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Google Database Engineer Beta Exam Thoughts

Google recently announced a new Database Engineer Exam, available to those who don’t think 60 questions in 2 hours is hardcore enough but instead want to do 120 questions in 4 hours.

Source: https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/developers-practitioners/your-google-cloud-database-options-explained

Being one who is trying to “catch them all”, I decided I was hardcore enough (or a glutton for punishment, I will let you decide…) and opted to do it after a bank holiday weekend where I was able to do a little additional study. So without further ado, this is my breakdown, augmented with some thoughts from one of my colleagues had who sat it a few hours before me.

General Exam Thoughts

I am going to start by simply stating that this, like all the professional level Google Exams, isn’t trivial. I took approximately 3 hours to answer the 120 questions, including some comments on a few of them (which is encouraged for beta exams).

I generally found the content to be very much on point, with only a couple of questions deviating into what I felt was the DevOps/SRE space (specifically around connectivity and monitoring). It covered a spectrum of database topics I have summarised below, though I found it favouring CloudSQL Postgres and Spanner on the SQL side along with Bigtable, and Firestore on the NoSQL side. I was slightly surprised by the references in the exam to ancillary (though I guess common) DBA tools; these included but were not limited to RMAN, Actifio, pgbouncer, and mysqldump, so I would recommend reading up on these and understanding common use cases.

In terms of learning material though I found the Google Database Engineer path to be a little lacking in the detail required for this exam, though it did provide a good refresher on topics such as bare metal solution for Oracle which I haven’t had reason to use in production yet. It also helped cover off several of the patterns and tools to migrate databases into GCP (such as the Database Migration Service). For a good understanding of the databases themselves, I would recommend the Cloud Guru course for the Data Engineer Certification, which I found myself relying upon, especially for the NoSQL and Cloud Spanner topologies and structures.

High-Level Exam Topics

In terms of high-level topics, this is some of what came up (from what I remember — it won’t be exhaustive!).

  • Understand which databases to use in certain situations (recommend Priyanka’s sketch note above). Eg: Latency tradeoffs, Relational vs Non-Relational, OLTP vs OLAP etc.
  • A LOT on HA/replica topologies both for Cloud SQL and Cloud Spanner, with a touch of Bigtable if I remember correctly.
  • Database IAM best practices — I found myself weak on Cloud Spanner roles for example, as I haven’t yet worked on a project which justified its use.
  • Understand performance ramifications of certain actions and topologies, e.g. increase disk for improved IO performance, when and how to provision read replicas etc.
  • A LOT about migrating databases, I would recommend reading up about the database migration service and what it can and can’t do.

Recommended Exam Prep Materials

Source: Pinterest

This is by no means an exhaustive list again but these are some of the things I found helpful:

Concluding thoughts

Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/84491541/giant-chalkboard-in-conclusion

So to conclude, this was a good, if tough exam that I wish I had been slightly better prepared for. I have no idea if I passed or not (with beta exams results take 6–8 weeks) though I am cautiously optimistic. Other than that — if trying to choose between Cloud Spanner, Cloud SQL, Firestore, Bigtable, BigQuery, and Memorystore is what makes you excited to get up in the morning, my company CTS is always looking for talented engineers that share our passion for all things Google Cloud. But until next time — keep it Googley ;-)

About CTS

CTS is the largest dedicated Google Cloud practice in Europe and one of the world’s leading Google Cloud experts, winning 2020 Google Partner of the Year Awards for both Workspace and GCP.

We offer a unique full stack Google Cloud solution for businesses, encompassing cloud migration and infrastructure modernisation. Our data practice focuses on analysis and visualisation, providing industry specific solutions for; Retail, Financial Services, Media and Entertainment.

We’re building talented teams ready to change the world using Google technologies. So if you’re passionate, curious and keen to get stuck in — take a look at our Careers Page and join us for the ride!

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Alistair Grew

Alistair Grew

GCP Architect based in the Manchester (UK) area. Thoughts here are my own and don’t necessarily represent my employer.