Microsoft Azure AZ-103 vs AZ-104 Changes Explained
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AZ-104 vs AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate Changes Explained

Chase Dovey
Chase Dovey

When it comes to Microsoft Azure certification exams, change is constant. Last month, Microsoft retired the AZ-103, the exam previously required to earn the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate certification (one of the top-paying cloud certifications of 2020, by the way). And come November 24, 2020, Microsoft is adding more to its successor, the AZ-104.

So what’s changed between AZ-103 and AZ-104? And what’s it mean for you if you have your sights set on snagging your Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate cert? Let’s break down what you can expect.

(If you’re new to Azure and wondering which Azure certification is right for you and what all these acronyms mean for your cloud career, we’ve got you covered here.)

Want to learn more about Azure certifications?
Check out our Azure Certifications and Learning Paths.

What’s changed from the AZ-103 to the AZ-104?

The AZ-103, the recently retired version of the Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate certification exam, focused more on the creation of resources or configuration. With the AZ-104, the focus has shifted to a deeper level of understanding. Not only in AZ-104 are we required to create and configure resources, but we need to know how to manage these resources.

For example, a more involved task that might be required of an Azure Administrator is implementing Application Insights into a web app. This requires the ability to modify application code to implement instrumentation to collect usable telemetry data, which is then visualized and queried via the advanced analytics tools provided by application insights or another third-party analytics tool. This being said, knowing Azure services backward and forward is a must now with this shift to extensive resource management, assuming that learners want to be aggressive in the job market.

You can see the shift just by reviewing the exam guide syllabi for AZ-104. Or get more info around it straight from Microsoft.

Microsoft Azure’s role-based certifications

Time out for a second. You might wonder: Why the change? We can pretty much all agree that Microsoft Azure’s certification exam names can be confusing.

But the good news is that changes to the certifications and exams themselves are actually really logical and based on the demand for cloud skills. As more and more businesses undergo cloud migration and transformation, cloud skills are are a hot commodity. That’s what led to Microsoft’s role-based certification model.

The demands of the industry are drastically shifting, and the need to get proficient cloud professionals is high. Essentially, there are more cloud jobs than there are cloud professionals. To combat this Microsoft is shifting the focus of their certifications to a more role-based certification model.

Now, let’s dive into a few different areas and see what’s changed in the new AZ-104.

Identity and Governance

The first domain “Manage Azure identities and governance” in AZ-104 is a combination of two domains in AZ-103 “Manage Azure subscriptions and resources” and “Manage Identities”. We see this has narrowed the focus to a point of requiring the ability to understand the integration of Azure services.

Data Management Focused

The second domain of both the AZ-103 and AZ-104  is storage related with some key differences.

In AZ-104, we focus more on the management of storage accounts and data, whereas in AZ-103 we focused more on the creation and configuration of storage resources with less focus was given to data management. This change has shifted because of some high-profile data management related crises.

It is more important than ever to understand how to manage data as well as implement the storage solutions involved. The AZ-104 also drops CDN (Content Delivery Network) and Azure Data Factory from the exam guide syllabi. However, AZ-104 gained an entirely independent section on Implementing Monitoring and Azure Backup and added Azure Blob Storage to the Storage domain.

In AZ-103, Azure backup was a subsection of the storage domain and Azure Blob Storage was not an exam objective. Again, we see this sheds light on a focus on storage solutions, data management, and disaster recovery.

Compute

As far as compute, AZ-104 shifted the focus from VMs (Virtual Machines) to just compute as a whole. Azure Administrators will now need to know how to do everything they did with VMs, but also learn to create and configure containers and web apps, using both AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service) and App Service.

Networking

Finally, the Azure Administrator exam has always been very networking focused — rightfully so being that virtual networks are a key building block to cloud services. And while AZ-104 kept a focus on load balancing and network integrations, it also added the need for advanced networking security skills when it introduced Azure Bastion and Azure Firewall.

Prepare for the AZ-104 Azure Administrator Associate cert

While a lot of the knowledge gained from AZ-103 still holds true, there has certainly been a shift and narrowing in focus with the move toward more role-based certifications. In the end, we know that with this role-based shift, the AZ-104 is a great addition for both skills and the resume.

If you’re looking to earn your Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate, check out my AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Prep course. This course puts a heavy focus on getting hands on, with 20+ labs, theory lessons, and demonstrations to ensure you have what you need for the exam and in the field.

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