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Becoming Informed: Engineering Career Paths with Microsoft Azure Certification

The InformedACADEMY framework for training and development ensures that teams at informed are skilled and experienced in the latest technologies. Microsoft platform knowledge and specialisation forms an important part of Informed Solutions’ training strategy as it allows us to strengthen the capabilities that help our clients digitally transform, so that both they and their customers can thrive in a connected and converged world.

Dan Thornton, Senior Technical Consultant

Earlier this month as part of Informed Solutions’ InformedACADEMY™ learning and development programme, I had the opportunity to complete a 4-day Azure Developer Associate certification course with Informed’s training partner Firebrand. The intense course culminated in the AZ-203 exam: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure.

The InformedACADEMY framework for training and development ensures that teams at informed are skilled and experienced in the latest technologies in order to advise and serve a growing international customer base – all looking to digitally transform their organisations and operations.

As part of this framework, Microsoft platform knowledge and specialisation forms an important part of Informed Solutions’ training strategy as its technologies are often important ingredients in our customer’s requirements, once we have identified the best transformation paths with them.

The Azure developer certification allowed me to gain a broader view of Azure services in practice and give the most direct relevance to some of the exciting projects at Informed Solutions where we have a growing number of client engagements using AWS and Azure technologies.

As a well-respected international practice, the teams at Informed are highly skilled practitioners across Microsoft and Amazon platforms and the company’s learning and development programmes ensure that we continually monitor core skills and competencies across the business in both the UK and Australia. We’re currently working to transform data flows and learning opportunities from patient safety incidents using Azure. Alongside this, our teams are helping transfer a national emergency services incident reporting system to the cloud and also working to make case work and inspection of national energy facilities more efficient through the adoption of cloud services.

The Azure Developer Associate course with Firebrand is a very focused and fast-paced course, which covers Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a service (PaaS), Storage, Security and App development.

IaaS is advantageous operationally as it removes the burden of managing physical hardware on premises. Instead, the infrastructure is managed by the cloud service provider. This leads to a number of cost savings, particularly scaling on demand. The session covered provisioning Virtual Machines (VMs), orchestrating batch jobs and deploying containerised services using Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). Azure tools including a command-line interface (CLI) and Powershell modules, as well the browser-based Azure Portal were showcased. Alongside these tools, Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates were demonstrated for re-provisioning environments.

The PaaS offerings we examined included the Azure App Services Platform for deploying Web Apps, with code examples in C#. PaaS goes a step further than IaaS, as OS level tasks such as patching are provided by the cloud service provider, allowing organisations to focus on application development. The course also covered Serverless computing - an increasingly popular methodology for increasing computing power, whilst reducing infrastructure management requirements.

Covering Storage including Table, Blob and File Storage, we discussed scalable solutions using Cosmos DB - a global scale database offering greater performance and availability over Azure’s Table Storage. Additionally, we learned about SQL Storage for structured data and moved on to Security and Monitoring in Azure, Logic Apps and API Management, creating solutions that integrate with third-party applications or as part of complex distributed systems.

There are simply too many topics covered during the AZ-203 course to list out here. For those engineers going down a similar route, I would recommend an intense course, but be sure to prepare ahead of time. The Azure Fundamentals course is a good start for those inexperienced with Azure, as it presents a high level overview and enables candidates to get a feel for the exam format. Azure offers free trial accounts; therefore getting a feel for the Azure portal and CLI couldn’t be easier, if it’s not a part of your day-to-day role. The Microsoft Learning site and docs also offer some good tutorials, together with labs to work through practical examples.

The next step on my particular certification path is the Microsoft Azure DevOps Engineer Expert, a potentially tougher challenge that I’m keen to tackle. For now however I’m pleased to reflect on a successful week studying Azure in depth and thank Informed, Firebrand and trainer Tiago Costa for helping me achieve the coveted qualification.

Ultimately it was a fantastic opportunity to spend time focusing on an exciting technology, and to end with a qualification that allows us to strengthen the capabilities that help organisations digitally transform, so that both they and their customers can thrive in a connected and converged world.

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