AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Learning Path

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AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Learning Path

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 exam is the latest AWS exam that has replaced the previous SAA-C01 certification exam. It basically validates the ability to effectively demonstrate knowledge of how to architect and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS technologies

  • Define a solution using architectural design principles based on customer requirements.
  • Provide implementation guidance based on best practices to the organization throughout the life cycle of the project.

Refer AWS_Solution_Architect_-_Associate_SAA-C02_Exam_Blue_Print

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Summary

  • SAA-C02 exam consists of 65 questions in 130 minutes, and the time is more than sufficient if you are well prepared.
  • SAA-C02 Exam covers the architecture aspects in deep, so you must be able to visualize the architecture, even draw them out in the exam just to understand how it would work and how different services relate.
  • AWS has updated the exam concepts from the focus being on individual services to more building of scalable, highly available, cost-effective, performant, resilient.
  • If you had been preparing for the SAA-C01 –
    • SAA-C02 is pretty much similar to SAA-C01 except the operational effective architecture domain has been dropped
    • Although, most of the services and concepts covered by the SAA-C01 are the same. There are few new additions like Aurora Serverless, AWS Global Accelerator, FSx for Windows, FSx for Lustre
  • AWS exams are available online, and I took the online one. Just make sure you have a proper place to take the exam with no disturbance and nothing around you.
  • Also, if you are taking the AWS Online exam for the first time try to join atleast 30 minutes before the actual time.

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Topics

Make sure you go through all the topics and focus on hints in italics

Networking

  • Be sure to create VPC from scratch. This is mandatory.
    • Create VPC and understand whats an CIDR and addressing patterns
    • Create public and private subnets, configure proper routes, security groups, NACLs. (hint: Subnets are public or private depending on whether they can route traffic directly through Internet gateway)
    • Create Bastion for communication with instances
    • Create NAT Gateway or Instances for instances in private subnets to interact with internet
    • Create two tier architecture with application in public and database in private subnets
    • Create three tier architecture with web servers in public, application and database servers in private. (hint: focus on security group configuration with least privilege)
    • Make sure to understand how the communication happens between Internet, Public subnets, Private subnets, NAT, Bastion etc.
  • Understand difference between Security Groups and NACLs (hint: Security Groups are Stateful vs NACLs are stateless. Also only NACLs provide an ability to deny or block IPs)
  • Understand VPC endpoints and what services it can help interact (hint: VPC Endpoints routes traffic internally without Internet)
    • VPC Gateway Endpoints supports S3 and DynamoDB.
    • VPC Interface Endpoints OR Private Links supports others
  • Understand difference between NAT Gateway and NAT Instance (hint: NAT Gateway is AWS managed and is scalable and highly available)
  • Understand how NAT high availability can be achieved (hint: provision NAT in each AZ and route traffic from subnets within that AZ through that NAT Gateway)
  • Understand VPN and Direct Connect for on-premises to AWS connectivity
    • VPN provides quick connectivity, cost-effective, secure channel, however routes through internet and does not provide consistent throughput
    • Direct Connect provides consistent dedicated throughput without Internet, however requires time to setup and is not cost-effective
  • Understand Data Migration techniques
    • Choose Snowball vs Snowmobile vs Direct Connect vs VPN depending on the bandwidth available, data transfer needed, time available, encryption requirement, one-time or continuous requirement
    • Snowball, SnowMobile are for one-time data, cost-effective, quick and ideal for huge data transfer
    • Direct Connect, VPN are ideal for continuous or frequent data transfers
  • Understand CloudFront as CDN and the static and dynamic caching it provides, what can be its origin (hint: CloudFront can point to on-premises sources and its usecases with S3 to reduce load and cost)
  • Understand Route 53 for routing
    • Understand Route 53 health checks and failover routing
    • Understand  Route 53 Routing Policies it provides and their use cases mainly for high availability (hint: focus on weighted, latency, geolocation, failover routing)
  • Be sure to cover ELB concepts in deep.
    • SAA-C02 focuses on ALB and NLB and does not cover CLB
    • Understand differences between  CLB vs ALB vs NLB
      • ALB is layer 7 while NLB is layer 4
      • ALB provides content based, host based, path based routing
      • ALB provides dynamic port mapping which allows same tasks to be hosted on ECS node
      • NLB provides low latency and ability to scale
      • NLB provides static IP address

Security

  • Understand IAM as a whole
    • Focus on IAM role (hint: can be used for EC2 application access and Cross-account access)
    • Understand IAM identity providers and federation and use cases
    • Understand MFA and how would implement two factor authentication for an application
    • Understand IAM Policies (hint: except couple of questions with policies defined and you need to select correct statements)
  • Understand encryption services
  • AWS WAF integrates with CloudFront to provide protection against Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. It also provide IP blocking and geo-protection.
  • AWS Shield integrates with CloudFront to provide protection against DDoS.
  • Refer Disaster Recovery whitepaper, be sure you know the different recovery types with impact on RTO/RPO.

Storage

  • Understand various storage options S3, EBS, Instance store, EFS, Glacier, FSx and what are the use cases and anti patterns for each
  • Instance Store
    • Understand Instance Store (hint: it is physically attached  to the EC2 instance and provides the lowest latency and highest IOPS)
  • Elastic Block Storage – EBS
    • Understand various EBS volume types and their use cases in terms of IOPS and throughput. SSD for IOPS and HDD for throughput
    • Understand Burst performance and I/O credits to handle occasional peaks
    • Understand EBS Snapshots (hint: backups are automated, snapshots are manual
  • Simple Storage Service – S3
    • Cover S3 in depth
    • Understand S3 storage classes with lifecycle policies
      • Understand the difference between SA Standard vs SA IA vs SA IA One Zone in terms of cost and durability
    • Understand S3 Data Protection (hint: S3 Client side encryption encrypts data before storing it in S3)
    • Understand S3 features including
      • S3 provides a cost effective static website hosting
      • S3 versioning provides protection against accidental overwrites and deletions
      • S3 Pre-Signed URLs for both upload and download provides access without needing AWS credentials
      • S3 CORS allows cross domain calls
      • S3 Transfer Acceleration enables fast, easy, and secure transfers of files over long distances between your client and an S3 bucket.
    • Understand Glacier as an archival storage with various retrieval patterns
    • Glacier Expedited retrieval now allows object retrieval within mins
  • Understand Storage gateway and its different types.
    • Cached Volume Gateway provides access to frequently accessed data, while using AWS as the actual storage
    • Stored Volume gateway uses AWS as a backup, while the data is being stored on-premises as well
    • File Gateway supports SMB protocol
  • Understand FSx easy and cost effective to launch and run popular file systems.
  • Understand the difference between EBS vs S3 vs EFS
    • EFS provides shared volume across multiple EC2 instances, while EBS can be attached to a single volume within the same AZ.
  • Understand the difference between EBS vs Instance Store
  • Would recommend referring Storage Options whitepaper, although a bit dated 90% still holds right

Compute

  • Understand Elastic Cloud Compute – EC2
  • Understand Auto Scaling and ELB, how they work together to provide High Available and Scalable solution. (hint: Span both ELB and Auto Scaling across Multi-AZs to provide High Availability)
  • Understand EC2 Instance Purchase Types – Reserved, Scheduled Reserved, On-demand and Spot and their use cases
    • Choose Reserved Instances for continuous persistent load
    • Choose Scheduled Reserved Instances for load with fixed scheduled and time interval
    • Choose Spot instances for fault tolerant and Spiky loads
    • Reserved instances provides cost benefits for long terms requirements over On-demand instances
    • Spot instances provides cost benefits for temporary fault tolerant spiky load
  • Understand EC2 Placement Groups (hint: Cluster placement groups provide low latency and high throughput communication, while Spread placement group provides high availability)
  • Understand Lambda and serverless architecture, its features and use cases. (hint: Lambda integrated with API Gateway to provide a serverless, highly scalable, cost-effective architecture)
  • Understand ECS with its ability to deploy containers and micro services architecture.
    • ECS role for tasks can be provided through taskRoleArn
    • ALB provides dynamic port mapping to allow multiple same tasks on the same node
  • Know Elastic Beanstalk at a high level, what it provides and its ability to get an application running quickly.

Databases

  • Understand relational and NoSQLs data storage options which include RDS, DynamoDB, Aurora and their use cases
  • RDS
    • Understand RDS features – Read Replicas vs Multi-AZ
      • Read Replicas for scalability, Multi-AZ for High Availability
      • Multi-AZ are regional only
      • Read Replicas can span across regions and can be used for disaster recovery
    • Understand Automated Backups, underlying volume types
  • Aurora
    • Understand Aurora
      • provides multiple read replicas and replicates 6 copies of data across AZs
    • Understand Aurora Serverless provides a highly scalable cost-effective database solution
  • DynamoDB
    • Understand DynamoDB with its low latency performance, key-value store (hint: DynamoDB is not a relational database)
    • DynamoDB DAX provides caching for DynamoDB
    • Understand DynamoDB provisioned throughput for Read/Writes (It is more cover in Developer exam though.)
  • Know ElastiCache use cases, mainly for caching performance

Integration Tools

  • Understand SQS as message queuing service and SNS as pub/sub notification service
  • Understand SQS features like visibility, long poll vs short poll
  • Focus on SQS as a decoupling service
  • Understand SQS Standard vs SQS FIFO difference (hint: FIFO provides exactly once delivery both low throughput)

Analytics

  • Know Redshift as a business intelligence tool
  • Know Kinesis for real time data capture and analytics
  • Atleast know what AWS Glue does, so you can eliminate the answer

Management Tools

  • Understand CloudWatch monitoring to provide operational transparency
  • Know which EC2 metrics it can track. Remember, it cannot track memory and disk space/swap utilization
  • Understand CloudWatch is extendable with custom metrics
  • Understand CloudTrail for Audit
  • Have a basic understanding of CloudFormation, OpsWorks

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Resources

AWS Whitepapers & Cheat sheets

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Domains

Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures

  1. Design a multi-tier architecture solution
  2. Design highly available and/or fault-tolerant architectures
  3. Design decoupling mechanisms using AWS services
  4. Choose appropriate resilient storage

Domain 2: Define High-Performing Architectures

  1. Identify elastic and scalable compute solutions for a workload
  2. Select high-performing and scalable storage solutions for a workload
  3. Select high-performing networking solutions for a workload
  4. Choose high-performing database solutions for a workload

Domain 3: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures

  1. Design secure access to AWS resources
  2. Design secure application tiers
  3. Select appropriate data security options

Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures

  1. Determine how to design cost-optimized storage.
  2. Determine how to design cost-optimized compute.

24 thoughts on “AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02 Exam Learning Path

    1. thanks tymik, it seems users are getting this error sporadically and refresh works. I am currently investigating it with the provider.

  1. I wish I had found this BEFORE i took/passed the exam. at least I know now to go use your reference for the Professional Cert. THANKS

  2. Hi Jayendra,

    I have just cleared my AWS associate architect cloud certification(saa-c02).
    Type of questions I saw in exam were very much related to blogs you have written.
    Most important thing I like about your blogs and I can see how much its helpful for exam preparation is the way you have written these blogs, very precise and concise and also you are updating it time to time to cope up with new aws updates.
    I have referred couple of white papers suggested by you plus Braincert practice tests.
    It wouldn’t have been easy for me to clear certification without these blogs.
    Many thanks, keep up the good work !!!

  3. Hi Jayendra,
    thank you so much, it is wonderfull.
    Can you share with community how to obtain its information at the time of the release of new certification ? we realize that acloudguru and stephane videos have exactly the same session with the [SAA-C02] tag as in your article. It is necessary it is AWS hero or official trainer aws. Thanks again and thank you for your feedback
    Premsai

  4. Hi Jayendra,

    I am preparing for AWS certified solutions architect. I prepared for it from March 2020 using udemy ACG course. But giving a practive exam in June i realised the contents of that course was not updated and I took up another course Neal Davis course. Since I am a working professional I get very less time.
    Although i understand the concepts, but still unsure how to handle the scenario based questions. Gets more confused when there are two or three answers.
    Your blog is very helpful to me for the guide.
    Can you please also suggest, what should be my approach for the scenario based questions? How can those be captured rather than going through course again and again?

    Thanks,
    Swarnava

    1. Hi Swarnava,

      the Solution Architect – Associate exam has undergone change with SAA-C02.
      i would recommend go through the course once, which you have brought. Practice using practice tests (recommend Braincert), make sure you understand the question, concepts and read the relevant AWS documentation and revise the videos.
      This will help you gain confidence and practice at the same time.

      Regards,

  5. This is Extremely helpful before taking the exam will definitely recommend this blog to my friends.

    Thank you so much jayendrapatil.

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