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Victor Dantas

Cloud Certifications: Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer Expert

Victor Dantas

  • Jun 17, 2020
  • 11 Min read
  • 847 Views
  • Jun 17, 2020
  • 11 Min read
  • 847 Views
Cloud
Cloud DevOps
DevOps
Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions AZ-400

Introduction

This guide provides information and resources to prepare you for the Microsoft DevOps Engineer Expert certification. Microsoft has tried a few times to publish a DevOps certification over the past few years, most recently the certification based on Exams 70-537 and 70-538 announced at Ignite 2018. In the end, with Microsoft's move to role-based certifications, Exam AZ-400 is the one that has come to stay for the time being. After gathering feedback, Microsoft has finally decided on an exam that reflects the Azure DevOps Engineer job role.

Who this Certification is For

The Microsoft DevOps Engineer Expert certification is targeted at professionals who combine people, processes, and technologies to continuously deliver value through products and services that meet end-user needs and business objectives. Essentially, this includes professionals currently immersed in DevOps culture and practices.

This certification is a good fit for you if you are proficient with Agile practices within Azure, i.e., if you're able to design and implement solutions for version control, compliance, infrastructure as code, configuration management, build, release, and testing using Azure technologies. Your daily work should involve streamlining deliveries by optimizing practices, creating automation, and improving collaboration. You must be familiar with both Azure administration and Azure development and be an expert in at least one of these areas.

What this Certification is For

Passing the exam and obtaining this certification will demonstrate your ability to design a DevOps strategy and implement development processes, dependency management, application infrastructure, and continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD). The certification will showcase not only your proficiency with DevOps practices, but also your skills around Agile tools and services, including third-party tools supported within Microsoft Azure.

As a role-based certification, this one is aimed at reflecting the Azure DevOps Engineer job role and therefore demonstrates that you have sufficient knowledge and skills to work in that capacity.

Which Exams are Applicable?

To earn this certification you need to pass:

  • Exam AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions.

This exam is technical, requiring a level of hands-on experience with DevOps technologies and tools, but also some breadth of knowledge around DevOps and Agile processes. Because DevOps is a broad area, this is a fairly comprehensive and difficult exam. All objectives of the exam are covered in depth, but there are a few areas that go even deeper than others:

  • Azure DevOps
  • Version Control (mostly Git)
  • Azure Resource Manager
  • PowerShell

For other areas, you need a reasonable level of understanding of the skills and concepts and where they fit into the overall landscape.

Prerequisites

As a prerequisite for this certification, you need to have either of the following:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

If you hold one of these certifications and you have subject matter expertise in DevOps, you should be ready to pursue this certification.

Skills Measured

Exam AZ-400 will measure skills in various categories, as listed below:

Develop an instrumentation strategy (5-10% of the exam)

  • Design and implement logging
  • Design and implement telemetry
  • Integrate logging and monitoring solutions

Develop a site reliability engineering (SRE) strategy (5-10% of the exam)

  • Develop an alerting strategy
  • Design a failure prediction strategy
  • Design and implement a health check

Develop a security and compliance plan (10-15% of the exam)

  • Design an authentication and authorization strategy
  • Design a sensitive information management strategy
  • Develop security and compliance
  • Design governance enforcement mechanisms

Manage source control (10-15% of the exam)

  • Develop a modern source control strategy
  • Plan and implement branching strategies for the source code
  • Configure repositories
  • Integrate source control with tools

Facilitate communication and collaboration (10-15% of the exam)

  • Communicate deployment and release information with business stakeholders
  • Generate DevOps process documentation
  • Automate communication with team members

Define and implement continuous integration (20-25% of the exam)

  • Design build automation
  • Design a package management strategy
  • Automation Runbooks Gallery, Nuget, Jfrog, Artifactory
  • Automated Security Updates, NuKeeper, GreenKeeper
  • Design an application infrastructure management strategy
  • Implement a build strategy
  • Maintain build strategy
  • Design a process for standardizing builds across organization

Define and implement a continuous delivery and release management strategy (10-15%)

  • Develop deployment scripts and templates
  • Implement an orchestration automation solution
  • Plan the deployment environment strategy

In most cases, exams do not cover preview features.

Helpful Resources

Below are some resources to help you prepare for Exam AZ-400:

Compensation and Employment Outlook

The IDC whitepaper IT Certifications: Shorter Road to Valuable Positions shows that a Microsoft certification makes IT professionals more likely to get hired, demonstrate productivity, and advance their careers. The study also shows that, on average, certified staff members earn 15% more than staff without certification, and that organizations reported that certified professionals are given more responsibility than noncertified staff.

With greater demand for cloud skills as well as DevOps and Agile ways of working, a certification that attests to your knowledge in both areas will certainly boost your chances of being hired and earning a good compensation package. According to Microsoft recruitment firm Nigelfrank, a junior Azure DevOps Engineer earns on average a salary of $125,000, while mid-level and senior engineers earn on average $145,000 and $185,000 respectively.

If you are working for a Microsoft Partner, this certification will also help your company climb the ranks of Microsoft competency membership.

The Certification Path

This certification is one of Microsoft Azure's "role-based" certifications, as opposed to "specialty" or "fundamentals" certifications.

certification poster

As mentioned previously, it requires either the Administrator Associate or Developer Associate certification as a prerequisite. As an expert-level certification, it is not itself a prerequisite for any other. The image below illustrates the certification path:

certification path

Conclusion

The Microsoft DevOps Engineer Expert certification is something you can aim for if you are an experienced professional immersed in DevOps culture and practices, holding either an Azure Administrator Associate or an Azure Developer Associate certification. With the Learning Path: Microsoft Azure Devops Engineer and other resources linked above, you can get the training you need to fill in any gaps you may have.

In summary, to obtain this certification, you need to:

  • Earn an Azure Administrator Associate certification OR an Azure Developer Associate certification.
  • Pass Exam AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions.

certification journey

Although this is a difficult exam, the employment and career advancement prospects for professionals that earn this certification look very encouraging. Higher salaries and greater responsibilities are some of the benefits you can expect, along with improving your chances of being hired by making your CV stand out with an expert-level certification.

Finally, here are some tips and suggested action steps:

  1. Use the list of topics in the "Skills Measured" section to create a study plan, then block time on your calendar for study sessions and commit to doing them.
  2. It is not enough to earn a good overall score in the exam, as you need to obtain a minimum score in each of the different areas. In other words, you can't neglect part of the exam objectives just because you master all the other parts.
  3. If you're not sure what your current level is, take the Microsoft Azure Devops Engineer Role IQ tests to find out where you stand across different skills related to this role. This will help you determine which areas you need to focus on the most in preparation for the exam.
  4. If you're still not sure how much you need to prepare, order and take the offical practice test (double check that the "package" you're getting allows you to re-take the test over a period of time). Do it as a first step in order to gauge your skills, then once you identify your gaps, you can make a more effective study plan. You can re-take the test a few times until you feel that you've covered all the bases.
  5. Be aware that you may overestimate how much you know. This is common for even senior professionals to find weak areas when going through course materials, or areas where they might have forgotten important details of seemingly basic concepts. Allow enough time for preparing and reviewing topics you "already know".

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