Understanding the AWS Well Architected Framework and the AWS Training Paths to Become Certified

The cloud architected framework helps developers to create stable, secure, and efficient pieces of software (applications) for cloud environments. The framework has five main pillars, which are operational excellence, security, reliability, performance, and efficiency. For every pillar, AWS has defined AWS architecture principles that each and every developer should consider during his or her work. In order to tailor the relevant content for the right people, AWS has developed a rather complex trainings and certifications structure, which includes four major roles, several additional training paths, and a couple of certification levels. In the following, I provide a comprehensive overview of the trainings, certifications, and roles in order to help you understand what could be the next step for you.  


1. AWS Cloud Practitioner

This certification is the easiest of all AWS cloud certifications and focuses on fundamental knowledge that for instance managers, sales employees, or finance people need. The content includes

  • the basics about the global AWS cloud infrastructure,

  • the cloud architecture principles,

  • the understanding of the added value generated,

  • the major platform services, such as analytics,

  • the basics of the security and compliance aspects,

  • the models for accountings and pricing,

  • and knowledge about the sources where to learn more about the topic

If you do not have  deeper technical skills or you just want to gain basic knowledge about the AWS cloud, this certification is just right for you. On top, the training course itself just takes six hours and is for free. After completing the training, you can take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, which is an exam of 1.5 hours for a fee of 100 USD.


2. AWS Solutions Architect

This certification focuses on how to develop applications and solutions from a technical point of view. Course content includes

  • applying the AWS architecture principles and additional methods to take architectural decisions,

  • the usage of AWS services to create a scalable and reliable infrastructure,

  • the usage of AWS Managed Services to increase flexibility and resistance of the infrastructure,

  • the increase of the infrastructure efficiency in terms of performance vs. costs,

  • and the usage of the well-architected framework to optimize the architecture with the help of AWS solutions

In order to be eligible to start with this path, you either need to be a certified AWS Cloud Practitioner or you need to participate in a one-day workshop “AWS Technical Essentials”, in which you learn about the basics and requirements to take business decisions for IT solutions. The core of this certification is a three-days onsite course called “Architecting on AWS”. After completion, an additional four-hours exam preparation course can be taken in which the exam structure, mock-up exams, and practical tips are discussed. The exam that you are then allowed to take is the “AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate”. It is important to note that the level “Associate” stands for the lower level out of two, where the higher level is called “Professional” and requires to take further courses.

The course is called “Advanced Architecting on AWS” and is another three-days onsite training that focuses on the following further topics:

  • Administration of multiple AWS accounts,

  • connecting a data center with AWS cloud,

  • financial aspects of different regions,

  • the creation of datastores,

  • the knowledge about different architectures to provide scalability options large websites,

  • the protection of infrastructure from DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks,

  • the encryption of data on AWS,

  • the security concepts for Data-at-Rest and Data-in-Transit,

  • the optimization of the solutions’ performance,

  • and the choice of the right AWS provision mechanism.

Also after this training, there is a one-day exam preparation course available before you take the exam “AWS Certified SOlution Architect - Professional”, which has a length of 170 minutes.


3. AWS Developer

The developer role focuses on the software development for AWS cloud itself. Similar to the AWS Solutions Architect, the certification path starts with a three-days training called “Developing on AWS” and is followed by a four-hours exam preparation. The content of the training includes

  • the AWS SDK and the setup of the login for Java, C#/.Net, Python, and JavaScript developers,

  • the interaction with AWS services and the development of solutions with AWS SDK,

  • the usage of AWS Identity and Access Management for the service-authentication,

  • the usage of Amazon Simple Storage Service and Amazon DynamoDB for data storage,

  • the integration of applications and data via AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Simple Queue Service, Amazon Simple Notification Service, and AWS Step Functions,

  • the user authentication management,

  • the improvement of the application scalability through Amazon ElastiCache,

  • the usage of containers during development,

  • and the usage of a CI/CD-Pipeline to provide applications on AWS.

The Associate level of the “AWS Certified Developer” is reached after an 80-minutes exam. If you want to proceed on that path, you can take your way towards the “AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional”. As this part of the path is exactly the same for the AWS Developer and for the AWS Operations, I will explain it further below for the AWS Operations path.


4. AWS Operator

The last of the four major paths leads to the “AWS Certified SysOps Administrator”, which focuses on the system administration, DevOps roles, and the automated and repeatable provision of applications, networks, and systems on the AWS platform. As with the other roles, the training has a duration of three days and is followed by a four-hours exam preparation. The content for this course includes

  • the AWS standard functionalities for infrastructure, such as the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), and AWS Auto Scaling,

  • technologies for automation to produce stacks with AWS resources (e.g. AWS CloudFormation),

  • the development of virtual private networks with Amazon VPC,

  • the usage of EC-2 instances and the trouble shooting of frequent errors,

  • the monitoring of EC-2 instances and AWS services,

  • the administration of identities, roles and rights, and security,

  • the management of resources of an AWS account via tools, tags, Amazon CloudWatch, and AWS Trusted Advisor,

  • and the identification of the best strategy to develop reusable Amazon EC2 instances,

After a successful completion of the 80-minutes exam, the title “AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate” can be used.

For both, the AWS Developer, and the AWS Operator, the professional level is the “AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional” and you need to have one of the two certifications in order to proceed with the further path. As with the other professional certifications, the training course has a length of three days and is followed by a one-day exam preparation. The content of the course is the following:

  • Concepts and usage of DevOps methods,

  • support of one or more DevOps development projects by creating an infrastructure on AWS,

  • creation of development, test, or production environments via AWS CloudFormation and AWS OpsWorks,

  • usage of AWS CodeCommit and AWS CodeBuild to identify options for the development of a Continuous Integration environment,

  • usage of of AWS CodePipeline for the development and implementation of a Continuous Integration and Delivery pipeline,

  • usage of AWS CodeStar to manage all development activities centrally,

  • implementation of Continuous Deployment use cases via AWS technologies such as Blue-Green Deployment and A/B Tests,

  • understanding of the different AWS technologies and when to use them,

  • usage of Amazon EC2 Systems Manager for patch management,

  • usage of automated testing along the CI/CD pipeline,

  • AWS applications governance in terms of performance and potential problems

The exam for this course has a duration of 170 minutes and successful exam takers become “AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional”.


Apart from those four training paths, AWS offers additional special training paths, such as for networks, big data, security, trainings for partners etc. If you want to take a deeper look at those, go to aws.amazon.com. If you want to get started by understanding the AWS well architected framework in more detail, click here.