Guide to Windows Azure Certifications

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As more organizations look for strong server infrastructures with minimal investment and low ongoing costs, cloud-computing is starting to become a more viable solution for businesses big and small. Windows Azure offers a fully scalable, needs-based solution, which is extremely valuable in today's economy and rapidly changing technological climate.

Azure is a platform that will allow businesses to "shift their focus from managing and maintaining physical servers to solving business problems and addressing customer needs online."

Are Windows Azure Certifications Right for You?

So what does this mean for IT professionals?

As more organizations start to move their servers to "the cloud," or more specifically, the Windows Azure platform, the skillset of IT professionals will need to change accordingly. Developers and administrators who once deployed and implemented services and applications on physical servers, will now need to refocus their abilities to designing, building, and/or deploying cloud-based applications to be hosted on the Windows Azure platform.

If you're looking for a way to advance your career and become more marketable, Azure certification might be the right choice for you. Since the Azure certifications are fairly new they will help you distinguish yourself and show that you're able to offer a unique skillset.

Windows Azure Certifications

There are currently three Windows Azure certification exams being offered by Microsoft that are focused on development:

  • Exam 70-513: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • Exam 70-516: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • Exam 70-583: Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications

Let's take a look at each of these more closely.

The Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (exam 70-513), is aimed at testing your knowledge and ability to develop applications using said software. According to Microsoft Learning, candidates for this exam are expected to have at least one year of experience developing WCF-based applications, and at least six months experience with .NET Framework 4.

When you pass the 70-513 exam, you'll earn not only the MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications certification, but you'll also gain credit towards the following certifications:

  1. Microsoft Certified Professional Developer: Windows Developer 4
  2. Microsoft Certified Professional Developer: Web Developer 4

The Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (exam 70-516) will test your knowledge and skills on accessing data sources using ADO.NET and the .NET Framework. According to Microsoft Learning, candidates for the exam should have a minimum of two to three years of experience developing application components that interact with a variety of data sources. You should also have one to two years of experience using a relational database management system.

Passing the 70-516 exam will earn you the MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Data Access certification. You'll also gain credit towards the following certifications:

  1. Microsoft Certified Professional Developer: Windows Developer 4
  2. Microsoft Certified Professional Developer: Web Developer 4

The Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications (exam 70-583) is a professional-level exam and is the final exam needed to earn your MCPD: Windows Azure Developer 4 certification, after successful completion of exams 70-513 and 70-516.

According to Microsoft, candidates for the 70-583 exam are individuals seeking to prove their skills and knowledge in designing and developing applications that will be hosted on the Windows Azure platform. Though I would add the recommendation of completing the other two exams first. The big difference between this and other exams is that you will be required to show your continued ability to perform in Windows Azure by taking a recertification exam every two years.

Also, it's worth mentioning that once you've finished these exams and earned one or more Azure certifications, you may want to look into taking one or more of the MCPD exams you earned credit for.

Windows Azure Certification Training Options

Where can you get started on training for Windows Azure certifications?

There are a number of resources already available to help with training and preparing for the Windows Azure based exams. I'll list a few of the options from the Microsoft Learning site below, though I'm sure you can find plenty of alternative resources should you choose to go another route.

  1. Azure Learning Snacks -- These are short, interactive training videos that Microsoft Learning experts created to help you in your certification education. At the time of writing, there are currently only a few learning snacks available for Azure, but more should be coming soon.
  2. Azure Classroom Training -- If you are interested in taking a Windows Azure instructor-led class near you, Microsoft is offering a class entitled Windows Azure Solutions with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 - Course 50466A.
  3. Azure Learning Plans -- Microsoft has released a great learning plan for exam 70-583: Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications. The learning plan consists of a combination of learning snacks, articles, and videos that will help you prepare for the 70-583 exam.

Special Offers for Windows Azure Certification Candidates

Free Windows Azure TrialThere are a few offers on the Microsoft Learning website worth noting.

If you would like to get your hands dirty and get some first-hand experience using Windows Azure, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial pass.

There are two trial options for you to choose from:

  1. Credit Card Required: this option requires your credit card for signup and you will be charged a standard rate for usage in excess of the "free" amounts. This special offer ends September 30, 2011. More info here: Azure free trial.
  2. No Credit Card Required: this option allows you to sign up for the free 30 day trial without a credit card with the promo code MSL001 (available in US only, other countries might require a different promo code; contact Microsoft for more information).

If you're getting certified, you may also want to take advantage of the Prometric/Microsoft Second Shot program. For 15% more than the exam's original cost, you can secure a second shot at the exam in case you don't manage to pass the exam on your first attempt. This offer is valid for Microsoft IT Professional, Developer, and Dynamics exams.

Ready to test your skills as a Windows Azure Developer? See how they stack up with this assessment from Smarterer. Start this Windows Azure test now

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Mike Rodriguez

is a computer technician with over 8 years of experience in the IT field. He has completed training in CompTIA A+, Network+, Computer Business Applications (Microsoft Specialist), Web Page Design and Graphic Design, and is working on completing his CompTIA A+ and CCNA certifications. Mike has experience working as a computer technician for two local school districts, as well as freelance computer repair work with, which Mike owns. Music is another one of Mike's callings. Using his technical experience, Mike promotes local musicians in Salinas California through his website where local musicians and businesses can gain promotion to a worldwide audience.