Is the AZ-400 Worth It?
| certifications | cloud - Josh Burnett

Is the AZ-400 Worth It?

Although Amazon Web Services (AWS) has long been the industry leader in cloud computing, Microsoft Azure is catching up at an aggressive rate. Now the leader with enterprise users, Azure has been the cloud provider of choice with high-profile companies (e.g., Salesforce) and has procured numerous notable contracts (e.g., the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI project).

This increase in market share is largely due to an expansion of the types of services Microsoft offers. Azure has dedicated a significant amount of effort to providing solutions in all areas of the cloud, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Central to all of this evolution is DevOps, a field that combines software development with traditional IT operations.

What is the AZ-400?

The AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam is the final gateway to earn the coveted Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification. Being crowned a DevOps Engineer Expert by Azure's parent company is the capstone accreditation for many IT professionals who work in the cloud and specialize in Microsoft offerings.

The Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert cert targets candidates who "should have subject matter expertise working with people, processes, and technologies to continuously deliver business value." It's interesting to note that those three areas are intentionally placed in priority order, indicating Microsoft's commitment to providing user-based solutions where technology enables processes that serve people’s needs.

As we break down the domains that the AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam tests, you'll see an emphasis on principles such as communication, collaboration, integration, and management. Becoming a Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert isn't just about technical prowess; it's about harnessing technology to streamline and improve business.

What Does the AZ-400 Test?

The AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam tests material that is divided into seven primary domains. This broad knowledge base demonstrates the level of expertise that earning the Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert cert validates.

  • Develop an Instrumentation Strategy (5 to 10 percent)
  • Develop a Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Strategy (5 to 10 percent)
  • Develop a security and compliance plan (10 to 15 percent)
  • Manage source control (10 to 15 percent)
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration (10 to 15 percent)
  • Define and implement continuous integration (20 to 25 percent)
  • Define and implement a continuous delivery and release management strategy (10 to 15 percent)

It's important to note that the AZ-400 exam was updated on March 23rd, 2021, so ensure that any information you're getting is published after that date. The latest version emphasizes "designing and implementing strategies for collaboration, code, infrastructure, source control, security, compliance, continuous integration, testing, delivery, monitoring, and feedback."

How Much Does the AZ-400 Exam Cost?

The AZ-400 exam costs $165, but you’ll need to obtain at least one certification before purchasing a voucher. In keeping with its balanced approach between technology and processes, Microsoft states that "a candidate for this exam must be familiar with both Azure administration and development and must be expert in at least one of these areas."

There are two options for prerequisite certifications: you can obtain either the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate or the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate accreditations. Each of these requires passing a single exam that also costs $165, for an all-in price of $330 for exam vouchers if you earn the Associate and Expert certs on your first testing attempts.

What Experience Do You Need for the AZ-400?

Microsoft wants its DevOps Engineer Experts to have a balance between administration and development. You must be familiar with both and an expert in one of these two areas. Which you choose depends on your natural strengths and career progression thus far.

If you go the route of a Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, you'll be expected to "implement, monitor, and maintain Microsoft Azure solutions, including major services related to computing, storage, network, and security." In addition to technical proficiency, Microsoft expects that you will serve "as part of a larger team dedicated to implementing an organization’s cloud infrastructure," emphasizing the human portion of DevOps.

For those who prefer the software development side of the house, the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate is likely a better fit. You'll be "responsible for the development and implementation of cloud storage, PaaS, cloud modelling, security, and cognitive services solutions, including Bot and IoT." Even in this tech-heavy approach, Microsoft expects you to demonstrate an ability to "partner with cloud solution architects, cloud DBAs, cloud administrators, and clients to implement solutions."

You should have at least six months of experience as an administrator and 1-2 years of background as a developer before sitting for the Associate exams. Expect to spend at least 1-2 years in these roles before looking at the AZ-400 Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam.

Who Should Take the AZ-400?

Anyone interested in using technology to streamline processes and business operations should consider a career in DevOps. It isn't uncommon for IT professionals in DevOps to have an Industrial Engineering background, a field that emphasizes automation, integration, communication, and collaboration.

The two primary sources from which DevOps draws are IT manager positions and software developers. As the most rapidly growing cloud provider, Azure's approach to expansion hinges on embracing DevOps as a cornerstone. If this career field appeals to you, then pursuing a Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification is likely well worth it.

AZ-400 for DevOps Engineers

The Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert cert was designed with DevOps engineers in mind. That being said, this accreditation blends both the human and technical sides of the coin. If you prefer working exclusively on technology and have little passion for dealing with people, stopping at Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate might be a better call. In the end, it really comes down to what you want your career to look like and matching the right Azure certification to it.

AZ-400 for DevOps Managers

DevOps managers and administrators are central targets for the Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification. Microsoft wants to emphasize the process and business use case aspects of DevOps, which requires professionals who are proficient in administration within a technological arena. However, Azure does expect a balance from its Engineer Experts, which demands a certain level of technical prowess in software development.

AZ-400 for DevOps Architect

DevOps architects are prime candidates for earning a Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert cert. By nature, architects bridge the gap between user needs and technical design, making them a natural fit for a DevOps career targeting that balance. Microsoft Azure is only increasing in popularity and prevalence, so if you're an architect looking for a career with a bright future, the Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification is an excellent doorway.

Is the AZ-400 Worth It?

There’s no doubt that Microsoft certifications in general and Microsoft Azure certs, in particular, have inherent value. Whether passing the AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam is worth it to you depends on your career goals.

As mentioned above, if you have a strong preference for either software development or IT administration, stopping at the Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate or Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certifications might be a better fit. If you have a passion for combining both sides of DevOps to develop new solutions, then passing the AZ-400 is definitely worth it.

Using the AZ-400 to learn skills

Microsoft openly advertises that it expects you to be an expert in either administration or development and very familiar with the other. You might know everything there is to know about one side of DevOps, but the Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification is demanding enough that you’ll undoubtedly upgrade your skills on the other side as you prepare for the exam.

Using the AZ-400 to validate skills

The AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam is designed to be the final step to earning the crown jewel of the Microsoft Azure DevOps certification path. Anyone who can master the seven domains that the AZ-400 targets has demonstrated that they belong in DevOps based on their skill and proficiency.

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