How to Pass Microsoft Azure Foundation Exam AZ-900 (Part 1 of 3)

The Microsoft Azure Foundation Exam AZ-900 or the equivalent from AWS are usually the first cloud certificates that someone new to the cloud starts with. Both cover basic cloud concepts and ensure that you gain a profound understanding of the respective services. As the passing grade of 80% for the AZ-900 is quite high, it is advisable to thoroughly study for the exam. This is the first of three posts that will provide you with all key information about the Azure services that you need to pass the Azure Foundation Exam AZ-900.

The following structure is taken from the latest exam syllabus for the Azure Foundation 2021 and indicates the weight of each chapter in the exam. For each chapter, I have written down a very brief summary of key concepts and information that are typically asked for during the exam. The summary is a great resource to check and finalize your studies for the exam. However, if you are new to the topic, you should first start by going through the official Microsoft Azure training materials.

This is part 1 of the three-parts series regarding the Microsoft Azure Foundation exam AZ-900 and it will cover the first two topics from the content below:

1. Describe Cloud Concepts (20-25%)

1.1 Identify the benefits and considerations of using cloud services

1.2 Describe the differences between categories of cloud services

1.3 Describe the differences between types of cloud computing

2. Describe Core Azure Services (15-20%)

2.1 Describe the core Azure architectural components

2.2 Describe core resources available in Azure

3. Describe core solutions and management tools on Azure (10-15%)

4. Describe general security and network security features (10-15%)

5. Describe identity, governance, privacy, and compliance features (20- 25%)

6. Describe Azure cost management and Service Level Agreements (10- 15%)

1. Describe Cloud Concepts (20-25%)

1.1 Identify the benefits and considerations of using cloud services

  • High availability: Cloud services are optimized to work independent from hardware, usually providing an availability of at least 99.9% of the time. Additional solutions, such as pairing, or availability zones can increase the availability time further

  • Scalability: Vertical scalability means to add resources to an existing infrastructure, e.g. a virtual machine. Horizontal scaling equals adding additional elements to an infrastructure, such as a new virtual machine. Both have the objective to deal with an increased demand for a service by increasing the throughput / capacity of a service

  • Elasticity ensures that resources are only provided when they are needed. It allows that a service can quickly scale up or down

  • Agility: Many cloud services support agile operations, by providing services which are easy and fast to setup and fully support DevOps

  • Disaster Recovery: Disaster recovery helps to rescue applications if large cloud parts fail. This is done by copying the resources to a datacenter that is run at a location farer away. Depending on the need, the copied resource can only hold the data, a cold version of the application, or even a running version of the application. If needed, the copied resource can take over the production

1.2 Describe the differences between categories of cloud services

  • In a SaaS solution, the user is responsible for configuring the SaaS solution, but not for installing the software, or managing the OS or infrastructure. An example for SaaS is O365

  • In a PaaS solution, data and applications are managed by the user, while the cloud provider provides the operating system and infrastructure. An example would be the Content Delivery Network

  • In an IaaS solution, the cloud provider provides the virtualized environment, while the user is responsible for the operating system, applications, and data

1.3 Describe the differences between types of cloud computing

  • A public cloud is a shared entity whereby multiple corporations each use a portion of the resources in the cloud. It allows for metered pricing and self-service management. It´s advantages include generally lower costs and higher reliability compared to private clouds

  • A private cloud is designated to only one organization. It can be hosted at the cloud provider´s data center or onsite at the organization. Private cloud advantages include a better security, while still offering a high scalability. It also allows different departments in an organization to have a segmentation of resources defined in Azure and it allows for being rolled out to only selected users

  • A hybrid cloud mixes a public and private cloud. In such a scenario, the public cloud is usually used as an additional extension to the private cloud if additional resources are needed. Hybrid cloud advantages include a better control and more flexibility

2. Describe Core Azure Services (15-20%)

2.1 Describe the core Azure architectural components

  • Fault tolerance ensures that a service is still running if a single data center goes down. This is ensured by Availability Zones. Availability Zones are not available in all Azure regions

  • Availability Sets ensure fault tolerance within a data center. Disaster recovery ensures that an application survives region-wide failures

  • Azure Content Delivery Network provides an efficient way to distribute web content to users across the world and is a PaaS solution

  • Azure Government can only be used by a United States government entity or by a United States government contractor. It is a dedicated public cloud for federal and state agencies in the United States

  • Azure Germany can be used by all customers that intend to do business in Europe

2.2 Describe core resources available in Azure

  • There is an Azure free account available for 12 months, which gives access to all Azure services. Within the free account, there is credit available to buy services, which can also be used for production-based resources. Other free services are always available. The Azure Basic Support Plan is included

  • There are four support plans: Basic, Developer, Standard, and Professional Direct

  • Community support is available for all plans

  • Phone and email support is available in the basic plan and above. Azure support requests are done via the Azure Portal

  • Minimal business impact problems have a response time of 8 hours in Developer and Standard, and 4 hours in Professional Direct

  • Moderate business impact problems have a response time of 4 hours in Standard and 2 hours in Professional Direct

  • Critical business impact problems have a response time of 1 hour in Standard and Professional Direct

  • A subscription helps to provide separate payment options for different departments. Multiple subscriptions can be assigned to one Azure account. Subscriptions can also be merged without contacting Microsoft for that

  • Azure resource groups group resources in a logical way. It can be used to delegate permissions to several resources simultaneously as all resources in a group get the same policies and permissions that the group has. Resources in a resource group do not necessarily inherit the same tags as the group and do not need to be in the same location.  A resource group does not produce additional costs

  • The Azure Resource Manager is a platform that can be used to create and update resources within a subscription. It provides a command platform for deploying objects to cloud infrastructure and for implementing consistency across the Azure environment

  • An Azure Resource Manager template can be used to deploy different types of Azure resources for several departments at the same time

  • A Management Group allows to manage the compliance of resources across multiple subscriptions

  • Deploying in specific Azure regions helps to locate a resource closest to a user accessing the resource

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