Microsoft Azure and How I got myself AZ 900 Certified

Azure is arguably the most popular cloud provider out there, and with the recent US Department of Defense deal worth USD 10 billion, it has leap-frogged the competition (with Google, IBM and Oracle choosing not to compete or maybe not in the same league and AWS being the only contender). Additionally, closer home there was news about Microsoft India earnings crossing the USD 1 billion mark in the last fiscal with a big push attributed to Azure.

I had dabbled a bit in AWS and Azure before, but recently when we had a certain upskilling push at our organization I jumped head-first into it. So, a bunch of us were nominated to attend boot camps and I was chosen for the Azure track and specifically for the Azure 900 fundamentals course. It was a week-long session, with additional study sessions over the weekends. This was held in sometime in August and we had to enroll for the exam immediately after that. However, with sprints, release planning, demos, architectural reviews and with a heavy dose of  procrastination, I never blocked a date for the exam. It was sometime in October, that I decided enough is enough and I had to prove to myself that I can get this certification done with 🙂

Firstly, an overview about certifications in Azure

Microsoft earlier had a popular certification called MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) which catered to Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. This certification basically needed a broad and deep knowledge of *almost* everything in Azure.

Azure is an huge ecosystem, and getting really good at a the whole thing was unwieldy, difficult and not popular with Developers, Administrators and Architects alike. There was a need for a revamp.

Enter, Role based certifications

It was an entire paradigm shift from focus on product knowledge to a skills-based approach. It is broadly classified for Administrators, Developers, Solution Architects, Functional Consultants and DevOps Engineers.

With these certifications, it is not about a having a badge of the knowledge you have, it is about being ready for a career in a specific role.

Azure Role Based Certifications
Azure Role Based Certifications
AZ – 900

AZ-900 is the a fundamental level certification for anyone who wants to start off with Azure. It is to prove that you are knowledgeable about Cloud and the various Azure services and their broad application.

The skills measured are –

  • Understand cloud concepts
  • Understand core Azure services
  • Understand security, privacy, compliance, and trust
  • Understand Azure pricing and support

The entire outline can be downloaded from here. 

How I prepared
  • Take notes, create mind maps, use OneNote, scribble, whatever (but is important)
  • Dedicated atleast an hour each day for more than two weeks.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – Cannot emphasize this enough.
  • Pickup an exam slot and work backwards
    • Assign atleast a couple of days for each skill measured
  • Hands-on is important
    • Create an account and get familiar with the portal
    • Provision resources
    • Download the CLI and try commands (Powershell commands as well)
  • Mock exams are important
    • To get familiar with the pattern
    • Understand types of questions
    • Crystallize concepts
    • Confusing service names! (ATP vs AIP, Virtual Networks vs Virtual Network Gateways)
    • Services seemingly doing similar work (LoadBalancers vs Application Gateways vs Firewalls vs NSGs)

Azure Learning (approx 10 hours)


Platform Quotes

Well, this is a blog for a curated list of quotes on ‘Platforms’, the software type where one can exchange value. I shall also try to quote of the source (or where a quote was originally quoted!).

Businesses want to move from a Pipe business model to a Platform Business model.


“You know you are building a platform if your users are using it in ways you have never imagined”

The goal of the platform is to enable interactions between producers and consumers – repeatedly and efficiently.

Platforms are ubiquitous.

Quotes from Geoffrey G. Parker

In recent years, more and more businesses are shifting from the pipeline structure to the platform structure. In this shift, the simple pipeline arrangement is transformed into a complex relationship in which producers, consumers, and the platform itself enter into a variable set of relationships.

Yet all are operating businesses that share the fundamental platform DNA—they all exist to create matches and facilitate interactions among producers and consumers, whatever the goods being exchanged may be.

The shift from protecting value inside the firm to creating value outside the firm means that the crucial factor is no longer ownership but opportunity, while the chief tool is no longer dictation but persuasion.

Platform competition requires treating buyers and suppliers not as separate threats to be subjugated but as value-creating partners to be wooed, celebrated, and encouraged to play multiple roles.

And while platform businesses themselves are often extraordinarily profitable, the chief locus of wealth creation is now outside rather than inside the organization.

Thus, every platform business must be designed to facilitate the exchange of information.

Yet, in most cases, platforms don’t create value units; instead, they are created by the producers who participate in the platform. Thus, platforms are “information factories” that have no control over inventory.

Facebook’s news feed is a classic multiuser feedback loop. Status updates from producers are served to consumers, whose likes and comments serve as feedback to the producers. The constant flow of value units stimulates still more activity, making the platform increasingly valuable to all participants.

Later still, LinkedIn created another interaction when it allowed thought leaders, and subsequently all users, to publish posts on LinkedIn for others to read, effectively turning the site into a publishing platform.

A platform’s overarching purpose is to consummate matches among users and facilitate the exchange of goods, services, or social currency, thereby enabling value creation for all participants.

As a result of the rise of the platform, almost all the traditional business management practices—including strategy, operations, marketing, production, research and development, and human resources—are in a state of upheaval. We are in a disequilibrium time that affects every company and individual business leader. The coming of the world of platforms is a major reason why.

Our goal is not to build a platform; it is to be across all of them.

~ Mark Zuckerberg

We want to be the platform that solution providers can use to run their businesses.  ~ Bob Vogel

Platform thinking = Software design + Market design + Agility.  ~Thierry Isckia

Your social platform will become the motherboard of your business

Every Business needs to become a Platform

“We are no longer in the business of building software. We are increasingly moving into the business of enabling efficient social and business interactions, mediated by software.”