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Microsoft Azure Certifications: What is the difference between AZ-303 and AZ-304?

Microsoft has launched Azure, which provides a robust public cloud service, with almost zero to no failure. AZ-303 and AZ-304 are two exam codes for Microsoft Azure. Both exams ensure that you are the subject matter expert on designing Azure architectures and implementing them in critical environments. Completing both certifications will give any cloud engineer an indomitable edge. We are listing down all the topics which can be expected in either of the certifications – Infrastructure, Storage, Management and Management.

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Cloud computing has become one of the most important features of the modern IT industry. Every client needs to have their application highly available, scalable with a minimum cost. They are moving away from the legacy environments, which were hosted on-premise, into the cloud, so that they maximize their business, serve their customers well, and remain available throughout the clock.

In this current scenario, most of the big players have come up with their cloud solutions, with each offering slightly different than what others are. However, in this rat race, Microsoft and Amazon have emerged as the clear choices while choosing a public cloud offering. Microsoft has launched Azure, which provides a robust public cloud service, with almost zero to no failure.

Need for Certification

With the advent of cloud computing and the fact that it is becoming even more popular in the coming days, all organizations are trying to strengthen their army of cloud engineers. Microsoft azure administrator certifications are among the most commonly completed certifications.

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These certification courses and exams not only provide an extra advantage over their colleagues but also enrich their knowledge and keep them abreast of all the developments happening in the Azure environment.

In this article, we will be talking about two of the most common certifications: AZ- 303 and AZ-304.

Differences Between AZ-303 and AZ-304

Az-303 and AZ-304 are two exam codes for Microsoft Azure. Both the exams are on the architect level. AZ-303 is the exam code for Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies, whereas AZ-304 is the exam code for Microsoft Azure Architect Design. Both the exams ensure that you are the subject matter expert on designing Azure architectures and implementing them in critical environments.

To understand the differences between the two certification courses, let us draw a simple analogy by comparing them to two construction workers, one of them is a designer and the other one is an implementer. A worker having completed AZ-303 would be able to design the blueprint of a complex architecture flawlessly, whereas a worker having AZ-304 under his belt would be able to implement the architecture design. So, in a nutshell, the designer would be completing AZ-303, whereas AZ-304 would be taken up by the implementer.

The main question that lingers in the mind of cloud professionals is how to approach this conundrum. Both the certifications are pretty close, with nominal differences between them, so how are they going to approach this? Which one of these two will be taken up first?

Well, the answer is simple. It is always easy to implement if we know the design first. Hence, it would be better if AZ-303 is taken first, followed by AZ-304. Completing both certifications will give any cloud engineer an indomitable edge.

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Breaking Down AZ-303 and AZ-304

However lucrative it may sound, completing both certifications require some serious understanding of Azure. We are listing down all the topics which can be expected in either of the certifications –

Infrastructure

Both certifications give huge importance to infrastructure-based knowledge. They focus mostly on Azure resources like Virtual Machine, App Services, Networking, and storage along with Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates.

While approaching the certification, the designer will have to take complete knowledge of all the resources required to set up an architecture based on customer needs. He/she will also have to take care of the pricing of all the resources, along with their SKUs. The implementer will be having a clear knowledge of how to provision these resources in Azure using minimal effort.

Monitoring

Monitoring is a very important aspect of Azure. In this section, the designer will take care of deciding the monitoring tools to be used, metrics that should be used for monitoring and reporting of all the metrics captured. The implementer will be tasked to implement them as per design.

Management

Management revolves around a lot of aspects- security, migration of infrastructures, handling storage, permissions, and governance like Azure Policies and Azure Key Vault. Security key management is one of the most important factors in Azure Key Vault. Increasing control and security for passwords and keys are essential for a secure environment. Multi-factor authorization and role-based authentication are also important areas that must be focused upon by Azure architecture designers. The implementer will be tasked to implement them in the environment.

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Data Platforms and Storage

As the name suggests, data platform and storage deal with how you can store your critical data in an organized fashion, so that it is easy to retrieve them as and when required. Azure provides multiple alternative solutions to store data, each catering to different business and financial requirements.

A designer would be entrusted to understand how to store the data, where to store them, and implement them in the architecture so that it follows the business needs. For example, for a given architecture, the designer will be expected to make a call whether to use a SQL Server Database or a Cosmos DB or should they be deep-diving into Analytics tools like Azure Data Lake or Power BI. An implementer will be provisioning them in the environment following industry standards.

From our discussion, it is very clear that even though both the exams are on the architect level, and they target a very similar knowledge base, the objective of both the exams is widely different. There are tons of reading materials available on the internet for both exams. Apart from them, Microsoft has its own set of training materials with free labs.

In the current Covid situation, Microsoft has arranged proctored examinations where the exam can be given from home, on a personal laptop. The exam will be monitored continuously by a proctor assigned by Microsoft. Apart from this, the exam can also be scheduled and attended in a Microsoft exam center, which is spread across multiple cities around the country.

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