There have been some questions recently about how people should pass certification exams.
Taking the exams
The answer is pretty straightforward, use the product that the exam is on. Certification exams (I’ve only taken the Microsoft ones, but I’m sure the other vendors are similar) are build
on actual product use. Now you may not use every feature of the product in your day to day life, but the exams aren’t going to be based on what you do. They’ll be based on what the product can do.
Let’s look at one of the SQL Server exams for example, specifically “Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure.” The notes on the exam say what it will cover, and in what percentages. For example, 35-40% of the exam will be on managing and monitoring SQL Server instances. And if you aren’t sure what’s considered “Manage and monitor SQL Server instances” the website spells this out as “Monitor database activity, queries, indexes, statistics, and instances.”
Now you may be thinking that you use RedGate’s SQL Monitor or SolarWind’s Data Platform Advisor (or another tool) to monitor your instances. These exams won’t be testing on these. Assume that only native tools exist because that’s what Microsoft will be testing you on. After all, Microsoft can’t test on another companies product.
There may be times when you don’t agree with the percentages on the exams. I know a big argument exists over how much XML should be on the exam. I referrer you to the notes on the exam on the Microsoft site. If it says the exam may be 40% of something, then it probably will be.
What’s the best way to PASS the exams?
First, let’s talk about brain dumps. They’re not always right, and there’s no way to know when they are wrong. And when they are wrong, who are you going to complain to, the person/company that violated their NDA with Microsoft to make the brain dumps?
When you take Microsoft Exams (or any exam), you sign an NDA that you won’t talk about the content of the exam, and you won’t cheat on the exam. That means that if you use a brain dump, or tell other people to use a brain dump, or help build a brain dump, you’re cheating and potentially in violation of your NDA with Microsoft. What that NDA says, in short, is that Microsoft can revoke your certifications and prevent you from passing any future certification exams. All for talking about their exams. Now you may feel like that’s a bit strong, but Microsoft takes their anti-piracy actions against the certification exams very sceresouly.
The good news is that there’s an easy way to take the exams more than once for free. That’s using the Microsoft Exam Replay option as it lets you take the exam again if you don’t pass. What you can do with this, is get the Replay and take the exam. If you don’t PASS that’s OK, you’ll now know what you didn’t know on the exam so you can study up in those areas and take the exam again for free.
Also, keep in mind, the exam documents online will say how much usage of the product is expected to PASS the exam. Most of the exams assume 3-5 years experience. If you’re just getting into technology, then you probably aren’t ready for the exams.
Practice Tests are written by different people then the exams, so they’ll be different questions. This is on purpose. The questions can’t be the same, that would be cheating. While practice tests are good, they aren’t the actual exam.
Now I know this hasn’t all been good news, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to be an honest breakdown of what the certification exams look like and how to study for them. The first step is to have a couple of years experience using the product. The second step is to use the Retry feature that Microsoft offers, or whatever they move towards in the future.
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Not all cloud providers are the same. Some are flexible and will grow and shrink with your needs and business (Azure, Amazon, Google Cloud), and some will not (IBM, Rackspace, Other Bare Metal clouds). The whole goal of using a cloud provider is to be able to scale up and scale down as needed, perfebably without having to do anything past the initial setup.
For example, lets say that we have an IoT application that typically gets 100,000 new messages per second uploaded to it. At that rate any cloud (or “cloud”) provider will do. Now say that a feture in Time magazine is written about out product and our IOT product sales shoot through the roof so instead of 100,000 new messages per second, we now are getting between 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 messages per second. How will your cloud handle this? If you’re in one of the public clouds like Amazon, Azure or Google Cloud then your resources should magically scale. Boxes that are on a bare metal cloud will stop responding without someone in IT knowing that they need to scale up, provisioning a bunch of machines and configuring those machines. This is assuming that your cloud provides even has some IOT framework in place to handle these messages.
Now odds are you don’t have a wildly successful IOT application. But you’ve probably got a website that customers hit to access your company in some way. Maybe they place orders on your website. What would happen if a massive amount of web traffic started coming in with no notice, and IT doesn’t hear about it until it crashes? Would your want you’re IT department deploying and configuring new servers (bare metal) or would you want the cloud to handle this by automatically scaling the width of the web tier wider so that you can handle the additional requests?
I can tell you want I want for our customers, I want the web tier scaling automatically so that we can keep taking orders rather than our website not be available for hours (or days) depending on how quickly your bare metal provider can respond to your need for new hardware, and your IT departments ability to spin up new services on those new resources.
If you’re using some bare metal cloud provider and thinking that you are getting the uptime that you were promised, you probably aren’t unless you have an architect in place to make sure that you’ve got HA and DR built into your platform. Because that’s the biggest thing you aren’t getting with bare metal cloud providers (beyond Auto-scale), is any HA/DR. If you think you are getting some HA/DR, you probably aren’t (at least not what I’d called HA/DR) without paying for a lot of extras. (The same will apply if you are doing IaaS in the cloud, I’m talking about PaaS services in Azure, Amazon, or Google Cloud.)
What this all boils down to, is that “cloud” has become a marketing word and not an actual word that means that it says anymore. Companies will use the cloud for anything from “VMs on someone else’s hardware” all the way through “auto scaling Platform as a Service.” And the closer you are to “VMs on someone else’s hardware” the further you are away from the true nature of cloud platforms.
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In August of this year I’ll be presenting my second precon of the year. This session at the Data Platform Summit I’ll be presenting a Precon on High Availability and Disaster Recovery. If you’ll be in Bangalore, India on August 8th, that’ll be the day that I’m presenting my precon.
The rest of the conference will be on August 9th, 10th and 11th. Registions for the conference are open, so book now for the conference and my precon.
Book soon in order to save the most of the conference as the prices go up each month.
Get booked, and I’ll see you there.
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I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ll be presenting a precon at the PASS Summit 2018. This year I’ll be giving a precon on database security. In this session we’ll be going over the various security features within Microsoft SQL Server, then putting these techniques into action by trying them out on Virtual Machine hosted in Azure as the day wraps up (so make sure you bring a laptop with you that you can RDP to an Azure VM with).
Now is the time for you to do something, it’s time to go and signup for the PASS Summit and register for my precon today.
I’ll see you at the PASS summit.
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