AWS Compute Optimizer Review: Not Quite Rightsized for Rightsizing

AWS Compute Optimizer Review: Not Quite Rightsized for Rightsizing

In December, AWS announced a new service called AWS Compute Optimizer that provides recommendations with the goal of properly sizing EC2 virtual machines. Rightsizing is one of AWS’s listed five pillars of cost optimization, and it’s good to see AWS following the trend of cloud providers making it easier for customers to optimize for cost and performance. Actually, this is not the first “rightsizing tool” they’ve promoted. Early last year they pushed what was essentially a collection of Python scripts in the AWS Solutions Portal called “AWS Right Sizing”. 

As cloud cost optimizers here at ParkMyCloud, rightsizing is high on the list of optimization strategies we focus on. The ParkMyCloud platform offers rightsizing recommendations and actions, along with two other cost optimization pillars: “Increase Elasticity” through scheduled shutdown of idle resources, and “Measure, monitor, and improve” through cost and savings reports and an RBAC-enabled user portal. Let’s take a look at what the AWS Compute Optimizer offers, and how it compares to ParkMyCloud’s rightsizing.

AWS Compute Optimizer Overview

The AWS Compute Optimizer service generates size change recommendations based on your existing EC2 servers, including those that are in Auto Scaling groups. Each EC2 virtual machine can get up to 3 recommendations for different families and sizes that you could choose, along with the performance risk and costs associated with each option. While you are browsing the options, the interface will show you what the performance would have looked like over the past 2 weeks if you were running on the selected instance size instead of the current instance size, which is nice for analyzing the options against your organization’s risk profile. However, there is no direct way to take the Rightsizing action, so you must go and adjust the instance settings manually.

AWS Compute Optimizer is free of charge and available on all AWS accounts regardless of support level. You do have to choose to opt-in to use the service before recommendations will be made. A major limiting factor is the region availability: as of February 4, 2020, AWS Compute Optimizer is available in 16 regions, and supports the M, C, R, T and X instance families. It uses only the past 2 weeks’ worth of Cloudwatch data to generate recommendations, which is a small window that may result in odd recommendations if those two weeks include any anomalies. 

If your EC2 instances line up with this subset of instance types and regions, then the AWS Compute Optimizer can provide some suggestions for cost savings. However, if your needs are a little more diverse or robust, read on.

ParkMyCloud Rightsizing Overview

ParkMyCloud has offered scheduling of idle cloud resources since 2015. Last year we announced a major advancement in the platform’s cost optimization capabilities with the release of Rightsizing. 

Similarly to the AWS Compute Optimizer, ParkMyCloud’s Rightsizing capabilities offer up to 3 recommendations for different sizes that your instances could be based on Cloudwatch data. Additionally, ParkMyCloud’s Rightsizing can:

  • ParkMyCloud is multi-cloud, multi-account, and multi-region in a single pane of glass, so you can view recommendations across all of your cloud accounts in one place (including all AWS regions, not just the ones listed above and Azure and Google Clouds)
  • ParkMyCloud can take the Rightsizing action for you once you accept a recommendation, including scheduling that resize action for a future time (such as during a maintenance window).
  • ParkMyCloud’s recommendations are based on data from a period of up to 24 weeks, providing a much more robust recommendation compared to the 2-week data set imposed by Cloudwatch. 
  • ParkMyCloud makes recommendations for and resizes RDS databases, including Aurora instances. RDS databases have an average cost of 75% higher than EC2 instances, which means this is a significant opportunity for cost savings.
  • All AWS instance sizes are supported, not just M/C/R/T/X
  • Users can reject a recommendation and give an explanation, so administrators know why actions weren’t taken.
  • Savings from Rightsizing (and parking) are tracked and reported in ParkMyCloud, so you can show management or the CFO just how much money you’re saving the company.

To summarize:

Optimize Your Rightsizing 

The AWS Compute Optimizer is a great feature that AWS is offering for free to its cloud users, but the limitations and inability to take direct action from the recommendations makes it less useful for serious cost optimization. ParkMyCloud’s features make it the right choice for saving money on your cloud bill while optimizing performance, and the free trial makes it easy to get started today. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Cloud Economics: How to Overcome Human Biases to Save Money

Cloud Economics: How to Overcome Human Biases to Save Money

It’s important for cloud customers to understand cloud economics. Cloud costs are dynamic – and hopefully, optimized. However, that’s not always the case. Since optimizing cloud infrastructure is a “technological problem”, there are a number of human biases at play that are not always accounted for. 

What is Cloud Economics? 

Some articles you’ll find jump directly to the idea that “cloud economics” is a synonym for “saving money”. And while the economies of scale and infrastructure on demand mean that public cloud can save you money over traditional infrastructure, the two terms are not interchangeable.

Shmuel Kliger (founder of our parent company, Turbonomic) explains in this video that cloud economics “is the ability to deliver IT in a scalable way with speed, agility, new consumption models, and most importantly, with a high level of elasticity.”

 

He further explains this idea in another video –  that it’s microservices architecture taking the place of monolithic applications that allows this elasticity and rewrites the way cloud economics works.

Rational vs. Behavioral Economics in the Cloud

The concepts described above are exciting – but before assuming these benefits of speed, agility, etc. will be gained naturally upon adopting any type of cloud technology, we need to remember the human context. Taken from the perspective of rational economics, cloud users should always choose the most optimized cloud infrastructure options. If you’ve ever seen a whiteboard diagram of the cloud infrastructure your company uses, or taken a peek at your organization’s cloud bill, you’ll know this is not the case. 

To understand why, it’s beneficial to take a behavioral economics perspective. Through this lens, we can see that individuals and businesses are often not behaving in their own best interests, for a variety of reasons that will vary by the individual and the organization… and perhaps by the day. 

Economics of Cloud Costs

Cost is particularly dependent on where you sit within an organization and the particular lens you look through. For example, the CFO might have a very different view from the engineering team. Here’s a great talk and Twitter thread on the cultural issues at play from cloud economist Corey Quinn.

Examples of cognitive biases impacting cloud cost decision making include:

    • Blind spots – there are always going to be higher priorities than costs – including but not limited to speed of development and performance. Additionally, many engineering and development teams don’t believe it’s their job to care about costs. Or at least, engineering departments are seen less as cost centers and more as profit centers by generating value. Cost optimization is tacked on at the end of a project and doesn’t receive much attention until it spirals out of control. 
    • Choice Overload – the major cloud providers now offer an enormous number of services – AWS had 190 at our last count – more than any one person can easily evaluate to determine if they’re using the best option. Similarly, most users have a poor understanding of the total cost of ownership of their cloud environment and don’t actually know what cloud infrastructure exists. 
    • The IKEA Effect – people place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. Developers may hang on to unoptimized infrastructure, because they created it, and it would hurt to let it go, even if it’s unnecessary to keep. 

(There are plenty more, but perhaps we’re falling prey to the bias bias and some of these decisions are perfectly rational.)

The point is that despite the automated buzz of AI and robotic process automation, the cloud doesn’t inherently manage itself to optimize costs. You need to do that. 

Cloud providers’ management environments are confusing, and do not always encourage users to make good decisions. Luckily, the wind has started to blow the other way on this front, as cloud providers realize that providing cost optimization options provides a better user experience and keeps them more customers in the long run. We’ve started to see more options like Google’s Sustained Use discounts and AWS’s new Savings Plans that make it easier to reduce costs without impacting operations. However, it’s up to the customer to find, master, and implement these solutions – and to know when cloud native tools don’t do enough. 

How to Set Yourself Up for Success & Start Saving 

The good news is that being aware of natural tendencies that impact cost optimization is the first step to reducing costs. 

Determine Your Priorities 

First, determine what your goals are. What does “cost saving” mean to you? Does it mean reducing the overall bill by 20%? Does it mean being able to allocate every instance in your AWS account to a team or project so you can budget appropriately? Does it mean eliminating unused infrastructure?

Understand Your Bill

No matter what your goal, you need to understand your cloud bill before you can take action to reduce costs. The best way to do this is with a thorough tagging strategy. All resources need to be tagged. Ideally, you will create a set of tags that is applied to every resource, such as team, environment, application, and expiration date. To enforce this, some organizations have policies to terminate non-compliant instances, effectively forcing users to add these essential tags.  

Then, you can start to slice and dice by tag to understand what your resources are being used for, and where your money is going. 

Review Cost Saving Options 

Once you have a better picture of the resources in your cloud environment, you can start to review opportunities to use pricing options such as Reserved Instances or Savings Plans; places to eliminate unneeded resources such as orphaned volumes and snapshots; schedule non-production resources to turn off outside of working hours; upgrade and resize instances; etc.

Designate a Cost-Responsible Party

While engineering teams can do these reviews as part of their normal processes, many organizations choose to create a “cloud center of excellence” or a similar department, solely focused on cloud expertise and cost management. Sysco shared a great example of how this worked for them, with gamification and a healthy dose of bagels as motivating factors for users throughout the organization to get on board with the team’s mission.

Automate Where You Can

On the flip side, there’s only so far food bribery can go. Since, as we’ve outlined in our cloud economics model, changing user behavior and habits is difficult, the best way to ensure change is by sidestepping the human element altogether. Those on/off schedules for dev and test environments? Automate them. Governance? Automate it. Resizing? Automate.

AWS vs Alibaba Cloud Pricing: A Comparison of Compute Options

AWS vs Alibaba Cloud Pricing: A Comparison of Compute Options

As cloud users continue to use Alibaba Cloud, extending its global presence, we’ll review a comparison of AWS vs Alibaba Cloud pricing. Commonly recognized as the #4 cloud provider (from a revenue perspective anyway), Alibaba is one of the fastest-growing companies in the space today. 

Alibaba has been getting a lot of attention lately, given its rapid growth, and making headlines after the release of their latest quarterly revenue and full fiscal year 2019 reports. Alibaba is at the top of the market in Asia, and dominating in China with cloud revenue up 66% year-over-year. While Alibaba is in the top 5 CSPs worldwide, they still have a lot of plans for the future to maintain this growth and continue to move up. 

The company said it is focused on high-value security, analytics, and artificial intelligence tools and “rationalizing our offerings of commodity products and services.” With an annual revenue run rate of $4.5 billion, it is clear that Alibaba Cloud intends to compete globally with AWS and other major cloud providers. 

However, on a global scale, AWS continues to dominate the market. In the latest quarter, Amazon reported Amazon Web Services (AWS) sales of $7.7 billion, compared to $5.44 billion at this time last year. AWS revenue grew 41% in the first quarter – at this time last year, that number was 49%.

ParkMyCloud supports Alibaba Cloud and AWS, and with that, let us focus on pricing and cost savings – our forte. In this blog, we dive a bit into the pricing of Alibaba Elastic Compute Service (ECS), compare it with that of the AWS EC2 service and whether Alibaba Cloud computing can offer better value than AWS.

Alibaba ECS vs AWS EC2

Elastic Compute Service (ECS) and Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2), respectively, are the standard compute services offered by Alibaba Cloud and AWS.

Both cloud computing services provide the same core features:

  • The ability to choose from dozens of instance types.
  • Support for virtual as well as bare-metal servers.
  • Compatibility with a variety of Windows and Linux-based operating systems.
  • The ability to create custom images.

The major differences between Alibaba Cloud ECS and AWS EC2 are that Alibaba Cloud provides a wider range of instance families and that AWS offers more regions globally.

Alibaba vs Aliyun

Finding actual pricing for comparison purposes can be a bit complicated, as the prices are listed in a couple of different places and do not quite exactly match up since pricing varies between different instance types, and no instances from the two companies are identical. If one searches for Alibaba pricing, one ends up here, which I am going to call the “Alibaba Cloud” site. However, when you actually get an account and want to purchase an instance, you can up here or here, both of which I will call the “Aliyun” site. [Note that you may not be able to see the Aliyun sites without signing up for an account and actually logging-in.]  

Aliyun (literally translated “Ali Cloud”) was the original name of the company, and the name was changed to Alibaba Cloud in July 2017. Unsurprisingly, the Aliyun name has stuck around on the actual operational guts of the company, reflecting that it is probably hard-coded all over the place, both internally and externally with customers. (Supernor’s 3rd Conjecture: Engineering can never keep up with Marketing.)

Both sites show that like the other major cloud providers, Alibaba’s pricing model includes a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) offering, with per-second billing. Note, however, that in order to save money on stopped instances, one must specifically enable a “No fees for stopped instances” feature. Luckily, this is a global one-time setting for instances operating under all Pay-As-You-Go VPC instances, and you can set it and forget it. Unlike AWS, this feature is not available for any instances with local disks (this and other aspects of the description lead me to believe that Alibaba instances tend to be “sticky” to the underlying hardware instance). On AWS, local disks are described as ephemeral and are simply deallocated when they are not in use. Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud system/data disks continue to accrue costs even when an instance is stopped.

Both sites also show that Alibaba also has a one-month prepaid Subscription model. Based on a review of the pricing listed for the us-east-1 region on the Alibaba Cloud site, the monthly subscription discount reflects a substantial 30-60% discount compared to the cost of a PAYG instance that is left up for a full month. For a non-production environment that may only need to be up during normal business hours (say, 9 hours per day, weekdays only), one can easily see that it may be more cost-effective to go with the PAYG pricing, and use the ParkMyCloud service to shut the instances down during off-hours, saving 73%.

But this is where the similarities between the sites end. For actual pricing, instance availability, and even the actual instance types, one really needs to dive into a live Alibaba account. In particular, if PAYG is your preference, note that the Alibaba public site appears to have PAYG pricing listed for all of their available instance types, which is not consistent with what I found in the actual purchasing console.

Low-End Instance Types – “Entry Level” and “Basic”

The Alibaba Cloud site breaks down the instance types into “Entry Level” and “Enterprise”, listing numerous instance types under both categories. All of the Entry Level instance types are described as “Shared Performance”, which appears to mean the underlying hardware resources are shared amongst multiple instances in a potentially unpredictable way, or as described by Alibaba: “Their computing performance may be unstable, but the cost is relatively low” – an entertaining description to say the least. I did find these instance types on the internal purchasing site, but did not delve any further with them, as they do not offer a point of reference for our AWS vs. Alibaba Cloud pricing comparison. They may be an interesting path for additional investigation for non-production instance types where unstable computing performance may be OK in exchange for a lower price.

That said…after logging in to the Alibaba management console, reaching the Aliyun side of the website, there is no mention of Entry Level vs Enterprise. Instead, we see the top-level options of “Basic Purchase” vs “Advanced Purchase”. Under Basic Purchase, there are four “t5” instance types. The t5 types appear to directly correspond to the first four AWS t2 instance types, in terms of building up CPU credits.

These four instance types do not appear to support the PAYG pricing model. Pricing is only offered on a monthly subscription basis. A 1-year purchase plan is also offered, but the math shows this is just the monthly price x12. It is important to note that the Aliyun site itself has issues, as it lists the t5 instance types in all of the Alibaba regions, but I was unable to purchase any of them in the us-east-1 region – “The configuration for the instance you are creating is currently not supported in this zone.”  (A purchase in us-west-1, slightly more expensive, was fine).

The following shows a price comparison for Alibaba vs AWS for “t” instance prices in a number of regions. The AWS prices reflect the hourly PAYG pricing, multiplied by an average 730 hour month. I was not able to get pricing for any AWS China region, so the Alibaba pricing is provided for reference.

While the AWS prices are higher, the AWS instances are PAYG, and thus could be stopped when not being used, common for t2 instances used in a dev-test environment, and potentially saving over 73%. One can easily see that this kind of savings is needed to compete with the comparatively low Alibaba prices. I do have to wonder what is up with that Windows pricing in China….does Microsoft know about this??

Aliyun “Advanced Purchase”

Looking at the “Advanced” side of the Aliyun purchasing site, we get a lot more options, including Pay-As-You-Go instances. To keep the comparison simple, I am going to limit the scope here to a couple of instance types, trying to compare a couple m5 and i3 instances with their Alibaba equivalents. I will list PAYG pricing where offered.

In this table, the listed monthly AWS prices reflect the hourly pay-as-you-go price, multiplied by an average 730 hour month.

The italicized/grey numbers under Alibaba indicate PAYG numbers that had to be pulled from the public-facing website, as the instance type was not available for PAYG purchase on the internal site. From a review of the various options on the internal Aliyun site, it appears the PAYG option is not actually offered for very many standalone instance types on Alibaba…

The main reason I pulled in the PAYG prices from the second source was for auto scaling, which is normally charged at PAYG prices. In Alibaba, “all ECS instances that Auto Scaling automatically creates, or manually adds to a scaling group will be charged according to their instance types. Note that you will still be charged for Pay-As-You-Go instances even after you stop them.”  It is possible, however, to manually add subscription-based instances to an auto scaling group, and configure them to be not removed when the group scales-down.

In general, the full price of the AWS Linux instances over a month is 22-35% higher than of an Alibaba 1-month subscription. A full price AWS Windows instance over a month is 9-25%  higher than that of an Alibaba subscription. (And once again, it appears Windows licensing fees are not a factor in China.)

When it comes to Alibaba Cloud pricing vs AWS, Alibaba Cloud is trying to attract business and expand their global footprint by offering special promotions typically consisting of free trials, specially priced starter packages, and time-limited discounts on premium services. In many cases, taking advantage of these promotions could be useful in order to save money, but so is AWS.

AWS Introduces Savings Plans for EC2

Amazon also has their fair share of money-saving offerings as well. AWS announced the release of AWS Savings Plans – a new system for getting a discount on committed usage for EC2.

There are two kinds of Savings Plan: 

  • Compute Savings Plan – Apply to EC2 usage regardless of instance family, size, AZ, region, OS, or tenancy.  For any given instance configuration, pricing is similar (if not identical) to an equivalent Convertible RI, giving up to a 66% discount.
  • EC2 Instance Savings Plan – Specific to EC2 instances within a family in a specific region, but regardless of size, OS, or tenancy.  For any given instance configuration, pricing is similar to an equivalent Standard RI, giving up to a 72% discount in exchange for the reduced flexibility.

AWS Reserved Instance new queuing option

You can now purchase reserved instances that, rather than going into effect immediately, are scheduled for future purchase.

Now, when planned correctly, you can avoid lapsing on Reserved Instance coverage for your workloads by scheduling a new reservation purchase to go into effect as soon as the previous one expires. The furthest in advance you can schedule a purchase is three years, which is also the longest RI term available. 

However, AWS RI purchases have few limitations, they can be queued for regional Reserved Instances, but not zonal Reserved Instances. Regional RIs are the broader option as they cover any availability zone in a region, while zonal RIs are for a specific availability zone and actually reserve capacity as well.

AWS vs Alibaba Cloud Pricing: Alibaba is cheaper, but…

Alibaba definitely comes out as less expensive in this AWS vs Alibaba cloud pricing comparison – the one-month subscription has a definite impact. However, for longer-lived instances, AWS Reserved Instances will certainly be less expensive, running about 40-75% less expensive than AWS PAYG, and thus less than some if not all of the Alibaba monthly subscriptions. AWS RI’s are also more easily applicable to auto scaling groups than a monthly subscription instance.

For non-production instances that can be shut down when not in use, PAYG is less expensive for both cloud providers, where ParkMyCloud can help you schedule the downtime. The difficulty with Alibaba will actually be finding instances types that can actually be purchased with the PAYG option.

Tips for Better Cloud Expense Management

Tips for Better Cloud Expense Management

The term “cloud expense management” has been co-opted by many parties, from those selling employee expense management software hosted in the cloud, to telecom expense management software (TEM), to IT expense management software, to cloud cost management software which focuses on SaaS, IaaS, and/or PaaS services. For the purpose of today’s blog we will slant towards cloud management software and specifically key in on infrastructure, IaaS and PaaS offered as public cloud services.

One of the greatest benefits of cloud computing is supposed to be cost efficiency, but there is a flip side to the agility gained by using public cloud computing. Costs can easily get out of control if your cloud services are not effectively provisioned or properly governed and managed. Most organizations have not yet fully migrated all their applications to the cloud. Because of this hybrid cloud structure, public cloud services can become an added cost to their overall budget, making understanding, planning and managing these cloud services extremely important. That is where cloud expense management software comes into play, it really needs to be part of your overall cloud management strategy from day one.

Cloud Computing Services

Before we discuss further how to manage cloud expenses, let’s take a look at the different cloud service types in more detail to get a picture of the expenses there are to manage. Remember there are literally hundreds of IaaS and PaaS services offered in the public cloud — as of this blog writing AWS alone has 190+ cloud services.

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a category that offers traditional IT services like compute, database, storage, network, load balancers, firewalls, etc. on demand and off premise – vendors like AWS, Azure and Google dominate this market.

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app – AWS, Azure and Google offer PaaS along with IBM, Oracle, and RedHat to name a few.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software” – vendors who dominate this space include Salesforce, ServiceNow, Microsoft and SAP (and ParkMyCloud) to name a few.

Enterprise expenses in these categories are skyrocketing as outlined in our cloud waste blog, along with the difficulties of administering an effective cloud expense management for a single cloud, let alone a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment in order to protect a company’s bottom line. Companies now require visibility and insights into their cloud-based services, and automated controls and actions to remediate and manage those cloud service expenses.

Where does Cloud Expense Management fit?

As mentioned, cloud expense management should be a key element in your overall cloud management strategy. Enterprises need a clear strategy here and generally tools fit into the following categories — please note functionality can be both natively provided by the cloud service provider or via a third-party:

  • Provisioning and orchestration: create, modify, and delete resources as well as orchestrate workflows and management of workloads
  • Automation: Enable cloud consumption and deployment of app services via infrastructure-as-code and other DevOps concepts
  • Security and compliance: manage role-based access of cloud services and enforce security configurations
  • Service request: collect and fulfill requests from users to access and deploy cloud resources
  • Monitoring and logging: collect performance and availability metrics as well as automate incident management and log aggregation
  • Inventory and classification: discover and maintain pre-existing brownfield cloud resources plus monitor and manage changes
  • Cost management and optimization: track and rightsize cloud spend and align capacity and performance to actual demand
  • Migration, backup, and DR: enable data protection, disaster recovery, and data mobility via snapshots and/or data replication

We believe cloud expense management is a subcategory of Cloud Cost Management and Optimization. Tools in this category generally help enterprises with:

  • Cost visibility, reporting, budgeting and chargeback
  • Buy and manage Reserved Instances (RI’s) and Savings Plans
  • Leverage usage data in real-time to make recommendations and take actions on idle, under or overprovisioned, or orphaned cloud resources
  • Create an action plan to optimize future cloud costs and avoid budget surprises

Why is Cloud Expense Management Important?

Simply put, the cloud is a utility and it needs to be managed as such – cloud costs need to be reported and allocated, cloud services need to be optimized, and in order to reap the benefits of cloud these cost control actions needed to be automated.  Whether cloud expense management is your full-time, or “when-you-have-time” responsibility, it is important to build it into your cloud management strategy from day one. It will take time but what you get in return is increased optimization and validation of your cloud services and costs, ensuring you maximize your ROI. 

Cloud Certification Guide: How to Master & Showcase Your Expertise in AWS, Azure, & Google Cloud

Cloud Certification Guide: How to Master & Showcase Your Expertise in AWS, Azure, & Google Cloud

Each of the ‘big three’ cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) offer a number of cloud certification options that individuals can get to validate their cloud knowledge and skill set, while helping them advance in their careers and broaden the scope of their achievements. 

Between the different PaaS specific, role-based (such as dev. or architect) or domain focused certifications, CSPs have numerous options available to help you bring more value to your organization as you keep up with the new business demands and continue to challenge yourself and grow with this world. With these certifications, you are more likely to achieve business goals thanks to your proficiency in specific areas – and benefit from an extra edge on your resume in your next job search. 

Here’s an overview of the certifications offered by AWS, Azure, and GCP and what capabilities an individual validates by completing these certifications. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certifications

AWS offers certifications for different learning levels. The four different categories/levels of certifications include:

  • Foundational: individuals should have at least six months of basic/foundational industry and AWS knowledge.
  • Associate: expected to have one year of experience solving problems and implementing solutions with AWS.
  • Professional: aimed for individuals that have two years of comprehensive experience operating, designing and solving solutions using AWS.
  • Specialty: each of the certifications in this category are based on a technical AWS experience in the specialty domain. Requirements for these certifications can range from a minimum of 6 months to 5 years of required hands-on experience. 

AWS certifications offered include

  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 
    • Individuals are expected to effectively demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of AWS fundamentals and best practices. 
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 
    • Individuals in an associate solutions architect role have 1+ years of experience designing available, fault-tolerant, scalable, and most importantly cost-efficient, distributed systems on AWS.
    • Can demonstrate how to build and deploy applications on AWS.
  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
    • This certification is meant for systems administrators that hold a systems operations role and have at least one year of hands-on experience in management, operations and deployments on AWS.
    • They must be able to migrate on-premises workloads to AWS
    • They can estimate usage costs and identify operational cost control methods. 
    • Must prove knowledge of deploying, operating and managing highly available, scalable and fault-tolerant systems on AWS.
  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate
    • This is for individuals who hold a development role and have at least one or more years of experience developing and maintaining AWS-based applications.
    • Display a basic understanding of core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices.
    • Demonstrate that they are capable of developing, deploying, and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional 
    • Individuals in a professional solutions architect role have two or more years of experience operating and managing systems on AWS.
    • They must be able to design and deploy scalable, highly available, and fault-tolerant applications on AWS.
    • Must demonstrate knowledge of migrating complex, multi-tier applications on AWS
    • They are responsible for implementing cost-control strategies.
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
    • Intended for individuals who have a DevOps engineer role and two or more years of experience operating, provisioning and managing AWS environments.
    • They are able to implement and manage continuous delivery systems and methodologies on AWS.
    • Additionally, they must be able to implement and automate security controls, governance processes, and compliance validation.
    • Can deploy and define metrics, monitoring and logging systems on AWS. 
    • Are responsible for designing, managing, and maintaining tools that automate operational processes.
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Speciality 
    • Intended for individuals who perform intricate networking tasks.
    • Design, develop, and deploy cloud-based solutions using AWS
    • Design and maintain network architecture for all AWS services
    • Leverage tools to automate AWS networking tasks
  • AWS Certified Big Data – Speciality
    • For individuals who perform complex Big Data analyses and have at least two years of experience using AWS.
    • Implement core AWS Big Data services according to basic architecture best practices
    • Design and maintain Big Data
    • Leverage tools to automate data analysis
  • AWS Certified Security – Speciality
    • Individuals who have a security role and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.
    • Exhibit an understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms as well as data encryption methods and secure Internet protocols and AWS mechanisms to implement them 
    • Knowledge of AWS security services and features to provide a secure production environment
    • An understanding of security operations and risk
  • AWS Certified Machine Learning – Speciality
    • Intended for individuals in a development or data science role.
    • Ability to design, implement, deploy and maintain machine learning solutions for specific business problems. 
  • AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Speciality
    • Intended for individuals who have a role as an Alexa skill builder. 
    • Individuals have demonstrated an ability to design, build, test, publish and manage Amazon Alexa skills.

Microsoft Azure Certifications

Following the Azure learning path under Microsoft, there are certifications available that allow you to demonstrate your expertise in Microsoft cloud-related technologies and advance your career by earning one of the new Azure role-based certifications or an Azure-related certification in platform, development, or data.

Azure certifications include:

  • Azure Solutions Architect Expert
    • Intended for individuals that have an expertise in network, compute, security and storage so that they can design solutions that run on Azure
  • Azure Fundamentals
    • Individuals will prove their understanding of cloud concepts, Azure pricing and support, core Azure services, as well as the fundamentals of cloud privacy, security, trust and compliance. 
  • Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
    • Individuals will demonstrate an ability to combine people, process, and technologies to continuously deliver valuable products and services that meet business objectives in addition to end user needs. 
  • Azure Developer Associate
    • For individuals that can design, build, test and maintain cloud solutions – such as applications and services – and partner with cloud solutions architects, cloud administrators, cloud DBAs, and clients in order to implement these solutions. 
  • Azure Data Scientist Associate
    • Intended for individuals that apply Azure’s machine learning techniques to train, evaluate, and deploy models that will ultimately help solve business problems. 
  • Azure Data Engineer Associate
    • For individuals that design and implement the management, security, monitoring, and privacy of data – using the full stack of Azure data services – to satisfy business needs. 
  • Azure AI Engineer Associate
    • Intended for individuals that use Machine Learning, Knowledge Mining, and Cognitive Services to architect and implement Microsoft AI solutions – this involves natural language processing, computer vision, speech, agents and bots. 
  • Azure Administrator Associate
    • Individuals must demonstrate their ability to implement, monitor and maintain Azure solutions – this includes major services related to storage, compute, security and network. 
  • Azure Security Engineer Associate 
    • Individuals are expected to be able to implement security controls and threat protection, manage identity and access. Additionally, they must be able to protect data, applications, and networks in the cloud as well as hybrid environments as part of end-to-end infrastructure. 
  • Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty 
    • In this specialty, architects have extensive experience and knowledge of the SAP Landscape Certification process and industry standards that are specific and critical to the long-term operation of an SAP solution. 
  • Azure IoT Developer Specialty
    • In this specialty, individuals must prove that they understand how to implement the Azure services that form an IoT solution – this includes data analysis, data processing, data storage options, and PaaS options. 
    • Must be able to recognize Azure IoT service configuration settings within the code portion of an IoT solution.

GCP Certifications

Google offers three different levels of available certifications:

  • Associate certification – focused on the fundamental skills of deploying, monitoring, and maintaining projects on Google Cloud.
    • This certification is a good starting point for those new to cloud and can be used as a path to professional level certifications.
    • Recommended experience: 6+ months building on Google Cloud
  • Professional certification – span key technical job functions and assess advanced skills in design, implementation, and management.
    • These certifications are recommended for individuals with industry experience and familiarity with Google Cloud products and solutions.
    • Recommended experience: 3+ years of industry experience, including 1+ years on Google Cloud
  • User certification – intended for individuals with experience using G Suite and determines an individual’s ability to use core collaboration tools.
    • Recommended experience: Completion of Applied Digital Skills training course and G Suite Essentials quest, and 1+ months on G Suite.

Available certifications include:

  • Associate Cloud Engineer
    • Intended for individuals that can deploy applications, monitor operations, and manage enterprise solutions. 
    • Individuals display an ability to use the Google Cloud Console and the command-line interface to perform common platform-based tasks to maintain one or more deployed solutions that leverage Google-managed or self-managed services on Google Cloud.
    • Individuals display an ability to set up a cloud solution environment, plan and configure a cloud solution, deploy and implement a cloud solution, ensure successful operation of a cloud solution, and configure access and security.
  • Professional Cloud Architect 
    • For individuals that enable organizations to leverage Google Cloud technologies. 
    • These individuals can design, develop, and manage secure, scalable, and highly available solutions that drive business objectives.
    • Individuals display an ability to design and plan a cloud solution architecture, manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure, design for security and compliance, analyze and optimize technical and business processes, manage implementations of cloud architecture, and ensure solution and operations reliability. 
  • Professional Cloud Developer
    • These individuals build scalable and highly available applications using Google recommended practices and tools that leverage fully managed services. 
    • Have experience with next generation databases, runtime environments, and developer tools. 
    • Have proficiency with at least one general purpose programming language and are skilled in using Stackdriver.
    • Individuals display an ability to design highly scalable, available, and reliable cloud-native applications, build and test applications, deploy applications, integrate Google Cloud Platform services, and manage application performance monitoring.
  • Professional Data Engineer
    • Intended for individuals that enable data-driven decision making by collecting, transforming, and publishing data. 
    • Individuals should be able to design, build, operate, manage, and monitor secure data processing systems.
    • Individuals display an ability to design data processing systems, build and operationalize data processing systems, operationalize machine learning models, and ensure solution quality.
  • Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer
    • Individuals are responsible for efficient development operations that can balance service reliability and delivery speed. 
    • Individuals are expected to be skilled in using Google Cloud Platform to build software delivery pipelines, deploy and monitor services, and manage and learn from incidents.
    • Individuals display an ability to apply site reliability engineering principles to a service, optimize service performance, implement service monitoring strategies, build and implement CI/CD pipelines for a service, and manage service incidents.
  • Professional Cloud Security Engineer
    •  Intended for individuals that enable organizations to design and implement a secure infrastructure on Google Cloud Platform. 
    • They are expected to have a thorough understanding of security best practices and industry security requirements.
    • These individuals design, develop, and manage a secure infrastructure leveraging Google security technologies and should be proficient in all aspects of Cloud Security.
    • Individuals display an ability to configure access within a cloud solution environment, configure network security, ensure data protection, manage operations within a cloud solution environment and ensure compliance.
  • Professional Cloud Network Engineer
    • Intended for individuals who implement and manage network architectures in Google Cloud Platform. 
    • These individuals ensure successful cloud implementations using the command line interface or the Google Cloud Platform Console.
    • Individuals display an ability to design, plan, and prototype a GCP Network, implement a GCP Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), configure network services and implement hybrid interconnectivity.
  • Professional Collaboration Engineer
    • Intended for individuals that transform business objectives into tangible configurations, policies, and security practices as they relate to users, content, and integrations. 
    • Individuals use tools, programming languages, and APIs to automate workflows. 
    • Individuals display an ability to plan and implement G Suite authorization and access, manage user, resource, and Team Drive lifecycles, manage mail, control and configure G Suite services, configure and manage endpoint access, monitor organizational operations and advance G Suite adoption and collaboration.
  • G Suite User – User Certification
    • This certification lets employers know that you possess the digital skills to work collaboratively and productively in a professional environment, complete common workplace activities using cloud-based tools to create and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and files. 

Where to Start

If you aren’t sure where to start, each cloud provider offers a certification that only requires a basic understanding of the platform and are a great way to help you get the ball rolling in your cloud certification journey. The three certifications for beginners are: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals, and Google Associate Cloud Engineer. Good luck!

Further reading:

5 Favorite AWS Training Resources

5 Free Azure Training Resources

5 Free Google Cloud Training Resources