Home Cloud & Networking AWS Certified Database - Specialty (DBS-C01) Certification Guide

AWS Certified Database - Specialty (DBS-C01) Certification Guide

By Kate Gawron
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  1. Free Chapter
    Chapter 1: AWS Certified Database – Specialty Overview
About this book
The AWS Certified Database – Specialty certification is one of the most challenging AWS certifications. It validates your comprehensive understanding of databases, including the concepts of design, migration, deployment, access, maintenance, automation, monitoring, security, and troubleshooting. With this guide, you'll understand how to use various AWS databases, such as Aurora Serverless and Global Database, and even services such as Redshift and Neptune. You’ll start with an introduction to the AWS databases, and then delve into workload-specific database design. As you advance through the chapters, you'll learn about migrating and deploying the databases, along with database security techniques such as encryption, auditing, and access controls. This AWS book will also cover monitoring, troubleshooting, and disaster recovery techniques, before testing all the knowledge you've gained throughout the book with the help of mock tests. By the end of this book, you'll have covered everything you need to pass the DBS-C01 AWS certification exam and have a handy, on-the-job desk reference guide.
Publication date:
May 2022
Publisher
Packt
Pages
472
ISBN
9781803243108

 

Chapter 1: AWS Certified Database – Specialty Overview

The AWS certifications are some of the most prized in the IT industry. The specialty level exams demonstrate a high level of knowledge about the chosen subject, and obtaining such as certification can lead to increased salaries, better career options, and recognition. The first step on this path is to begin learning all the skills and techniques that will be covered in the exam and this book aims to be a comprehensive guide that will aid you greatly during your preparation.

Before we start studying the technical areas covered in the exam, it is worthwhile discussing the exam format and what types of questions will be asked. You can use this information to aid your learning as you progress through this book. You will learn how the exam works, how long you have to complete it, and how many questions there will be. You'll then learn the specific domains in the exam and the likely number of questions on each domain before learning some useful exam tips to guide you in your approach during the exam to maximize your marks.

In this chapter, we are going to cover the following topics:

  • Exam format
  • Exam domains
  • Database security
  • Exam tips

First, let's look at the exam format itself so you know what to expect when you book the AWS Certified Database – Specialty exam to when you earn that pass!

 

Exam format

All AWS exams are taken electronically either at a test center or remotely via an online proctoring session.

The exam lasts 180 minutes and there will be 65 questions.

The pass mark will vary slightly between each exam, but the minimum will always be 750 out of 1000. This variation is due to some questions being rated as more or less difficult than the default, so they are weighted for fairness. As a rough guide, a pass would be obtained by answering 50 questions correctly.

You are not penalized for incorrect answers, so you should attempt to answer all questions even if you do not know the answer.

The exam starts with a short opening section where you need to confirm your details, the exam you are taking, and the copyright that you may not share the exam questions. Once this is done, you will be given a brief overview of the exam and how to navigate through the screens.

The majority of the questions are situational style, requiring you to be able to interpret the question to work out the correct answer.

The questions are all multiple choice with two different styles:

  • Multiple choice: Has one correct answer and three incorrect answers.
  • Multiple answer: Has two or more correct answers out of five or more options. The question will state how many answers are expected.

You can mark each question for review at the end.

At the end of the exam, there is a survey about the exam and your preparation for it. You must complete this before receiving your exam result.

You will receive your pass or fail result immediately once you complete the survey, but you will not receive your full results and the score achieved until it has been verified. This verification normally takes 3 working days. Once the verification has been completed, you will receive an email to your registered address and you will be able to obtain your full score report, showing how well you performed on each domain. This is especially useful if you do not meet the passing grade as you will be given areas to focus your studies on for the next attempt.

Now that you understand what happens after you book and take the exam, let's look at what you'll need to know to obtain a passing grade. In the next section, we are going to look at the exam domains or areas that will need to be covered.

 

Exam domains

The AWS Certified Database – Specialty (DBS-C01) exam is split into five high-level topics covering a wide range of subjects. These are broken down as follows:

Figure 1.1 – Table showing the percentage weighting for the five domains in the exam

Figure 1.1 – Table showing the percentage weighting for the five domains in the exam

The percentage refers to the most likely number of questions that will be asked in the exam. You can expect a breakdown similar to the following: 

Figure 1.2 – Table showing the approximate number of questions for each domain in the exam

Figure 1.2 – Table showing the approximate number of questions for each domain in the exam

AWS offers a high-level description of each domain, but it doesn't fully explain all the technologies, solutions, and services you'll need to know in order to pass the exam. In the next few sections, we are going to look in more depth at what each domain really means and the key topics within it. This can be used to help guide you while you study and prepare for the exam. Let's now look at each domain in detail.

Workload-specific database design

Workload-specific database design can also sometimes be referred to as purpose-built databases. It means that before choosing which database to use, you look closely at the type of data that will be stored and how the application or users access it.

To succeed in this domain, you will need to know how to build a scalable and resilient database using the right database engine for the use case and to understand how to use AWS infrastructure to protect it from failures.

In order to succeed in this domain, you will need to: 

  • Know how to build a scalable and resilient database using the right database engine for the use case and to understand how to use AWS infrastructure to protect it from failures. 
  • Know the features that can be used to increase the performance of your databases, and which work for each different database type and use case. 
  • Understand and calculate the costs of different database solutions and how you can help to optimize costs while meeting the performance and resilience requirements of the use case. 

Under this domain, the following topics will be covered:

  • Selecting appropriate database services for specific types of data and workloads
  • Determining strategies for disaster recovery and high availability
  • Designing database solutions for performance, compliance, and scalability
  • Comparing the costs of database solutions

In the following sections we will cover every topic in detail.

Selecting appropriate database services for specific types of data and workloads

This area focuses on the different database engines AWS supports and the options available for them.

You will need to know about all of the database engines that AWS offers and versions, what features are available for each, and how to apply those to a specific use case. We will spend time studying these in depth later in this book as knowing these thoroughly will be the best way to pass the exam.

Determining strategies for disaster recovery and high availability

Disaster recovery and high availability are critical topics in the exam. You will need to understand terms such as Multi-AZ, read replicas, cross-region, and backup and restore techniques, all of which will be covered in depth throughout this book.

You will need to know how to use these tools correctly for different database engines to meet the use case.

Designing database solutions for performance, compliance, and scalability

Each different database offers different ways to scale. You will need to understand horizontal versus vertical scaling and how that affects database design.

You will need to know different compliance standards and how AWS uses tools and services to meet them.

Comparing the costs of database solutions

For this domain, you will need to understand the different pricing models AWS uses for each database type, and you will learn the types of instances available as well as how pricing plans work for serverless databases.

You will need to be able to work out which database type is most cost-effective for your given use case.

Deployment and migration

The second domain you will be tested on is deployment and migration. This will cover creating different databases both via the console and the command line and the options available, such as cloning. For the migration, you will need to know AWS best practices on moving data to AWS and how to use the tools offered for migrations.

Under this domain, the following topics will be covered:

  • Automating database solution deployments
  • Determining data preparation and migration strategies
  • Executing and validating data migration

We will begin by looking more closely at each topic.

Automating database solution deployments

Automation is the key to this area, and you will need to know the AWS automation tools and how to use them.

You will also need to know the common commands to create databases programmatically.

Determining data preparation and migration strategies

For this area, you will need to understand and explain the different methods of migrating data to AWS and the options available. This section focuses on understanding and assessing the current database and producing a strategy for the migration.

You will need to understand and explain the different methods of migrating data to AWS and the options available.

Executing and validating data migration

This area covers the migration steps and tools available to use on AWS. You will be tested on your understanding of data validation techniques and how AWS manages this.

You will need to understand how to monitor data migration and how to tune and optimize it.

Management and operations

Once you have migrated your data to AWS, you now need to know how to manage and operate the databases. You will need to understand backup and restore technologies, maintenance tasks and windows, and how to work with database options.

The topics covered in this domain are the following:

  • Determining maintenance tasks and processes
  • Determining backup and restore strategies
  • Managing the operational environment of a database solution

Next, we will study these topics in detail.

Determining maintenance tasks and processes

AWS uses maintenance windows to allow their teams to carry out work in the background. You will need to understand how this works, what can happen during them, and how to use them for your own maintenance strategies.

Determining backup and restore strategies

This area focuses on backup strategies rather than the underlying technology. You will need to understand and describe terms such as RTO and RPO and know how to utilize different AWS services to meet the needs of the use case. You will need to know the fastest and most efficient options for recovering from the failure of different databases.

Managing the operational environment of a database solution

The operational environment includes areas such as parameters and options that can be enabled.

You will need to understand how to use these as well as best practices for consistency for large database estates.

Monitoring and troubleshooting

If your database starts to underperform or to give errors, you need to be able to identify the problem and understand common troubleshooting techniques. This domain focuses on database metrics, diagnosing faults, and how to resolve them quickly, as well as configuring alerting.

The topics covered in this domain are the following:

  • Determining monitoring and alerting strategies
  • Troubleshooting and resolving common database issues
  • Optimizing database performance

Next, we will study these topics in detail.

Determining monitoring and alerting strategies

Working with AWS tools to create an alerting strategy that meets the needs of the use case is critical for all database deployments.

You will need to know the standard metrics that AWS uses and how to configure these for alerting purposes.

Troubleshooting and resolving common database issues

AWS databases have multiple logs to write data. You will need to know the different logs and which one to use for each problem.

You will need to understand to use the information in the logs to resolve common database problems such as space issues or error messages.

Optimizing database performance

In this area, you will need to learn how to read AWS graphs showing database metrics and what actions to take if there are issues.

You will need to understand how the different tools can offer deeper insights into the performance of the database to help analyze the problem.

 

Database security

The final domain will test your understanding of database security covering all aspects, from access and audit controls to patching for security fixes. This domain also covers encryption techniques, both of the stored data and in transit.

The topics covered in this domain are the following:

  • Encrypting data at rest and in transit
  • Evaluating auditing solutions
  • Determining access control and authentication mechanisms
  • Recognizing potential security vulnerabilities within database solutions

Now, let's begin to study these topics.

Encrypting data at rest and in transit

Encryption is used to make it harder for anyone unauthorized to see the data stored or in transit. You will need to know how to work with encryption at the database layer and how to encrypt connections between the application and the database.

Evaluating auditing solutions

Auditing is used to keep a record of actions made within a database, but it can cause performance issues if not configured correctly.

You will need to understand different auditing techniques and the tools AWS provides to assist.

Determining access control and authentication mechanisms

Databases in AWS have multiple methods for access that differ depending on the database. AWS also has its own built-in identity management service that can be used to restrict or grant database access.

You will need to know which methods work with which databases and how to configure and administrate logins using different methods.

Recognizing potential security vulnerabilities within database solutions

This area focuses on patching and why this is done. It also expects you to understand what your responsibilities are in terms of securing your own databases and what areas are the responsibility of AWS.

You will need to understand the AWS shared responsibility model as well as understand the patching strategies offered by AWS.

 

Exam tips

We've covered the format of the exam (the duration of the exam, how many questions there are) and we've looked in depth at the domains and topics you will be tested on, so you should be confident in what you need to study to be able to pass the exam.

However, knowing some tips around how to tackle the exam can make a difference in terms of a pass or fail, so it's worth taking some time to think about a strategy for the exam so that you can maximize your chances of earning that pass.

Let's take a look at a sample question:

A company's online application stores order transactions in an Amazon RDS for a MySQL database. The database has run out of available storage and the application is currently unable to take orders.

Which action should a database specialist take to resolve the issue in the shortest amount of time?

  1. Configure a read replica in a different AZ with more storage space.
  2. Create a new DB instance with more storage space from the latest backup.
  3. Change the DB instance status from STORAGE_FULL to AVAILABLE.
  4. Add additional storage space to the DB instance using the ModifyDBInstance action.

Follow this approach to answer the question:

To begin, you should seek to understand what the question is really asking you, and what tools and services are in scope? For this question, these are the topics you need to consider:

  • Amazon RDS for MySQL
  • Storage

Now, you can clearly see the database technology in use that will help work out the correct answers, but first, let's eliminate the wrong ones.

For a large number of questions, at least one of the answers is obviously incorrect. If you can quickly identify the ones that cannot be correct and then make an educated guess between the remaining ones, you are likely to get a few more questions right, which could make the difference between a pass and a fail.

Once you've worked through this book, hopefully, you should quickly be able to discount answers 1 and 3. 3 is wrong because you cannot modify an instance status in that way, and 1 because adding a read replica does not solve the full storage problem.

That now leaves us with just two possible correct answers. If, at this point, you are not certain of the answer, you have still doubled your odds of guessing correctly.

In general, once you have removed the obviously incorrect answers, the ones you are left with would both work, but one meets the use case of the question more closely than the other.

The final step is to search the question for important keywords such as:

  • Shortest time
  • Fastest
  • Most cost-efficient
  • Simplest

Our question uses the phrase 'shortest amount of time'. We can use this additional information to help us decide on the correct answer. Creating a new database instance will take a lot longer than adding more storage to our existing one, and therefore the correct answer is 4.

You may find many questions you can simply answer without using this technique, but following this strategy on the questions you do not know will really make a difference to your final score.

To summarize the steps you should take for answering questions during the exam:

  1. Identify the technologies and solutions being referred to in the question.
  2. Remove answers that cannot be correct based on those technologies.

Identify the keywords in the question to help you work out the best answer from among the ones remaining. Now that you've learned the best techniques and tips to take into the exam, you should have a lot more confidence and a greater chance of success.

 

Summary

In this chapter, you have learned about the format the exam will take, including how many questions there will be and how long you have to answer them. We've also looked at how the exam is graded and what you need to do to earn a pass grade.

You should now know all the different topics that will be covered in the exam, which will be used to help guide your learning through this book.

And finally, we took some time to go over exam tips and techniques to help you maximize your success when you take the exam.

This information is critical for the exam, both in terms of knowing what areas to study, and knowing how best to tackle the exam. When you are unsure of an answer, the exam tips given in this chapter will be very valuable in helping you work out the most likely options.

The next chapter will start looking at the AWS infrastructure in which you will incorporate and develop databases, and the exam will include questions that will expect you to know the fundamentals of AWS beyond databases.

About the Author
  • Kate Gawron

    Kate Gawron is a full-time senior database consultant and part-time future racing driver. She was a competitor in Formula Woman, and she aspires to become a professional Gran Turismo (GT) racing driver. Away from the racetrack, Kate has worked with Oracle databases for 18 years and AWS for five years. She holds four AWS certifications, including the AWS Certified Database – Specialty certification as well as two professional Oracle qualifications. Kate currently works as a senior database architect, where she works with customers to migrate and refactor their databases to work optimally within the AWS cloud.

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