70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions – Preparation & Exam Experience

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Spec_Arch_AzureSol_logo_BWIt’s been a few years since my last Microsoft exam as my certification focus has been with other vendors.  During 2015, I started to see a shift in customers, as they became more comfortable with the public cloud, with many changing their requirements to a ‘cloud first’ approach.

With this in mind, I started to delve into Microsoft Azure and to understand the benefits it could offer.  At this point, Microsoft only offered the 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam.  I decided not to go for this initially as my day job is architecture rather than implementation, although on occasion I do get my hands dirty.

Towards the end of last year, Microsoft released the 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions certificate that measures the following skills:

  • Design Microsoft Azure infrastructure and networking
  • Secure resources
  • Design an application storage and data access strategy
  • Design an advanced application
  • Design websites
  • Design a management, monitoring and business continuity strategy

Preparation

When the exam was released, I made a decision to dust off my Microsoft certifications and get involved.  I started with the principles of Microsoft Azure and created a series of blog posts which cover the following:

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Availability Sets

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Backups

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Clusters

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Content Delivery Network

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Failures

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Identity & Access

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Media Services

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Networks

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Storage

Microsoft Azure Concepts – Virtual Machines

The purpose of these was to get my head around the IaaS parts of Azure and to understand the benefits in using each service area.  For example when would you use Active Directory Federation Services with Azure Active Directory rather than using Active Directory with Azure Active Directory Connect.

Once I understood these areas, I then focused on the exam objectives, which I knew would present the greatest challenge, which where:

  • Design an advanced application
  • Design websites
  • Design a management, monitoring and business continuity strategy

I purchased the book Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions book by Haishi Bai, Steve Maier and Dan Stolts.  This is an excellent introduction to the exam objectives, but I felt it wasn’t enough to cover the areas I was weak on.

To compliment the book (which I read twice), Keith Mayer has created an excellent Exam Study Guide which I used to as an easy way to find the Azure documentation I was looking for.

Finally, I used three Pluralsight videos on Architecting Azure Solutions by Orin Thomas these really helped plug the gaps in the areas I wasn’t so familiar.

As well as reading and watching the training material, I also spent time using Azure.  I’m lucky enough to have a work sponsored Azure Subscription I can access to play around.  I strongly suggest you are familiar with Azure and also you understand the basics of PowerShell commands.

The Exam

I decided to take the Microsoft Online Proctored exam with Pearson Vue.  For some reason my Surface Book didn’t like the Pearson Vue application, so I used my daughters laptop.  I have to say that the security requirements where far higher than attending a Pearson Vue site, I literally had to empty my pockets and show the invigilator every part of the room I was sitting in twice.

A few things you should note about taking a proctored exam:

  • If you have an external monitor, they will make you turn it around
  • If you have a cup of coffee they will ask you to remove it from the room
  • They expect your desk to be completely clear, so no pen or paper for making notes

The exam itself was broken down into forty seven questions, which consisted of three case studies, each of which had at least six questions.  The rest of the questions where normal multiple choice or drag and drop.

The exam expects you to know the blueprint and the material contained within it.  You also need to be able to understand business requirements and map these to an Azure solution as well as the usual PowerShell commands.

Final Thought

I’m pleased to say I passed the 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions exam.  It was challenging due to the sheer breadth of information you have to understand, not only from a technical perspective, but when it would be best to use technology ‘a’ over ‘b’.

Overall, I would recommend the exam to anyone looking to develop their understanding of Microsoft Azure.

3 thoughts on “70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions – Preparation & Exam Experience

  1. Hey Craig, Thanks for the comprehensive and detailed list!
    Can you tell me a little bit on how much time you spent on studying and preparing for the exam?
    I’m also planning to take it.
    I have experience with Azure, but mainly with the VM’s and databases.
    Did it actually help you to give better advice to clients?

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