Professional development

AWS vs. Azure vs. Cloud+: To specialize, generalize or both?

October 14, 2019 by Tyra Appleby

Cloud technology is continuing to grow. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are two cloud providers and platforms that are dominating the cloud space, but they are not alone. Other cloud platforms include Google Cloud, IBM Bluemix and Alibaba, and that’s not even all of them.

With these multiple options, it may be tough to decide what training and certification route to take. In this article, we will discuss all three options and evaluate which may be the best fit.


AWS is currently ranked as the number one cloud service provider. They currently partner with many of the other big-name providers such as VMware, C3 and SAP, giving them an increased hold on the cloud market. Their partnerships provide them with an opportunity to provide many hybrid options to their enterprise customers. 

With its continued growth and popularity, there is no sign of this cloud giant slowing down their stronghold of the coveted number one slot. That makes AWS-specific training and certification attractive.

AWS has multiple certifications, training paths and technical specialties. Below is a list of available AWS certification options:


The foundational certification requires at least six months of cloud knowledge.


The Associate certification requires at least one year of cloud experience that includes troubleshooting issues and implementation of AWS cloud solutions. The Associate level certifications are broken into separate learning paths, either architect-, operations- or developer-focused.


This professional certification requires at least two years of experience designing, operating and troubleshooting AWS cloud solutions. There are two focus areas available in the professional domain, the Solutions Architect and DevOps Engineer.


There are also specialized AWS certifications. The person seeking one of these specialties will have technical experience in the area as described below:

  • Big Data: Designing and implementing cloud services to pull value from large datasets
  • Advance Networking: Designing and implementing cloud architectures
  • Security: Securing a platform

Learning paths

There are multiple learning paths associated with AWS training and certifications. Enlisting in the learning paths below will give you the following knowledge sets:

  • Cloud Practitioner: Cloud fundamentals and best practices
  • Architect Path: Design of cloud enterprise system
  • Developer Path: Developing cloud applications
  • Operations Path: Automation of cloud applications, networks and systems

List of available certification exams 

  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 90 minutes to complete
    • Cost: $100
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 130 minutes to complete
    • Cost: $150
  • AWS Certified Developer — Associate
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 130 minutes to complete
    • Cost: $150
  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator — Associate
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 130 minutes to complete
    • Cost: $150
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Professional
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer — Professional
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified Security — Specialty
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified Big Data — Specialty
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified Advanced Networking — Specialty
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified Machine Learning — Specialty
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300
  • AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder — Specialty
    • Format: Multiple-choice
    • Time: 170 minutes
    • Cost: $300

AWS provides both online and classroom training options. Many of the online options are free and self-paced. This provides flexibility to those interested.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure currently holds the number two spot for cloud service providers. Because Office 365 is used in both home and enterprise settings, Microsoft brings in more cloud revenue, but Azure is the true enterprise cloud (IaaS or PaaS) option.

Microsoft currently has nine Azure-specific certification options. All cost $165. The list is below: 

  • Azure Security Engineer — Associate
  • Azure Administrator — Associate
  • Azure AI Engineer — Associate
  • Azure Data Engineer — Associate
  • Azure Data Scientist — Associate
  • Azure Developer — Associate
  • Azure DevOps Engineer — Expert
  • Microsoft Certified Azure — Fundamentals
  • Azure Solutions Architect — Expert


CompTIA is known for providing vendor-neutral certification exams, and the Cloud+ cert is no exception. The exam details are below:

  • 100 questions
  • Multiple-choice
  • 90 minutes
  • 750 on scale of 100–900
  • 2–3 years system administration experience is recommended
  • $319.00

CompTIA offers training options, but they are all associated with a cost. They have online self-paced options as well as instructor-led training sessions.

Which cloud-based certification is for you?

If you are deciding which certification to take, there are a few things you want to ask yourself first:

  • What type of cloud environment do I currently or plan to work in?
  • What is my current status as it relates to cloud experience?
  • What are my long-term goals as it relates to cloud technologies?
    • Do I want to architect enterprise system?
    • Do I want to develop applications?
    • Do I want to provide security administration or policy details to a cloud system?
    • Or something else?

Answering these questions will give you a good idea of where to start. If you are currently working in a specific cloud environment (AWS, Azure, Google and so on) and you plan on staying in that environment for an indefinite amount of time, one of the certifications specific to your environment may make more sense. 

If you are relatively new to cloud technologies and you are looking to gain a certification to help gain access to more opportunities, the Cloud+ may be a better place to start, as its vendor-neutral skill sets will “travel” best with you from job to job. If you are new to the cloud, taking the Cloud+ may also help you determine if you later want to continue on with a certification from AWS or Azure.

That doesn’t mean taking the path down one of the specific cloud technologies certification path(s) is a bad idea, either. If you have some years of technical experience in either platform, gaining a certification can only verify your skill level. Even if you jump ship from one environment to the other (from AWS to Azure or vice versa), many of the skill sets transfer. Having AWS experience as well as AWS certification(s) will not keep you from taking on a position using Azure.

In deciding if you should focus on a particular specialty, that too can be determined based on your answers to the earlier questions. If you are already a security professional working in a cloud environment, the other available certification paths may not interest you, but a security specialty ensures that you understand the particular security settings for your environment. Same goes if you are strictly a developer. In that case, the DevOps focus might suit you best. 

There are some differences in both the security management and DevOps features of AWS and Azure, meaning certifications in a specialty may not necessarily “cross over.” This is something to consider if you plan on changing environments soon. That said, having a specialty focus certification for one platform suggests that you have the aptitude to learn the same specialty on the other. Choose carefully, but don’t feel that choosing one over the other will mean the end of the world if your circumstances change in a year or two!


Cloud technology is here to stay. It has revolutionized not only the home user’s experience, but streamlined and reduced cost for enterprise environments as well. 

Deciding what path to take when it comes to certifications can seem like a daunting task. Unless your job requested you take a certain certification and you refused, there really is no wrong path to take. Any of the certifications mentioned here will help you advance your career and solidify your cloud expertise. At the same time, making an informed choice will not only enhance your employment prospects in certain sectors, it will also act as a road marker to help you decide what types of career positions you would like for yourself.


Posted: October 14, 2019
Tyra Appleby
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Tyra Appleby is a CISSP certified lover of all things cybersecurity. After serving 4 years in the Navy as a Cryptologic Technician, she continued supporting various DoD and government agencies as a Systems Security Engineer. She has a passion for writing and research, particularly in the areas of Reverse Engineering and Digital Forensics. When she’s not working, you can find her at the beach with her Rottweiler Ava.