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Michael Taschler

Cloud Certifications: Azure Database Administrator Associate

Michael Taschler

  • Jun 25, 2020
  • 15 Min read
  • 231 Views
  • Jun 25, 2020
  • 15 Min read
  • 231 Views

Introduction

While database administration isn't anything new, there has been a significant shift to the cloud in recent years and much more is to follow. Cloud-based database solutions have been multiplying. Organizations like to hold on to more data, and for longer. The cloud provides limitless capabilities, both in storing as well as processing your data. Administering this data is the challenge, and that is where you come in. As an Azure Database Administrator you will be managing this data for your organization.

In this guide you will learn about the Microsoft Azure Database Administrator Associate certification and the exam you can take to achieve it.

Certified Associate Badge Image

The Azure Database Administrator Associate certification follows Microsoft's departure from more broad certifications like the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or its older sibling, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Nowadays the focus is on specific roles. Please note that this exam is currently in beta.

Target Audience

As the name suggests, this certification has "database administration" written all over it, specifically Azure database offerings and features. Since it is an Associate-level certification the required exam covers a wide range of database topics and technologies.

As a candidate for the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification you should be an experienced database administrator or data management specialist who can manage on-premises and cloud relational databases built on top of SQL Server and Azure Data Services.

As an Azure Database Administrator you implement and manage the operational aspects of cloud-native and hybrid data platform solutions built on Azure Data Services and SQL Server. The Azure Database Administrator uses a variety of methods and tools to perform day-to-day operations, including applying knowledge of using T-SQL for administrative management purposes.

This role is responsible for management, availability, security and performance monitoring and optimization of modern relational database solutions. This role works with the Azure Data Engineers to manage operational aspects of data platform solutions.

Applicable Exams

A single exam is required to gain the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification. It is important to understand that Microsoft has taken up the practice of retiring and replacing exams at a much faster pace than in the past. Since the cloud is ever changing Microsoft updates live exams frequently. The DP-300 exam is currently in beta so be prepared for changes to its syllabus before its full release.

The price for the exam is US$165/€165. Microsoft offers a student discount if you verify your academic status when booking the exam by using one of the following: a school email account, a school account, an International Student Identity Card, a verification code. Alternatively you can also supply documentation proving your eligibility for the student discount.

Prerequisites

While there are no specific prerequisites to achieving this certification beyond passing the DP-300 exam, it is worth noting that experience with the required skills is key to a successful experience. Having passed the DP-900 Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals exam and achieved the corresponding Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals certification, while not mandatory, will help you prepare for this level since it introduces a number of technologies covered in the DP-300 exam.

Learning Path for Azure Database Administrator Associate

Ensure that you possess sufficient experience and invest the time to go through the relevant Pluralsight courses and other resources.

Skills Measured

Your skills will be measured in the following seven categories:

  • Plan and implement data platform resources (15-20%)
  • Implement a secure environment (15-20%)
  • Monitor and optimize operational resources (15-20%)
  • Optimize query performance (5-10%)
  • Perform automation of tasks (10-15%)
  • Plan and implement a High Availability and Disaster Recovery (HADR) environment (15-20%)
  • Perform administration by using T-SQL (10-15%)

These categories are broken down into details as follows:

Plan and Implement Data Platform Resources

Deploy resources by using manual methods

  • Deploy database offerings on selected platforms
  • Configure customized deployment templates
  • Apply patches and updates for hybrid and IaaS deployment

Recommend an appropriate database offering based on specific requirements

  • Evaluate requirements for the deployment
  • Evaluate the functional benefits/impact of possible database offerings
  • Evaluate the scalability of the possible database offering
  • Evaluate the HA/DR of the possible database offering
  • Evaluate the security aspects of the possible database offering

Configure resources for scale and performance

  • Configure Azure SQL database/elastic pools for scale and performance
  • Configure Azure SQL managed instances for scale and performance
  • Configure SQL Server in Azure VMs for scale and performance
  • Calculate resource requirements
  • Evaluate database partitioning techniques, such as database sharding

Evaluate a strategy for moving to Azure

  • Evaluate requirements for the migration
  • Evaluate offline or online migration strategies
  • Evaluate requirements for the upgrade
  • Evaluate offline or online upgrade strategies

Implement a migration or upgrade strategy for moving to Azure

  • Implement an online migration strategy
  • Implement an offline migration strategy
  • Implement an online upgrade strategy
  • Implement an offline upgrade strategy

Implement a Secure Environment

Configure database authentication by using platform and database tools

  • Configure Azure AD authentication
  • Create users from Azure AD identities
  • Configure security principals

Configure database authorization by using platform and database tools

  • Configure database and object-level permissions using graphical tools
  • Apply principle of least privilege for all securables

Implement security for data at rest

  • Implement Transparent Data Encryption (TDE)
  • Implement object-level encryption
  • Implement Dynamic Data Masking
  • Implement Azure Key Vault and disk encryption for Azure VMs

Implement security for data in transit

  • Configure SQL DB and database-level firewall rules
  • Implement Always Encrypted
  • Configure Azure Data Gateway

Implement compliance controls for sensitive data

  • Apply a data classification strategy
  • Configure server and database audits
  • Implement data change tracking
  • Perform vulnerability assessment

Monitor and Optimize Operational Resources

Monitor activity and performance

  • Prepare an operational performance baseline
  • Determine sources for performance metrics
  • Interpret performance metrics
  • Assess database performance by using Azure SQL Database Intelligent Performance
  • Configure and monitor activity and performance at the infrastructure, server, service, and database levels

Implement performance-related maintenance tasks

  • Implement index maintenance tasks
  • Implement statistics maintenance tasks
  • Configure database auto-tuning
  • Automate database maintenance tasks, Azure SQL agent jobs, Azure automation, SQL server agent jobs
  • Manage storage capacity

Identify performance-related issues

  • Configure Query Store to collect performance data
  • Identify sessions that cause blocking
  • Assess growth/fragmentation of databases and logs
  • Assess performance-related database configuration parameters, including AutoClose, AutoShrink, AutoGrowth

Configure resources for optimal performance

  • Configure storage and infrastructure resources o optimize IOPS, throughput, and latency
    • Optimize tempdb performance
    • Optimize data and log files for performance
  • Configure server and service account settings for performance
  • Configure Resource Governor for performance

Configure a user database for optimal performance

  • Implement database-scoped configuration
  • Configure compute resources for scaling
  • Configure Intelligent Query Processing (IQP)

Optimize Query Performance

Review query plans

  • Determine the appropriate type of execution plan, live Query Statistics, Actual Execution Plan, Estimated Execution Plan, Showplan
  • Identify problem areas in execution plans
  • Extract query plans from the Query Store

Evaluate performance improvements

  • Determine the appropriate Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) to gather query performance information
  • Identify performance issues using DMVs
  • Identify and implement index changes for queries
  • Recommend query construct modifications based on resource usage
  • Assess the use of hints for query performance

Review database table and index design

  • Identify data quality issues with duplication of data
  • Identify normal form of database
  • Assess index design for performance
  • Validate data types defined for columns
  • Recommend table and index storage including file groups
  • Evaluate table partitioning strategy
  • Evaluate the use of compression for tables and indexes

Perform Automation of Tasks

Create scheduled tasks

  • Manage schedules for regular maintenance jobs
  • Configure multi-server automation
  • Configure notifications for task success/failure/non-completion

Evaluate and implement an alert and notification strategy

  • Create event notifications based on metrics
  • Create event notifications for Azure resources
  • Create alerts for server configuration changes
  • Create tasks that respond to event notifications

Manage and automate tasks in Azure

  • Perform automated deployment methods for resources
  • Automate Backups
  • Automate performance tuning and patching
  • Implement policies by using automated evaluation modes

Plan and Implement a High Availability and Disaster Recovery (HADR) Environment

Recommend an HADR strategy for a data platform solution

  • Recommend HADR strategy based on RPO/RTO requirements
  • Evaluate HADR for hybrid deployments
  • Evaluate Azure-specific HADR solutions
  • Identify resources for HADR solutions

Test an HADR strategy by using platform, OS and database tools

  • Test HA by using failover
  • Test DR by using failover or restore

Perform backup and restore a database by using database tools

  • Perform a database backup with options
  • Perform a database restore with options
  • Perform a database restore to a point in time
  • Configure long-term backup retention

Configure DR by using platform and database tools

  • Configure replication
  • Configure Azure Site Recovery for a database offering

Configure HA using platform, OS and database tools

  • Create an Availability Group
  • Integrate a database into an Availability Group
  • Configure quorum options for a Windows Server Failover Cluster
  • Configure an Availability Group listener

Perform Administration by Using T-SQL

Examine system health

  • Evaluate database health using DMVs
  • Evaluate server health using DMVs
  • Perform database consistency checks by using DBCC

Monitor database configuration by using T-SQL

  • Assess proper database autogrowth configuration
  • Report on database free space
  • Review database configuration options

Perform backup and restore a database by using T-SQL

  • Prepare databases for AlwaysOn Availability Groups
  • Perform transaction log backup
  • Perform restore of user databases
  • Perform database backups with options

Manage authentication by using T-SQL

  • Manage certificates
  • Manage security principals
  • Manage authorization by using T-SQL
  • Configure permissions for users to access database objects
  • Configure permissions by using custom roles

Pluralsight Courses

Since this is a very new exam and it is still in beta there currently are no Pluralsight learning resources available. Make sure you regularly check Pluralsight's website for updates.

Other Resources

Following Microsoft's MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration might start you off in the right direction.

Utilizing Microsoft Docs and navigating to the relevant topics will also enable you to prepare for this exam.

Compensation and Employment Outlook

The cloud business has been booming in the last several years. Microsoft has closed the gap with its main competitor and keeps growing. While COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, it certainly doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on Microsoft's cloud growth.

Gaining an up-to-date certification like the Azure Database Administrator Associate certification from a household name like Microsoft should make you much more attractive to both your current and future employers, especially since the cloud is booming. Your current employer might not raise your salary, but the next time you go looking for a job make sure you check trusted Internet sources for up-to-date information on salaries in your region.

It's difficult to provide absolute figures because they will depend on numerous factors like your experience, company type and size, industry, and region. Expect salaries for experienced database administrators to range from US$80,000 to US$135,000 in the United States.

Conclusion

As an Associate-level certification, gaining the Azure Database Administrator Associate credentials, while challenging, would earn you the recognition to prove that you are a subject matter expert in this field. All it takes is a single exam. Sign up to Microsoft Azure, utilize the free cloud credits and services and book the exam, which you can take right in your home or in one of many testing centers.

I hope that this guide is useful and wish you good luck with gaining your certification.

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