Recently I have been going through blogs of different cloud platforms to understand the solutions provided by different cloud providers in the market. I decided to dive deeper into GCP and was pleasantly surprised by the plethora of great material provided by GCP about cloud deployments, architecture solutions and in general best practices to optimize your cloud solutions. I wanted to learn more about the platform and signed up for Professional Cloud Solution Architect exam giving myself a few weeks to prepare for it. If you are also looking forward to learning a new platform, I suggest you give GCP a try, and if you are preparing for GCP Professional SA certification, I hope this piece helps you in the process.
Exam outline: 50 questions, 2 hours (more than sufficient)
Passing marks: The portal just tells you post test whether you have passed or failed. There is no insight into the score required and score obtained
A word about the exam, actually two words: Not Easy. The exam not only demands that you have sufficient experience on the platform, it also asks you about your solution building skills around cloud deployments as a whole. There are questions which are not directly about GCP solutions but about good architecture practices which are applicable across platforms, and which the exam expects you to be familiar with. Also, in many of the questions there are at least two solutions which fit the technical requirement and you have to pay attention to the business requirement (cost, operation time, refactoring efforts, latency etc) to decide the right answer. Let’s look at one of the questions from the GCP practice test below:
The database of a company is used for importing and normalizing the company’s performance statistics. It is built with MySQL running on Debian Linux. They have an n1-standard-8 virtual machine with 80 GB of SSD zonal persistent disk which they can’t restart until the next maintenance event. What should they change to get better performance from this system as soon as possible and in a cost-effective manner?
A. Increase the virtual machine’s memory to 64 GB.
B. Create a new virtual machine running PostgreSQL.
C. Dynamically resize the SSD persistent disk to 500 GB.
D. Migrate their performance metrics warehouse to BigQuery.
Move to BigQuery data warehouse and run complex queries there to analyze performance statistics? Maybe. But the question has asked us about a solution which can be implemented as soon as possible and in a cost effective manner. Now we need to know how the performance (in this case IOPS) of a machine can be increased? The question also throws in a word about machine not being restarted until the next maintenance event. So we also need to know whether we can perform disk resizing or increase the memory without a restart. Plus they also mention the instance type and whether it’s a zonal persistent disk or regional. All this information is given to test how we can pick the right key words and ignore unnecessary information while making the decision. The answer here is C, by the way.
There are many such questions in the test and hence firm hands-on experience with the platform is much desired for the exam. Along with that, below are the resources that I found very useful during the preparation:
Enrolling for an online course always helps in giving a timeline and exhaustive coverage to the topics in the exam. There are many great courses available online in places like Udemy, Linux foundation, Cloud Guru etc. But I chose the Coursera unit which consists of 6 courses talking about different focus points of the GCP platform. I found the course useful and to be a good base on which you can build further knowledge on.
GCP documentation: This is the official documentation of the platform and the single best source to understand all the solutions in detail. There is no exam in public cloud that can be passed without looking at the official documentation of the platform. GCP documentation structuring is a little different from that of other public clouds but you pick up quickly and the documentation is very useful not just for the exam but life post that as well.
Architecture Reference: The solutions site by GCP is an extremely useful tool for any solution architect. It consists of many use cases and architecture diagrams for many business solutions.
GCP Youtube channel: Official GCP youtube channel with loads of useful videos about GCP products and solutions.
LearnGCPwithMahesh: This is another great youtube channel which is dedicated to GCP solutions. I used this channel as a revision platform and found the videos very useful. Mahesh has also created playlists for the exam and there is one playlist only for the case studies in the exam which is very handy. Oh yes, almost forgot about the case studies. There are 3 case studies given in the exam guide which form the basis for a few questions in the exam. Make sure you have digested every word of the case studies.
Last minute cheat sheet: Collection of informative flowcharts, tables and diagrams handy during the last minute revision.
I also took practice tests from Udemy. Although, there were no questions similar to the tests in the exam, the tests made me understand the gaps in my knowledge and helped me go through the documentation in great detail.
GCP Practice Exam: Once you have gone through your learning resources, take this test to understand the gaps if any. This also gives you a glimpse into the way questions are asked in the exam.
Finally, make sure you have firm understanding of concepts and solutions like App Engine, GKE, Big data solutions (Dataproc, Dataflow, BigQuery etc), Stackdriver, IAM, GDPR and PCI-DSS compliance, Hybrid connectivity solutions and Devops.
And also make sure while registering for the exam, you pay attention to the fact that 0300 is 3AM not 3PM 😀 I realized this the night before the exam and had to stay up till 5 in the morning.
That’s all folks! I hope this article helps you in your preparation. Let me know if it does, in the comments. All the best!