AZ-303 – Why it’s great to see Microsoft emphasize monitoring

I recently started looking into updating my existing Azure Solutions Architect certification to the new certifications due out from April. One of the reasons I was drawn to learning the syllabus for the AZ-300 and AZ-301 and taking the exams was due to the depth of information and coverage of Azure and services it provides. In fact you could argue that two exams for an architect certification is rather generous from Microsoft and it could be at least four. To put this into context, the legacy style MCSA and MCSE for 2003 required four exams for an MCSA which included an elective exam such as Exchange or SQL and then a further 3 Exams to complete the MCSE. The later MCITP on 2008 also required several exams to complete.

Although the AZ-900 is good place to start for any newcomers to Azure who want to be certified the Architect exams give a vast overview of all of the subjects so it’s a good way to see exactly what Azure can offer even if you don’t want to get certified it’s still an excellent way to gain fundamental knowledge of Azure.

At reviewing the exam requirements I was pleased, but a little surprised to see that approximately 50% – 55% of the AZ-303 was dedicated to monitoring. This is a smart move from Microsoft to emphasize this as monitoring is still one of the fundamental downfalls of a lot of organizations for the following reasons:

  • Organizations have monitoring tools but do not know how to use them or gain the best insights into their infrastructure
  • Organizations still work in a reactive manner and spend no time proactively monitoring and investigating ongoing problems
  • Organizations cannot decide on which monitoring tools to use and what the benefits are of each tool
  • Organizations have too many tools which becomes a burden for the team that is required to support them
  • Organizations fail to integrate their monitoring platforms with their service platform
  • Lack of automation to address common problems
  • Organizations don’t value monitoring
  • No dedicated monitoring team
  • Key man dependency for monitoring platforms.

In a cloud platform you simply can’t afford to ignore monitoring if for one primary reason is cost. This will influence your success in either transitioning services to the cloud or ongoing transformation of your cloud journey

AZ-303 skills outline

Implement and Monitor an Azure Infrastructure (50-55%)

  • Monitor security
  • Monitor performance
  • Monfigure diagnostic settings on resources
  • Create a performance baseline for resources
  • Monitor for unused resources
  • Monitor performance capacity
  • Visualize diagnostics data using Azure Monitor
  • Monitor health and availability
  • Monitor networking
  • Monitor service health
  • Monitor cost
  • Monitor spend
  • Report on spend
  • Configure advanced logging
  • Implement and configure Azure Monitor insights, including App Insights,
  • Networks, Containers
  • Configure a Log Analytics workspace
  • Configure logging for workloads
  • Initiate automated responses by using Action Groups
  • Configure and manage advanced alerts
  • Collect alerts and metrics across multiple subscriptions
  • View Alerts in Azure Monitor logs

Each of the above monitoring requirements will carry it’s own significance and priorities based on your own environment but the point is to ensure you have a clear focus on monitoring as part of your cloud strategy.

There is however some monitoring criteria that would be common to most organizations

  • Service Health (Azure and services deployed on Azure)
  • Availability
  • Capacity
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Action Groups

Monitoring shouldn’t be an after thought! Monitoring should be tightly integrated as part of your requirements to deploy resources in Azure and who will be responsible for them.

Monitoring alone is not enough, governance and RBAC should be understood and implemented in Azure to limit who can deploy resources in Azure. The logical business model should be understood and represented in Azure Management Groups and Subscriptions making each business unit accountable for their budget.

Recommended Resources AZ-303

Thomas Maurer has created a useful study guide for the AZ-303 which highlights a useful list of resources from Microsoft Learn and various articles published by Microsoft to aid with your development.

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