After obtaining the AWS CSA Professional (CSA-PRO) exam at the beginning of the month I decided to study for the DEVOPS Engineer professional certification. Apparently less than 80 people world-wide have all five exams, I wanted in!. I’m happy to report that I passed the exam with an 80% score. I wanted to give back to the community and take the time to give my thoughts as there isn’t a great deal of information available online.

The exam is similar in structure to the CSA-PRO, it lasts 170 minutes and has a total of 80 questions. As with the CSA-PRO, this means you need to be clearing an average of one question every 2.125 minutes - 2 if you want a buffer at the end. I entered thinking I would be pretty tight on time much like the CSA-PRO, but I finished with ~ 45 minutes left on the clock. Those who remember my last certification will recall that I was much closer to the wire with only 13 minutes for review at the end. The questions are generally shorter, but, and this is a big but, you NEED to understand the subject matter, or the dense detail will really impact your progress.

General Thoughts

  • There isn’t really any information available online from people who have done the cert - this blog post may be the first I’ve read on this exam.
  • The exam/study content is more varied. Wheras the CSA pro is the harder version of the CSA Associate, the DEVOPS professional exam covers harder versions of content from both the Associate developer AND the Associate SYSOPS administrator certifications.
  • For me personally, the concepts are less easy to push through. There is a substantial amount of deep technical content which you cant answer without knowing the subject matter in detail.

Detailed Thoughts

  1. There is a lot of cloudwatch content, both Metric and Log based. The Exam Blueprint shows a 20% allocation for monitoring, metrics and logging but I found it to be much higher. It makes sense as this is a very important element of OPS management, but still, keep this in mind.
  2. Dont forget your 3rd party account access, other accounts accessing yours, or you accessing resources in other accounts.
  3. Knowledge of A/B or Blue/Green deployments methods are critical. I would suggest watching this video for a good overview on the various deployment and cutover strategies available within AWS.
  4. I cannot emphasize enough that you need to understand cloudformation fully - both its basic syntax and operation and some of the more advanced concepts. Know what custom resources are and how to leverage them to extend cloudformation into other bespoke systems. Know what a WaitCondition is and how WaitConditionHandlers are related. Above all know what they both do in detail, and how to use them effectively.
  5. Know autoscaling groups inside out, instance states, lifecycle hooks and ways in which pause instances can be used to your advantage.
  6. Know how to use and store credentials across the AWS platform - this is not just limited to EC2 and roles, but how non AWS credential storage is done effectively.
  7. Know OPSWorks and Beanstalk back to front, not just at a basic level but some of the more in-depth concepts such as .ebextensions and how docker integrates. Additionally, know if/when/how non Linux OS’ can be used, i.e windows 2012.
  8. Study effective log management strategies for EC2 instances - think about cloudwatch logs, think about S3 storage and glacier transfer using lifecycle policies.
  9. Brush up on standard and custom couldwatch metrics, and how to extend these with custom values based on pure metrics and log filters.
  10. Be willing to think of innovative solutions to problems, ASG groups with 0 0 0 reacting to certain conditions.

Above all, you cant fake this exam - its not as simple as study, study, study as with the CSA Professional - I 100% believe that you need day to day experience managing, monitoring and deploying in AWS to pass this one.

All in all, I loved studying and working towards this exam - its been a great couple of weeks. I’ve learned a substantial amount and know i’ll be a better engineer/architect because of it. Happy to answer any questions you may have via comments below, OR on any of the forums I post this on (Reddit/Linkedin/Twitter etc)

UPDATE : After feedback from my readers that they needed assistance with this certification. I’ve co-authored a DEVOPS Engineer Professional training course with Nick Triantafillou you can find our course at the A Cloud Guru Website

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. If you liked this post, you can share it with your followers or follow me on Twitter!