DevOps Deep Dive: How to Pass AZ-400 and Become a Certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert

  • Azure DevOps
  • AZ-400
  • Microsoft
  • Published by: ANDRÉ HAMMER on Jun 08, 2022

If you’re someone who wants to establish your credibility and value as a DevOps Engineer then this article is for you.

You will learn the ins and outs of DevOps, right from - what is DevOps, the roles of a DevOps engineer, career prospects, how to become a DevOps engineer and how to pass the AZ-400 exam. It’s a must-read if you’re a system administrator, project manager, or software developer looking to become a Certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert and lead a Microsoft DevOps team or project. Let’s dive right in.

Do you know that the global DevOps market was valued at $7 Billion in 2021, and is expected to hit $26 Billion by 2027? That’s a CAGR of whooping 24.6%, making DevOps one of the hottest career choices for IT professionals. As more businesses move to the cloud, the demand for DevOps engineers is mounting with no signs of stopping.

Because of its dynamic nature, new DevOps tools keep coming into the market. No two companies have the same roles and responsibilities for a DevOps engineer. So, companies like to retain their DevOps engineer for good perks and compensation. And in return, DevOps engineers have to stay on top of industry trends and best practices to ensure they are ahead of the DevOps learning curve.

Image Source: TheRegister

Development + Operations = DevOps

Before we get into the meaning of DevOps, and the roles & responsibilities of a DevOps engineer, let’s remind ourselves that any app is built in two parts:

  • Development: A bunch of developers code the application and test it. They might use a particular stack in a code repository such as Git suitable for the project.
  • Operations: Now the code of the application is deployed on a server and maintained.

A DevOps expert bridges the gap between the programmers and the operations team, by automating and integrating software development and IT teams. He or she enables them to build, test, and release updates swiftly and reliably. So, DevOps experts are professionals with expert-level knowledge about agile methodology, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.

If you look at the DevOps official logo, it’s an infinite and continuous cycle of steps, including planning, coding, building, testing, release, deployment, operations, and monitoring. The DevOps engineer is the link between the developers and deployers. They work with the developers and engineers to oversee code releases.

Why Do Companies Need DevOps engineers?

The companies who are running their business online, their main goal is to get their code faster to their customers through something called the CICD pipeline, so that any piece of code can go to the customer with a single click of a button. DevOps engineers streamline delivery by optimizing practices, and improving communications, collaboration, and automation.

Why is Microsoft Azure DevOps in such high demand?

Microsoft Azure along with other players such as AWS, and Google Cloud is one of the key players in the ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ market.

Azure DevOps is a Software as a Service by Microsoft, which provides a DevOps toolchain for developing and deploying software not just with its tools but its integration with a wide array of 3rd party tools such as Jira, Jenkins, Grades, etc.

Microsoft Azure owns a big chunk of the cloud market space due to its integrated suite of pipelines. Unlike AWS or GCP, Azure DevOps hasn't restricted itself to only deploying in Microsoft. This centralized and integrated approach has helped Microsoft a big chunk of the market.

If you check Google Trends, clearly Azure DevOps is more popular than AWS DevOps.

What does a DevOps Engineer do?

The roles and responsibilities of a DevOps engineer mostly go around creating the CICD process, wherein CICD stands for Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. So, if you are a DevOps engineer, it’s your responsibility to configure this pipeline for your application and ensure that the pipeline is continuous. improvements in the form of new features and bugs, get added all the time, which need to be deployed. So yes, being a Devops engineer, you can’t go a day without hearing about words such as ‘continuous’, and ‘pipeline’.

Depending on the status of the company in its CICD pipeline, as a DevOps engineer - you might find yourself planning, creating, or being a part of the pipeline. As a DevOps engineer, you should be able to think in the pipeline - how you can connect tools and make the code move from one side to the other not just effectively, but automatically, and continuously. You know there can be multiple paths from which the code can flow, and it’s your responsibility to decide the right path.

For example, a company might require you to have experience in Jenkins or SonarQube, or Github (acquired by Microsoft in 2018), or all of them, backed by a strong experience in a programming language such as Java. That’s a company that is looking for a candidate who can work on the continuous integration part.

Your typical day as a Devops might be spent writing infrastructure code and jobs that create the continuous integration and delivery pipeline that allows the application code to be continuously tested and processed and sent out to the end-user. The idea is to ensure that the users get their software and its updates reliably faster and automatically.

You’d have to work closely with developers to ensure that their code works with the infrastructure that you’re creating as a DevOps engineer. Also, to ensure this can be accomplished without downtime. Your work requires enabling seamless integrations with third parties; so you have to be comfortable working with certificates from other teams - both internal and external.

Devops Prerequisites

Being an AZ-400 certified makes you a front runner in securing a high-paying role as a DevOps engineer for companies moving and expanding on the cloud. Of course, you need to acquire an advanced and unique set of skill sets to get the job done. Here are the some of the key ones:

  • Linux: Knowing the basics of cloud and server management is one of the necessary skills which you will need to develop to become a good DevOps engineer. So, you need to know Linux or equivalent, at least the basics of it, if not high level, for example - knowing basic shell commands to install various applications on the server, using the Linux file system.
  • Server Administration: Get a good understanding of how IP addresses ports and DNS routing work. Get yourself comfortable using server administration tools to develop the big picture of the server-side of the project. Furthermore, knowing about migration, disaster recovery and backups take you a long way.
  • Networking & Security: Besides server management, you should also know the basics of networking and security. For instance, a good DevOps engineer knows how to install a firewall to secure the application, use load balancers, and how to open some ports to make the application accessible from outside, and so on and so forth.

AZ-400 Prerequisites

As a prerequisite, you have to clear either AZ-104, ie. the Certified Microsoft Azure Administrator exam, or the AZ-204 the Certified Microsoft Azure Developer exam. Then you just need to pass the AZ-400, the Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions exam to achieve the ultimate Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer Expert Certification.

AZ-400 is an expert-level exam for professionals who want to learn to design and implement DevOps processes and practices for enterprises. AZ-400 is of 1000 marks and you need 700 at least to clear the exam. You are asked 40-60 questions in 3 hours. Most of these questions are multiple choices. Answer all the questions as there is no negative marking. The case study questions are there to judge your understanding of practical implementation. You might also get questions in the form of ‘fill in the block” code. As far as the examination fee is concerned, AZ-400 can cost you $165.

What do you need to learn to pass the AZ-400 exam?

Let's go over some of these skills to give you an idea of the learning curve you have to go through to prepare for the AZ-400 exam. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a birds-eye view of the AZ-400 curriculum:

  • Start with getting an introduction to Azure DevOps to gather a good understanding of the service, along with the role of DevOps in an organization.
  • Then you learn about continuous integration. You learn to build containers using Azure DevOps, such as how to create and deploy a multi-container application for your DevOps pipeline.
  • Next, you learn a Dependency Management Strategy as well as learning artifact versioning.
  • Release management workflow - this is where you learn how to configure a CIDC pipeline using Yamel and manage your secrets using Azure vault.
  • Next, you learn about deployment models where you learn how to configure infrastructure as a service, and platform as a service on Azure.
  • Gathering a solid understanding of the continuous feedback mechanism is next on the list, followed by learning about Azure’s third-party tools you need to configure the pipeline.
  • Next, you learn about compliance and security where you learn how to manage and test code quality with Sonar cloud on Azure DevOps. You also learn how to implement Azure key vault with Azure DevOps to access secrets in the Azure pipeline.

The topic-wise weightage of the AZ-400 exam is as follows:

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

Do you need to be a programmer to become a DevOps engineer?

The answer is no, but it most definitely helps you attract better jobs and higher packages. Knowing scripting languages such as Python, Bash, or Ruby definately helps. A DevOps engineer isn’t someone who is programming the application, but you should know how the programmer codes the application, how the repository workflow works, how the application is configured, and the concepts of automated testing.

Closing lines

If you’re someone with an engineering mind and like to see things come together and work continuously like a machine, DevOps might be the perfect career for you. And while having a certification isn’t a mandatory requirement to get a DevOps job, it gives you a structured way of learning cloud and DevOps. Plus, having a certification under your belt will give you the much necessary confidence when appearing for a job interview. A prospective employer looking to hire an Azure DevOps Engineer would feel much more comfortable putting their bet on certified candidates, as compared to the ones who are not certified.

As far as exam preparation goes, one option is to prepare for the exam all by yourself with free content. You can do self-learning but taking out time in a disciplined manner to prepare for the AZ-400 exam can be challenging when you have a full-time job. That’s why companies around the world bank on Readynez’s proven exam preparation methodology to help their staff clear their AZ-400 with ease.

Whatever preparation approach you chose, remember to consistently check that you have your bases covered so you have access to the latest curriculum, practice tests, and mentors to guide you.

We hope this article helped you on your journey to becoming a Certified Devops Engineer, especially if you’re just getting started. If you are an individual and a company looking to start a DevOps project, reach out to us, our team is happy to understand your organization’s skilling requirements and create a learning path to help your staff earn the target certifications you need for your company's growth.

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