AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) Exam Study Guide and Materials

Following on from my previous AWS exam experience post for the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) exam from Amazon, the following describes the study materials I used towards the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam.

As a reminder, this is my third AWS exam, having completed the AWS Certified Solution Architect Associate and AWS Certified Developer Associate exams earlier in the year. As such the materials I used to study towards the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam are more sparse, due to the level of knowledge I already have.

For a really full picture of all of the materials I’ve used over the last 12 months, I highly recommend you check out the Certified Solution Architect Associate exam experience and the Certified Solution Architect Associate study guides, along with a number of tips, tricks and gotchas I have posted over the past few months. I also did a podcast recently with Scott Lowe on the subject of learning AWS. If you are new to AWS, I highly recommend you check it out!bill was study Certified SysOps Administrator

Study Materials

Whilst studying for the exam, I used the following study materials:

Want to Learn More?

Don’t forget to check out myExam Experience and Tips post here:

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) Exam Experience & Tips

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) Exam Experience & Tips

The information bellow covers my experience for the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) exam from Amazon. Following this I will post a list of my study materials, so keep checking back for updates or check out my Index of AWS Posts.

Before you continue reading, I would first note that this is my third AWS exam, having completed the AWS Certified Solution Architect Associate and AWS Certified Developer Associate exam earlier this year. The associate trifecta! As such the materials I used to study towards the exam are more sparse, due to the level of knowledge I already have.

For a really full picture of all of the materials I’ve used over the last 12 months, I highly recommend you check out the following guides:

Along with a number of tips, tricks and gotchas I have posted over the past few months. I also did a podcast recently with Scott Lowe on the subject of learning AWS. If you are new to AWS, I highly recommend you check it out!

AWS Certified SysOps Associate (CSOA)

AWS Certified SysOps Associate (CSOA) Exam Experience

Almost everything I read in the run up to taking the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator, suggested that it was going to be really hard and a step up from the Solution Architect exam. My personal experience when I took it in December 2016 was that it was really on a par with the SA exam, and the reputation was perhaps a tad overblown.

This could be for one of several reasons; I’ve been doing AWS designs for several months now at work; this is the third AWS exam I’ve taken; or the exam has become marginally easier now that they seem to have removed some of the older EC2 Classic questions ad brought it a little more up to date. I suspect the latter is the most likely reason, but with some benefit from the former!

Based on my experience of the exams so far, I think I would definitely recommend the order people approach these as Solution Architect first to give you a thorough grounding in all of the products, then the Developer as it was fairly easy and just broadened your knowledge, finally followed by SysOps.

As I have previously mentioned, AWS seem to structure their exams with some general questions across their portfolio, then specific technologies taking precedence in each. The SysOps seemed to me to be about two-thirds of the Solution Architect exam again, with the last third having more of a focus on CloudWatch and CloudFormation. If you have already passed the SA exam, you should have no issues with this content, though the remaining questions I had were a touch trickier, as they were fairly in depth / specific.cloudformation

The exam itself is the same length as the other associate ones, at 80 minutes and 55 questions. Again AWS (as is their way) do some odd things like not giving you a passing grade requirement, but it’s generally safe to assume that if you get 70% or more, in the Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam then you will pass. The Kryterion exam environment is frankly pretty dated, but I already wrote about that in the CSA guide here, so I won’t repeat myself again! Suffice to say, read the other article for a detailed overview.

Best of luck, and if you found this article useful, please leave a comment below! 🙂

Want to Learn More?

Part 2 of this article, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam study guide and materials can be found here:

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (CSOA) Exam Study Guide and Materials

AWS for VMware Admins – London VMUG Slide Deck

Last week, Chris Porter and I did a presentation at the London VMUG on AWS for VMware admins, a simple beginners guide with a few gotchas and tips we’ve picked up along our journeys to the public cloud.

The session itself was pretty well received, and we were lucky enough to have standing room only attendance (it was a very small room! 🙂 ).

To open up proceedings and get a feel for our audience, we ran a quick survey of the 50 or so VMware professionals who were in attendance, and the results were pretty interesting.

To the question “Have you played with AWS before?”, over half of the room raised their hands, though with a caveat from one attendee who asked if creating the account qualifies! (You know who you are!)

“Do you have any AWS experience on the job?” saw a number of hands drop, and perhaps 30-40% of the room said yes.

What was most interesting was that to the penultimate question “Are you using AWS in Production today?”, only a single hand in the room remained raised!

Finally, we asked “Are you planning to do any AWS certs in the next 12 months?” and the resounding answer from over 60%-70% of the audience was a clear yes!

Conclusions

So what conclusions can we draw from this straw poll?

Seemingly most of the attendees were either using AWS for dev/test or simply playing with it in the work lab, however with a clear preference to complete certs this year, the future is certainly looking a lot more cloudy for your average VMware administrator, either in their current organisation, or perhaps even elsewhere!

Slide Deck

Anyway, enough jibber jabbing! You can find a copy of the slide deck below:

AWS for VMware Admins Deck

If you were unable to make the session and happen to be in or around Glasgow on April 20th, we will hopefully be doing a repeat!

Further Reading

If you want to find out more about AWS, certification, etc, I have a load of additional resources and posts available here:

Index of Tekhead.it Blog Posts on Amazon AWS

I Like Big Files and I Cannot Lie

You other vendors, can’t deny,
When an array walks in with an itty bitty waste [-ed capacity],
And many spindles in your face
You get sprung, want to pull up tough,
‘Cause you notice that storage was stuffed!

Ok… I’ll stop now! I’m just a bit sad and always wanted an excuse to to use that as a post opener! 🙂

There is a certain, quite specific type of customer whose main requirements revolve around the storage of large data sets consisting of thousands to millions of huge files. Think media / TV / movie companies, video surveillance or even PACS imaging and genomic sequencing. Ultimately we’re talking petabyte-scale capacities – more than your average enterprise needs to worry about!

How you approach storage of this type of data is worlds apart from your average solution!

The Challenges of “Chunky” Data

Typical challenges involve having multiple silos of your data across multiple locations, with different performance and workload characteristics. Then you have different storage protocols for different applications or phases in their data processing and delivery. Each of those silos then requires different skills to manage, and different capacity management regimes.

Sir Mixalot likes big files

On top of that, for the same reason as we moved away from parity groups in arrays to wide striping, these silos then have IO and networking hotspots, wasted capacity (sometimes referred to as trapped white space) and wasted performance, which cannot be shared across multiple systems.

Finally (and arguably most importantly), how do you ensure the integrity, resilience, and durability of this data, as by its very nature, it typically requires long-term retention?

Ideal Solution

What you really need is a single storage system which can not only scale to multi-petabyte capacities with multiple protocols, but is reasonably easy to manage, even with a high admin to capacity ratio.

You then need to ensure that data can also be protected against accidental, or malicious file modification or deletion.

Finally, you need the system to be able to replicate additional copies to remote sites, as backing up petabytes of data is simply unrealistic! Similarly, you may want multiple replicas or additional pools outside of your central repository which all replicate back to the mothership, for example for ROBO or multi-site solutions where editing large files needs to be done locally.

As my good friend Josh De Jong said recently:

Of course, the biggest drawback of using this approach is that you have one giant failure domain. If something somehow manages to proverbially poison your “data lake”, that’s a hell of a lot of data to lose in one go!

DellEMC Isilon

During our recent Tech Field Day 12 session at DellEMC, I was really interested to see how the DellEMC Isilon scale-out NAS system was capable of meeting many of these requirements, especially as this is a product which can trace its heritage all the way back to 2001! In fact, their average customer on Isilon is around 1PB in size, and their largest customer is using 144PB! Scalability, check!

The Isilon team also confirmed that around 70% of their 8,000+ customers trust the solution sufficiently to not use any external backup solution, trusting in SnapshotIQ, SyncIQ and in some cases SmartLock, to protect their data. That’s a pretty significant number!

One thing I am not so keen on with the Isilon (and to be fair, many other “traditional” /  old guard storage vendor offerings) is the complexity and breadth of the licensing; almost all of the interesting features each have to have their own license. If the main benefit to the data lake is simplicity, then I would far rather have a single price with perhaps one or two uplift options for licenses, than an a la carte menu.

In addition, the limit of 50 security domains provides some flexibility for service providers, but then limits the size of your “data lake” to 50 customers. It would be great to see this limit increased in future.Data Lake

The Tekhead Take

Organisations looking to retain data in these quantities need to weigh up the relative risks of using a single system for all storage, versus the costs of and complexity of multiple silos. Ultimately it is down to each individual organisation to work out what closest matches their requirements, but for the convenience of a single large repository of all of your data, the DellEMC Islion still remains a really interesting proposition.

Further Info

You can catch the full Isilon session at the link below:
Dell EMC Presents at Tech Field Day 12

Further Reading

Some of the other TFD delegates had their own takes on the presentation we saw. Check them out here:

Disclaimer: My flights, accommodation, meals, etc at Tech Field Day 12 were provided by Tech Field Day, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about any of the vendors products or services.

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