - Computing (Serverless and Containers)

Module 6 - Computing (Database Services)

Module 7 - Networking

Module 8 - Storing and Archiving

Module 9 - Monitoring and Security

Module 10 - Managing Resources and Consumption

Module 11 - Creating Automated and Repeatable Deployments

Labs were are available roughly after each second module and each lab could be completed within about 45 minutes. It was stressed that the course material alone would only make up 70% of the material needed to pass the related exam. It was recommended that students also read and work through the white papers and guides supplied by AWS as well as seek out active experience on AWS services.

The Course Conclusion

Was the course worth the cost and effort?

I believe so. Although the pace was certainly fast, the material supplied and the knowledge of the lecturer was solid. One has permanent access to the material and the lecturer has made herself available for any questions related to the course after completion.

Will doing the System Operations on AWS Associate course make you an expert on AWS system operations?

Probably not. Like any technology one needs to be actively working on it to become competent. To call oneself an expert, one needs experience and a proven track record of implementing multiple solutions on said technology.

Does the course prepare you well enough for the exam?

The course alone will not prepare you well enough to pass the exam. One will have to use the material and knowledge supplied by the course to gain experience working on AWS before one is prepared to write the exam. Exam readiness is then up to the candidate. AWS supplies enough information and makes access to AWS services via the free tiers for any candidate that has the willingness to pursue the certification option.