Exam Ref AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals
Written by Ian Stirk   

Author: Jim Cheshire
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-0135732182 Print: 0135732182 Kindle: B07ST3HKMJ Audience: Anyone dealing with Azure
Rating: 4.5
Reviewer: Ian Stirk

This book aims to help you pass the AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam, how does it fare? 

Hosting infrastructure in the cloud provides many potential advantages, including reduced cost and improved scalability. Because of this, businesses are increasingly moving to the cloud, as is evidenced by the increase in demand for professionals with Azure skills. Looking at the IT Jobs Watch website, currently Azure is the number 6 top skill in demand, 1 year ago it was at number 10.

This book covers every major topic area found on the exam, indeed its content is structured on the syllabus for the exam.

Below is a chapter-by-chapter exploration of the topics covered. 

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Chapter 1: Understand cloud concepts

The book opens with a look at some of the benefits of using the cloud. These include: High Availability (HA), scalability, elasticity, fault tolerance, and reduced cost. The overall economic benefits of using the cloud are discussed.

Next, the chapter looks at the different types of cloud services, offering varying degrees of control and responsibility. These services are: 

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – hardware and base operating system provided

  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – middleware (e.g. database) provided  

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – end user software provided (e.g. Office 365) 

Lastly, the chapter looks at the difference between the 3 cloud models (public, private, and hybrid), essentially relating to the privacy of the infrastructure and data.

Each chapter ends with a thought experiment, a case study that covers much of what is discussed in the text, it provides a practical exercise at how the chapter’s content might be implemented. Additionally, each chapter has a very useful summary.

The chapter is well written, easy to read, with informative discussions, a good flow between the topics, with exam tips highlighted, and helpful links for further and deeper information. Several useful practical demonstrations are provided. There are some errors (e.g. Diagram 1-2 The cloud pyramid). These traits generally apply to the whole of the book.

Chapter 2: Understand core Azure services

Services are at the heart of Azure. This chapter opens with a brief look at regions and zones, and how they can help with both High Availability (HA) and Disaster Recovery (DR). The services are managed via the Azure Resource Manager (ARM), this provides a consistent approach (and deployment).

Some of the more common services are discussed, together with helpful walkthroughs. These include: compute, network, storage, and database. Services are requested through the Marketplace, and its usage is discussed.

The chapter next looks, in some detail, at several useful technologies, namely:  

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Big Data and analytics

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Serverless computing 

In each case, the technology is discussed, and various practical walkthroughs given. Whilst this is useful from a practical viewpoint (to get some experience of what Azure offers), I think this level of knowledge is not required by the exam. 

The chapter then looks at some of the management tool that are useful for scripting the creation and management of services (creating a single service is easy enough, but you would want to automate the creating of many services). Tools discussed are: Azure portal, PowerShell, and CLI. The chapter ends with a look at Advisor. This useful tool examines your system and provides advice on how to improve High Availability, Security, Performance, and Cost. 

This chapter is quite long and detailed, perhaps the technologies section overly so. 

Chapter 3: Understand security, privacy, compliance, and trust

Security and privacy are undoubtedly key factors in the decision to move to the cloud. This chapter starts with a look at various security tools, namely:  

  • Azure Firewall – by default rejects all traffic

  • DDoS Protection – monitors for Distributed Denial of Service threat

  • Network Security Groups – allows only certain IP addresses to communicate with subnets 

Some ways of combining the security technologies are examined, but it might have been useful to extend this further with some template solutions. Authentication (who you are) and authorization (what you can do) are discussed next, incorporating the use of Active Directory, and Multi-factor authentication (MFA). 

The chapter next looks at some of the security features, including: 

  • Security Center – gives advice on security improvements

  • Key Vault – holds certificates, credentials, secrets etc

  • Information Protection – ensures documents/emails are read only by certain people 

Various governance features are then examined, including: Policy (create rules about who can do what), role-based access control (assign users to roles, and permissions to roles), and locks (to prevent accidental deletion of resources). Two useful tools for monitoring and reporting are discussed (i.e. Monitor and Service Health). These allow you to set alerts for when certain conditions occur (e.g. CPU usage over 90%) and provide a look at the current health of your resources. The chapter ends with a look at another area of concern for businesses migrating to the cloud, privacy, compliance, and data protection standards. 

This chapter provides a useful overview of security, privacy, and governance from an Azure perspective – useful to know even if you do not plan to take the exam. 

Chapter 4: Understand Azure pricing and support

So, Microsoft is providing you with hardware, services, and resources – how can it be purchased and supported, and what is it going to cost? This is answered in this final chapter. The various types of subscriptions are reviewed, including the useful free-trail subscription. Various factors that can affect costs are discussed (e.g. zones). Pricing Calculator is a useful tool that allows you to select various resources (compute, storage, apps etc) and shows the cost of your proposed system. Another useful tool is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), this details the cost of running your system on the cloud versus running it in-house, over a 5-year period – impressive savings can be made. Various support options are discussed including support plans, Knowledge Center, together with non-formal support offerings such as Stack Overflow.

The chapter ends with a look at the typical lifecycle of a service, namely: private preview, public preview and general availability. 

Conclusion

This book aims to help you pass the AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam. It is well written, easy to read, with informative discussions, helpful exam tips, good flow between the topics, and useful links for further and deeper information. The chapter summaries are invaluable. The book is useful if you want an overview of what Azure offers - even if you do not want to take the exam. There are a few errors and spelling mistakes, but hopefully nothing too distracting. 

So, the big question is… is the book enough to pass the exam? 

I took the exam recently, after reading this book twice, seeing the author’s associated 4-hour video, and scanning Google for sample questions (be warned, the answers are not always correct!). I also have a few years' Azure SQL database experience. You probably need a bit more than this book to pass the exam, but it should form the core of your studies. Remember you can sign-up for a free trial Azure account too.

Overall, this is a useful book for passing the AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 July 2020 )