You may have noticed that the Azure certifications have been revamped over the past year, or so. They are now role-based and come in four main tracks (although others exist):
- Azure Administrator Associate: AZ-103
- Azure Developer Associate: AZ-203
- Azure Solutions Architect Expert: AZ-300 and AZ-301
- Azure DevOps Engineer Expert: AZ-400
There are tons of resources out there for acquainting yourself with the technologies related to these exams. There is some significant overlap between the related associate and expert roles. Also note, in the past the certifications were geared to build on each other, such as the MCSA would lead towards an MCSE; while the topics build on each other, the certifications do not.
Best Starting Point
After figuring out which track you want to pursue, or maybe before, there is one starting point that I would recommend for anyone wanting to become familiar with Azure: Inside Azure Datacenter Architecture with Mark Russinovich.
This is a repeated session that dives deep into the Azure datacenter that Mark Russinovich, the CTO for Azure, gives at each of the major Microsoft conferences each year (Build, Ignite, etc.).
This helps to understand what everything is built on top of, including: datacenter regions, how they are interconnect, how locations are chosen, how resiliency is established, how the racks are laid out, and how the servers are built. When you expand your studies into specific topics, you will now have the context to understand what the different features mean. For instance, when you study Azure Storage, you will have a profound understanding of the differences between LRS, ZRS, GRS, and RA-GRS. It also helps with developing strategies when migrating to the cloud. For instance, if you have a particular application or system that has been designed for high availability within your own datacenters, it likely does not make sense lift and shift the entire set of systems, as they are; it would cost too much money (more than it costs you today) without a corresponding return of value.
If you are not familiar with Mr. Russinovich, I would suggest getting somewhat familiar with his background, as well. He is among three speakers that Microsoft has that I would probably listen to any session that they provide:
These folks are highly respected and have driven significant innovation within Microsoft.
Mark, in particular, was co-founder of Winternals which created fantastic utilities for Windows. With all of the deep knowledge of Windows, you might be shocked to learn that he might be even deeper in Unix knowledge and has a number of talks comparing operations of Unix and Windows kernels.