Win a Home Lab


Having your own Home Lab is one of the best things a geek can ask to IT Gods! There are many IT Pro’s (including me) who uses either Software Home Lab i.e. on VMware Workstation, Oracle VM Virtualbox or Cloud Lab by Ravello Systems. However, very few can afford the Hardware Lab due to CapEx it has!

Would you not like to get a Hardware Lab for FREE? There are few vendors who understands the financial constraints of IT pros and pitches in with sweepstakes and giveaways. One of those is, good guys at Turbonomic (formerly known as VMTurbo) who have been doing it since last 2 years (Why no APAC winner yet though?) and now, Unitrends have pitched in to giveaway a Dream Lab worth $5000 as a New Year gift. So, well I thought I should do my bit and share with like minded friends and write about it. So with out further ado,

Unitrends Dream Lab Specifications:

  • Supermicro Mini Tower Intel Xeon D-1541
  • 4x16GB of RAM (64GB total)
  • 240GB SSD
  • VisionTek Graphics Card 7750 3M 2GB DDR3 4K
  • 2 x Western Digital WD1003FBYZ 1TB Hard Drives
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • VMware vSphere 6 Essentials Kit
  • Unitrends Backup Software Enterprise Plus license
  • Cisco SG300-10 10-port Gigabit Managed Switch
  • Cable Matters 160021 5-Feet Cat6
  • Snagless Ethernet Patch Cable, Pack of 5

*specific components may change based on availability

So, how do you Enter? It’s simple.

  1. Go to this Page
  2. Click the ‘Register Now’ button
  3. Complete the short registration form
  4. Download and deploy a 30-day Unitrends free trial

 That’s it! Good Luck! Thank me later!  🙂

AWS Solution Architect Associate – Study Notes: Terminologies

Once, you start your journey for AWS Solution Architect Associate exam you are expected to know and get familiar with various key terminologies which you will come across during your learning. I’ll start here with some basic terminologies in this post and build it up by updating this post gradually till I appear for the certification.

Cloud Computing [AWS Definition]

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.

AWS Global Infrastructure: The AWS infrastructure is defined by global regions, Availability Zones and edge locations to help customers achieve lower latency and higher throughput, and to ensure that their data resides only in the region they specify.

  • Region: A region is a geographic area with two or more Availability Zones. When you provision new AWS services, you will
    choose a geographical region where you data will be stored. The region you choose may take into consideration:

    • Optimize Latency
    • Minimize Costs
    • Regulatory Requirements
    • 2 Regions are Completely Separate from each other.
    • Traffic transfers over the Internet (Encrypt your data)
  • Availability Zones
    • Collection of data centers within each region.
    • Isolated from other Availability Zones
    • Connected by a low-latency link (for HA)
    • Protect them from failures on other AZs
    • Handle requests in case of failures.

      Tip: Provision resources across multiple AZs.

  • Edge Locations: AWS edge locations host a content delivery network (or CDN) called Amazon CloudFront. CloudFront can be used to deliver websites and content that is dynamic, static, or streaming. Requests for content are automatically routed to the nearest edge location, so content is delivered faster to customers.

Fault Tolerance: Fault tolerance enables a system to continue running despite a failure. This could be a failure of one or more components to the system or maybe a third-party service. In AWS, this could mean operating your system in multiple availability zones.

High Availability (HA): High availability means having little or no down time of your systems. The gold industry standard in high availability is the five nines or 99.999, which equates to less than 5 1/2 minutes of downtime per year.

Vertical Scaling/Scale up:  means an increase in capacity on a single resource. Eg. adding additional memory to a server to increase the number of processes the server can run is vertical scaling. In AWS, this could be upgrading to a new instance type.

Horizontal Scaling/Scale Out: involves adding more physical or virtual resources. Scaling horizontally in AWS is exactly what a service like horizontal scaling does. It will add additional service based on resource utilization.

Stateless Systems: means a system that is not storing any state. The output of the system will depend solely on the inputs into it. Eg. UDP Protocol

Serverless Architecture: Serverless architectures refer to applications that significantly depend on third-party services (known as Backend as a Service/BaaS) or on custom code that’s run in ephemeral containers (Function as a Service/FaaS). Eg. AWS Lambda

Elastic IP Addresses: An Elastic IP address is a static IP address designed for dynamic cloud computing. An Elastic IP address is associated with your AWS account. With an Elastic IP address, you can mask the failure of an instance or software by rapidly remapping the address to another instance in your account.

An Elastic IP address is a public IP address, which is reachable from the Internet. If your instance does not have a public IP address, you can associate an Elastic IP address with your instance to enable communication with the Internet; for example, to connect to your instance from your local computer.

Network Address Translation/NAT: is a method for placing all systems on a network behind a single IP address. Each system on the network has its own private IP address. Externally, traffic originating from any of those systems appears as the same IP address. This is how a network that is assigned an IP address from an internet service provider can have multiple systems connected to the internet resources without each needing to be assigned its own public IP address. NAT is a common service and is available to VPCs in AWS.

Routing Tables: are a collection of rules that specify how internet protocol traffic should be guided to reach an endpoints. A common route in a routing table will direct all traffic headed outside of your network through a router. This is how a system can reach websites. Another route might direct all traffic in a certain range to another network over a virtual private network connection. AWS lets you manage your own routing tables for your VPC.

Access Control List/ACL: defines permissions that are attached to an object. In the world of AWS, you can attach network ACLs to subnets which will grant or deny protocols to and from various endpoints.

Load Balancer: works to distribute traffic across a number of servers. It can be a physical or virtual resource. Traffic is directed to registered servers based on algorithms that typically seek an even load or round robin style distribution. A client may be directed to different servers on each request.

Study Guide (Curated) – AWS Solution Architect Associate

IT industry has always been about Certifications. There are advantages to certifications for both employers as well as IT Professionals, one gets the satisfaction of hiring the right guy and other gets benefited financially! In a nutshell, it does hold a value.

Cloud Computing platform skills are hot these days in the Industry which generates huge demand for these certifications. Today, we will talk about Certification offerings from AWS, leader in Public Cloud Computing platform.  AWS offers 5 Certifications (3 Associate Level and 2 Professional).  A lot of IT Professional on my Twitter timeline have either already earned all 5 or has started earning them or at least started working on earning ’em (myself included).

Preparing for Certification gets quite difficult when you are not sure what to refer and you start going through everything available on the inter webs meaning you put in too much effort over what you should be putting. Of course, no knowledge goes wasted but this approach doesn’t always work out when you are planning to get certified every month, let it be AWS, VMware, EMC etc. So without further ado I present Curated list of Study Materials which I intent to follow myself post reviewing the Official Exam blueprint:  AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Guide.

Video Tutorials:

  1. CloudAcademy: I have bought CloudAcademy Professional Plus Plan which allows me not to just learn AWS but multiple CloudComputing platform. Moreover, I have chosen CloudAcademy because Labs (with very well written instructions+support, if needed) and Quizzes, they offer with it.
  2. acloud.guru (Cheaper and popular Option): acloud.guru is the cheaper option over what I am going to refer to. They are offering labs via Amazon Free Tier. Due to very low-cost, its favourite in the community and when I was deciding which one to go for I selected CloudAcademy their Learning Path suited my study style/habits.

Note: No doubt acloud.guru is cheapest but if you are like me who wants everything at one place and a course which is designed keeping students in mind then you can use my 25% OFF referral which will give me and you both 25% off from the following month. [Please, note I am not affiliated with CloudAcademy except consumer of their Training. Just sharing the awesome learning experience.]

Reading Material:

  1. AWS Cloud Computing White papers (Refer Blueprint)
  2. FAQs: Rather than listing out all the Products IMO, I will be going through most of Products FAQs as my long-term goal is to earn all 5. However, if you are limiting yourself for just 1 Certification for now, I think you should read FAQs for all Compute, Storage, Networking and Database products.

Qwiklabs: Because there’s never too much labbing. I strongly suggest to buy their monthly subscription, its worth it.

Exams/Quizzes: Since, I went with Cloud Academy I do not have to worry about it as they have strategically planned Quizzes in between the preparation as well as you can test your self any time, any where through their mobile application. However, this option is also available with acloud.guru in the form of Quizzes, Mega Quiz, Scenario Quiz and Final Exam.

That’s it! If you wish then you can refer to sample exam questions from here but honestly, I feel its meh!

Now, for those of you who are wondering that’s it! I want to read more I would love to share the study guide from my Twitter friend Alex here. He has already cleared the exam and has shared all the resources in detail.

All the Best!

Getting Started with AWS

Cloud Computing has been a buzz word for quite a long time now. More and more people are proactively showing interest in learning at least one of the Cloud Computing platform or forced to learn one just to stay relevant in the industry. Within Cloud Computing there are three types of cloud model Public, Private and Hybrid. We’ll dig deep in to all the models in future but today we’ll be talking about one of the important and popular Public Cloud Service model provider Amazon Web Services (AWS).

I have been asked by friends and colleagues, How do I start with the AWS? I’m sure there are many people out there who have experienced the same situation. I hope this post answers their question.

First and foremost, AWS is a mammoth of Public Cloud Service platform which will take time to learn and master. There’s a lot of documentation, references, tutorial, videos and a lot more already available on the inter webs but key is to select and learn one or more service at a time which builds your interest and take it from there. For the record, as of 2016 AWS has 70+ services, spanning a wide range, including compute, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, deployment, management, mobile, developer tools and tools for the Internet of things.

What do I suggest for a beginner who is kin to learn AWS?
1. Watch introductory Videos of Products you are interested in learning Eg. Compute, Storage, Network, RDS etc. from AWS’s YouTube Playlist or here.

One of the best thing about AWS is, it provides Free Tier usage for 12 months for its products for the new users so that they can learn and explore their Products and gain Hands on Knowledge/experience.

2. Register for AWS Free Tier and start practicing. 🙂

3. Register for qwiklabs account and complete Introductory/Free labs provided with detailed instructions.

Now, once you are comfortable and familiar with AWS Products you can get certified on your knowledge. There are a couple of online Training providers who provides quality training at attractive rates with either Labs included or with the usage of your Free Tier account. However, more on AWS Training and Certifications in the next post.