Passed Exam AZ-400: Microsoft Certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert

11 Min. Read

Updated – 27/03/2022 – The training labs below were updated to reflect the new exam objectives added by Microsoft.

Updated – 31/01/2022 – The exam guide below shows the changes that will be implemented starting on November 30, 2021. This article has been updated to reflect the new exam objectives added by Microsoft.

Are you preparing for the AZ-400 Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions? This study guide will share with you how to prepare and pass the AZ-400: Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer Expert successfully.

Introduction

Microsoft is keeping evolving its learning programs to help you and your career keep pace with today’s demanding IT environments. The new role-based certifications will help your career to keep pace with today’s business requirements. They are evolving their learning program to better offer what you need to skill up, prove your expertise to employers and peers, and get the recognition—and opportunities—you’ve earned. For more information about the new role-based certification, please check the following document to have a complete overview of the new Microsoft certification program.

After passing the Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Expert exam, as well as the Azure Developer Associate exam, the Microsoft Azure Administrator certification, the Microsoft Azure Security Engineer, and the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exams. I decided to sit for the Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions exam which is one of the exciting solutions to help you deliver software and deploy cloud resources.

Azure DevOps

Azure DevOps is a bundle of services to help developers and IT Pros to ship high-quality producers faster. It includes CI/CD pipelines (Azure Pipelines), visual reporting tools (Azure Boards), and code repositories (Azure Repos) for code management and version control. Azure DevOps will also support and help from a project management perspective that incorporates agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban.

  • Continuous Integration or CI is the process of automating the build and testing of the code every time a team member commits those changes to version control.
  • Continuous Delivery or CD is the process to build, testing, configuring, and deploying from a build to a production environment.

Donovan Brown, Cloud Advocate Manager at Microsoft, he summarizes DevOps in one sentence:

DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to the end users…

To get the Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert certification, you are required to pass only ONE prerequisite exam, the AZ-103: Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate OR the AZ-204: Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate.

Here is the full path to earning the Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert certification:

Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert

I am so happy and grateful now that I passed the AZ-400: Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions to become a Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert, I figured that I would share my experience in this article to help you prepare and tackle the AZ-400 exam successfully.

For the AZ-400 exam, I got 55 questions in total divided as follows:

  • 35 Multiple-Choice Questions.
  • 2 X Case Studies (9 questions).
  • 1 X hands-on lab with 11 tasks.

The total time for this exam is 180 minutes (3 hours). The questions do pretty much match the list of skills measured below.

Skills measured on this exam

Being a DevOps Engineer on the Microsoft platform is a trending role that encompasses managing development teams, managing source code, automating builds, tests, packaging, versioning, and deployments.

Typically a DevOps engineer is concerned with two pipelines: a continuous integration (CI) and a continuous delivery (CD). These two pipelines encompass code planning building and test for CI, and release, deployment, operations, and monitoring for CD. Becoming certified verifies and validates these skills, and indicates a certain level of expertise in this technology. To pass this exam many Azure capabilities and tools must be mastered. Read below to learn more about how to prepare and tackle this exam.

This exam measures your ability to accomplish the technical topics listed below based on the latest update from Microsoft:

Develop an instrumentation strategy (5-10%)

Design and implement logging

  • Assess and configure a logging framework
  • Design a log aggregation and storage strategy (e.g., Azure storage)
  • Design a log aggregation and query strategy (e.g., Azure Monitor, Splunk, Exabeam, LogRhythm)
  • Interrogate Log Analytics logs using basic Kusto (KQL) queries
  • Manage access control to logs (workspace-centric/resource-centric)
  • Integrate crash analytics (App Center Crashes, Crashlytics)

Design and implement telemetry

  • Design and implement distributed tracing
  • Inspect application performance indicators
  • Inspect infrastructure performance indicators
  • Define and measure key metrics (CPU, memory, disk, network)
  • Implement alerts on key metrics (email, SMS, webhooks, Teams/Slack)
  • Integrate user analytics (e.g., Application Insights funnels, Visual Studio App Center, TestFlight, Google Analytics)

Integrate logging and monitoring solutions

  • Configure and integrate container monitoring (Azure Monitor, Prometheus, etc.)
  • Configure and integrate with monitoring tools (Azure Monitor Application Insights, Dynatrace, New Relic, Naggios, Zabbix)
  • Create feedback loop from platform monitoring tools (e.g., Azure Diagnostics extension, Log Analytics agent, Azure Platform Logs, Event Grid)
  • Manage Access control to the monitoring platform

Develop a Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) strategy (5-10%)

Develop an actionable alerting strategy

  • Identify and recommend metrics on which to base alerts
  • Implement alerts using appropriate metrics
  • Implement alerts based on appropriate log messages
  • Implement alerts based on application health checks
  • Analyze combinations of metrics
  • Develop communication mechanism to notify users of degraded systems
  • Implement alerts for self-healing activities (e.g., scaling, failovers)

Design a failure prediction strategy

  • Analyze the behavior of a system with regards to load and failure conditions
  • Calculate when a system will fail under various conditions
  • Measure baseline metrics for system
  • Leverage Application Insights Smart Detection and Dynamic thresholds in Azure Monitor

Design and implement a health check

  • Analyze system dependencies to determine which dependency should be included in the health check
  • Calculate healthy response timeouts based on SLO for the service
  • The design approach for partial health situations
  • The design approach for piecemeal recovery (e.g., to improve recovery time objective strategies)
  • Integrate health check with compute environment
  • Implement different types of health checks (container liveness, startup, shutdown)

Develop a security and compliance plan (10-15%)

Design an authentication and authorization strategy

  • Design an access solution (Azure AD Privileged Identity Management (PIM), Azure AD Conditional Access, MFA, Azure AD B2B, etc.)
  • Implement Service Principals and Managed Identity
  • Design an application access solution using Azure AD B2C
  • Configure service connections

Design a sensitive information management strategy

  • Evaluate and configure vault solution (Azure Key Vault, Hashicorp Vault)
  • Manage security certificates
  • Design a secrets storage and retrieval strategy (KeyVault secrets, GitHub secrets, Azure Pipelines secrets)
  • Formulate a plan for deploying secret files as part of a release

Develop security and compliance

  • Automate dependencies scanning for security (container scanning, OWASP)
  • Automate dependencies scanning for compliance (licenses: MIT, GPL)
  • Assess and report risks
  • Design a source code compliance solution (e.g., GitHub Code scanning, GitHub Secret scanning, pipeline-based scans, Git hooks, SonarQube, Dependabot, etc.)

Design governance enforcement mechanisms

  • Implement Azure policies to enforce organizational requirements
  • Implement container scanning (e.g., static scanning, malware, crypto mining)
  • Design and implement Azure Container Registry Tasks
  • Design break-the-glass strategy for responding to security incidents

Manage source control (10-15%)

Develop a modern source control strategy

  • Integrate/migrate disparate source control systems (e.g., GitHub, Azure Repos)
  • Design authentication strategies
  • The design approach for managing large binary files (e.g., Git LFS)
  • The design approach for cross repository sharing (e.g., Git sub-modules, packages)
  • Implement workflow hooks
  • The design approach for efficient code reviews (e.g., GitHub code review assignments, schedule reminders, Pull Analytics)

Plan and implement branching strategies for the source code

  • Define Pull Requests (PR) guidelines to enforce work item correlation
  • Implement branch merging restrictions (e.g., branch policies, branch protections, manual, etc.)
  • Define branch strategy (e.g., trunk-based, feature branch, release branch, GitHub flow)
  • Design and implement a PR workflow (code reviews, approvals)
  • Enforce static code analysis for code-quality consistency on PR

Configure repositories

  • Configure permissions in the source control repository
  • Organize the repository with git-tags
  • Plan for handling oversized repositories
  • Plan for content recovery in all repository states
  • Purge data from source control

Integrate source control with tools

  • Integrate GitHub with DevOps pipelines
  • Integrate GitHub with identity management solutions (Azure AD)
  • Design for GitOps
  • Design for ChatOps
  • Integrate source control artifacts for human consumption (e.g., Git changelog)
  • Integrate GitHub Codespaces

Facilitate communication and collaboration (10-15%)

Communicate deployment and release information with business stakeholders

  • Create dashboards combining boards, pipelines (custom dashboards on Azure DevOps)
  • Design a cost management communication strategy
  • Integrate release pipeline with work item tracking (e.g., AZ DevOps, Jira, ServiceNow)
  • Integrate GitHub as a repository with Azure Boards
  • Communicate user analytics

Generate DevOps process documentation

  • The design onboarding process for new employees
  • Assess and document external dependencies (e.g., integrations, packages)
  • Assess and document artifacts (version, release notes)

Automate communication with team members

  • Integrate monitoring tools with communication platforms (e.g., Teams, Slack, dashboards)
  • Notify stakeholders about key metrics, alerts, severity using communication and project management platforms (e.g., Email, SMS, Slack, Teams, ServiceNow, etc.)
  • Integrate a build and release with communication platforms (e.g., the build fails, release fails)
  • Integrate GitHub pull request approvals via mobile apps

Define and implement continuous integration (20-25%)

Design-build automation

  • Integrate the build pipeline with external tools (e.g., Dependency and security scanning, Code coverage)
  • Implement quality gates (e.g., code coverage, internationalization, peer review)
  • Design a testing strategy (e.g., integration, load, fuzz, API, chaos)
  • Integrate multiple tools (e.g., GitHub Actions, Azure Pipeline, Jenkins)

Design a package management strategy

  • Recommend package management tools (e.g. GitHub Packages, Azure Artifacts, Azure Automation Runbooks Gallery, Nuget, Jfrog, Artifactory)
  • Design an Azure Artifacts implementation including linked feeds
  • Design versioning strategy for code assets (e.g., SemVer, date-based)
  • Plan for assessing, updating, and reporting package dependencies (GitHub

Automated Security Updates, NuKeeper, GreenKeeper)

  • Design a versioning strategy for packages (e.g., SemVer, date-based)
  • Design a versioning strategy for deployment artifacts

Design an application infrastructure management strategy

  • Assess a configuration management mechanism for application infrastructure
  • Define and enforce desired state configuration for environments

Implement a build strategy

  • Design and implement build agent infrastructure (include cost, tool selection, licenses, maintainability)
  • Develop and implement build trigger rules
  • Develop build pipelines
  • Design-build orchestration (products that are composed of multiple builds)
  • Integrate configuration into the build process
  • Develop complex build scenarios (e.g., containerized agents, hybrid, GPU)

Maintain build strategy

  • Monitor pipeline health (failure rate, duration, flaky tests)
  • Optimize build (cost, time, performance, reliability)
  • Analyze CI load to determine build agent configuration and capacity

Design a process for standardizing builds across the organization

  • Manage self-hosted build agents (VM templates, containerization, etc.)
  • Create reusable build subsystems (YAML templates, Task Groups, Variable Groups, etc.)

Define and implement continuous delivery and release management strategy (10-15%)

Develop deployment scripts and templates

  • Recommend a deployment solution (e.g., GitHub Actions, Azure Pipelines, Jenkins, CircleCI, etc.)
  • Design and implement Infrastructure as code (ARM, Terraform, PowerShell, CLI)
  • Develop application deployment process (container, binary, scripts)
  • Develop database deployment process (migrations, data movement, ETL)
  • Integrate configuration management as part of the release process
  • Develop complex deployments (IoT, Azure IoT Edge, mobile, App Center, DR, multi-region, CDN, sovereign cloud, Azure Stack, etc.)

Implement an orchestration automation solution

  • Combine release targets depending on release deliverable (e.g., Infrastructure, code, assets, etc.)
  • Design the release pipeline to ensure reliable order of dependency deployments
  • Organize shared release configurations and processes (YAML templates, variable groups, Azure App Configuration)
  • Design and implement release gates and approval processes

Plan the deployment environment strategy

  • Design a release strategy (blue/green, canary, ring)
  • Implement the release strategy (using deployment slots, load balancer configurations, Azure Traffic Manager, feature toggle, etc.)
  • Select the appropriate desired state solution for a deployment environment (PowerShell DSC, Chef, Puppet, etc.)
  • Plan for minimizing downtime during deployments (VIP Swap, Load balancer, rolling deployments, etc.)
  • Design a hotfix path plan for responding to high priority code fixes

Exam Target Audience

Candidates for this exam are DevOps professionals who combine people, processes, and technologies to continuously deliver valuable products and services that meet end-user needs and business objectives. DevOps professionals streamline delivery by optimizing practices, improving communications and collaboration, and creating automation. They design and implement strategies for application code and infrastructure that allow for continuous integration, testing, delivery, monitoring, and feedback.

This exam is designed for candidates who are proficient with Agile practices. They must be familiar with both Azure administration and Azure development and experts in at least one of these areas. Azure DevOps professionals must be able to design and implement DevOps practices for version control, compliance, infrastructure as code, configuration management, build, release, and testing by using Azure technologies.

DevOps Engineers combine people, processes, and technologies to continuously deliver valuable products and services that meet end-user needs and business objectives. DevOps Engineers streamline delivery by optimizing practices, improving communications and collaboration, and creating automation. They design and implement strategies for application code and infrastructure that allow for continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous delivery, and continuous monitoring and feedback.

DevOps Engineers must be proficient with Agile practices. They must be familiar with both Azure administration and Azure development and experts in at least one of these areas. Azure DevOps professionals must be able to design and implement DevOps practices for version control, compliance, infrastructure as code, configuration management, build, release, and testing by using Azure technologies.

Lessons Learned and Exam Preparation

Practice, practice, and read… I cannot stress enough that hands-on experience and understanding all the concepts will help you to pass this exam. The key success to passing this exam is to work with Microsoft Azure daily and especially with Azure DevOps and ARM Templates. You can create your free Azure account today and then start practicing the latest and greatest Azure DevOps services (you can sign up for free now).

Based on my experience by taking this exam, you should be familiar with the following topics:

  • Role-based access and least privilege principles.
  • Testing procedures.
  • Branch policies and security.
  • Build and release pipelines.
  • Security procedures.
  • Package management.
  • Self-hosted agents.
  • Azure DevOps integrations with GitHub, Jenkins, Subversion, BitBucket, GitLab, etc.
    • You don’t need to configure these integrations, but you need to identify when you would use them.
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC), ARM Templates, Terraform, Chef, Puppet, Ansible.
    • You can expect to see lots and lots of JSON, a fair amount of AzureRm (!) PowerShell and the most Azure CLI commands.
  • PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) with Azure Automation.
  • Azure Web App (App Services), Application Insights, Azure Functions, Azure DevTest Labs.
  • And a little bit of Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Docker, Azure Container Registry (ACR), Network Security Group (NSG), and Azure Monitor.

Note: If you are taking this exam during the pandemic (COVID-19) period, Microsoft worldwide learning is suspending all the performance-based lab items and saving on usage uptick.

To prepare for this exam, there are a lot of materials you can go through. In this article, I will list all the free and paid resources so you can choose based on your preferred option.

Free

Starting with the free option, I highly recommend you to go through the following free Microsoft Azure DevOps courses developed by Microsoft so you get prepared for this exam:

I also use Microsoft Learn the new learning approach to explore more advanced Azure DevOps topics, I highly recommend checking the following three learning paths:

If you work for a Microsoft partner, you could also take the Azure DevOps Free Assessment which is part of the university partner program. The assessment consists of 32 questions to validate your knowledge before taking the real exam. The course code is 18473 (Azure DevOps Assessment).

If you are not a Microsoft partner, you can take the free DevOps Self-Assessment here.

You can also watch the Exam Prep session that was presented at Ignite 2019 to help you learn more about the AZ-400: Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions exam that is part of the new Microsoft Azure Expert level certification. You will learn about how to approach studying for this new job role and being successful in your exam endeavors.

Last but not least, I also recommend you to do all the hands-on labs for free here => (Azure DevOps Labs).

Paid

If you wish to go through training videos instead of reading, I highly encourage you to purchase the following courses to help you pass this exam successfully:

Practice Test

If you wish to validate your skills before taking the real exam, I highly encourage you to purchase the following practice tests:

Training Labs

Check the following step-by-step hands-on labs that will help you to gain more practical experience in Azure DevOps:

> LAB 1 – Agile Planning and Portfolio Management with Azure Boards.
> LAB 2 – Version Controlling with Git in Azure Repos.
> LAB 3 – Version Controlling with Git in Azure Repos.
> LAB 4 – Configuring Agent Pools and Understanding Pipeline Styles.
> LAB 5 – Enabling Continuous Integration with Azure Pipelines.

> LAB 6 – Implementing GitHub Actions by using DevOps Starter.
> LAB 7 – Integrating External Source Control with Azure Pipelines.
> LAB 8 – Controlling Deployments using Release Gates.
> LAB 9 – Creating a Release Dashboard.
> LAB 10 – Feature Flag Management with LaunchDarkly and Azure DevOps.

> LAB 11 – Configuring Pipelines as Code with YAML.
> LAB 12 – Integrating Azure Key Vault with Azure DevOps.
> LAB 13 – Setting Up and Running Functional Tests.
> LAB 14 – Ansible with Azure.
> LAB 15 – Automating infrastructure deployments in the Cloud with Terraform and Azure Pipelines.

> LAB 16 – Azure Deployments Using Resource Manager Templates.
> LAB 17 – Package Management with Azure Artifacts.
> LAB 18 – Deploying Docker containers to Azure App Service web apps.
> LAB 19 – Deploying a multi-container application to Azure Kubernetes Services.
> LAB 20 – Integration between Azure DevOps and Teams.

> LAB 21 – Monitoring Application Performance with Application Insights.
> LAB 22 – Sharing Team Knowledge using Azure Project Wikis.
> LAB 23 – Implement Security and Compliance in an Azure DevOps pipeline.
> LAB 24 – Managing technical debt with SonarCloud and Azure DevOps.

Instructor-Led Training

Finally, If you prefer an instructor-led training course, you can find a learning Microsoft partner below:

If you are planning to take the AZ-400 exam… I wish you all the best and Happy Studying!!!

Passed Exam AZ-400: Microsoft Certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert 1

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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2 thoughts on “Passed Exam AZ-400: Microsoft Certified Azure DevOps Engineer Expert”

Leave a comment...

  1. Some lab links in the web page of your AZ 400 experience explanation are not working. Ex: Lab13, Lab14a,…etc

    Please update them if possible.

    Thanks

  2. Hello Kinan, thanks for your feedback!
    Please note that all training labs were updated to reflect the new exam objectives added by Microsoft.
    Let me know if it works for you. Good luck with your preparation!

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