Twas the night before my VCDX defense panel

Like many others my journey towards earning the VCDX certification has been a long one. I thought a short write up on the final phase was in order. These are some of the things that I did in the last day before to help me prepare technically, mentally and physically for what awaited me.

 

The night before the defense

This was my second try at the VCDX defense so I was a lot more comfortable with what would be taking place the next morning. But to work on improving my chances and confidence I wanted to make sure that there were no surprises. So the evening before I wanted to make a dry run on getting to the defense location. This was not a big deal because I was able to book a hotel room in the same location as my panel. But still, I did not want there to be any confusion. So I took the long journey down from the 30th floor to the 2nd floor of the hotel where the defense panel would be hosted.

vcdx sign copy

 

The location was easy to find with these posters letting everyone know what was going to take place here the next day. That lead me to the meeting room that I would defend in. I had the room name from my invite but the name did not strike me until I saw it in person. Olympic was the room name, at the time I felt like there would be an Olympic session happening behind those doors in less than 24 hours.

 

room name copy

 

After doing a dry run on finding my way to the meeting location I would need some food and then back to final preparations. So I found a local burger place and grabbed some food. There would be no food eaten that would make me sick or affect my performance in any way. Then it was back to the hotel room to continue preparing for tomorrow. The image below shows what I was facing for the evening. At this point I was just hours from my panel was not going to be learning anything I did not know already. But I needed to revisit some important topics and be sure that I was familiar with all the little parts of my design.

I will need to make sure I remember why I made decisions for or against certain methods or technologies. I should be able to intelligently talk about all options and understand the customer project and the constraints, risks, requirements and assumptions related to this project. Make sure I don’t get confused with other customer projects and then the most important part. GET A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP!!

photo copy

 

Then the email arrives

If you have ever waited on good or bad news to arrive via email in the past you have some idea of what the feeling is like. You wait for the email to arrive then there is anxiety about opening the email to find out the results. Well in my case I was saved this anxiety. Turns out that I elected to sleep in the day after my defense and traveling back home made me exhausted. So to recover and start off the holiday weekend I grabbed some extra sleep. Little did I know that Mark and the VCDX team kicked butt and got the results out right away to everyone.

After awaking and looking at my phone, the home screen was filled with missed calls and texts congratulating me. Still being a bit confused I raced to my work email and checked, sure enough there was an email from Mark Brunstad. Could this be real and so fast? I opened up the email and then the attachment which the top portion is shown below. I had passed and was now awarded the VCDX certification, after some loud cheering and announcing to the family I was a bit in shock.

vcdx letter

 

Can’t say thanks enough

There a bunch of people that I need to thank for helping me at some point during this journey. But most of all my family and co-workers for supporting and helping with this goal.

 

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

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Swing and a miss my first VCDX defense failure

I was not sure if I would write up anything about failing to pass my first VCDX defense panel, but since you don’t hear much about misses. I wanted to let people know that it happens more than you think. Anyway these are some of the things that I encountered in my journey.

Location:

In effort to not waste any opportunities I applied and was accepted to defend my panel in Sydney. I did not want to waste any opportunities since there are a limited number of chances each year to defend your VCDX. This is a major goal for me in my job and a personal one to achieve VCDX certification. So I wanted to allow myself another opportunity this year in case I did not pass on this attempt.

Since I live in the US the travel to Sydney would take up a lot of time. It was 20+ hours of travel each way and a 15 hour time difference. I found that this did add extra stress to the already stressful process and I would definitely need to look at the options before making the same decision. I do not travel much and never internationally so many things were new and added to the anxiety that I was already feeling about standing in front of VMware experts to explain my decisions.

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

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My VCAP5-DCD Testing experience

I recently took the VCAP5-DCD exam and wanted to write a brief summary on my experience. In case you are new to the VCAP certification track it stands for VMware Certified Advanced Professional. There are currently two VCAP options the DCD or Datacenter Design exam is focused specifically on designs around vSphere. I am proud to say that I passed the exam, it’s not something that I would have looked forward to taking again anytime soon.

This VCAP is focused on vSphere and vCenter 5 and the exam is made up of 100 questions and you have 4 hours. I heard a bunch of others state that they needed every minuted of the 4 hours and maybe even ran out of time. This is no joke, I remember being about an hour into the exam and I was only on question 10 or so. At this point I was like damn I’m never going to finish this at this rate. So I started speeding up my reading and trying to skim things more and answer without fully ready the stories. The questions on the VCAP5-DCD are pretty wordy, most questions have a lot of background information that you need to consider in your answer. It does help to be a fast reader which is something that I am not that good at. I did end up finishing the exam with about 5 minutes left.

The exam is made up partially of text based questions much like the VCP but are more design focused. Another type of question is the drag and drop type questions that will ask you to read about a design and place your answers based on the questions. Then there are several questions that are more of a Visio style where you have to actually diagram out your answer based on the requirements or question that was presented to you. I’ve heard many complain about these, I did not mind them and actually thought they were better than the drag and drop ones. Either way you will need to budget your time based on the style of questions. I sort of followed advice that others have said about answering all the text questions first, then do the drag and drops questions and finish up with the Visio ones with whatever time you have left over. I tried to follow this model but was not exact, I adjusted based on time and frustration.

Something that I hear asked a lot is what should I study to become a VCAP-DCD. I don’t believe that their as any book or class that you can take to prepare. Certainly some would help you, but since this is design focused exam. You really need to have worked in a role for some period of time that is design focused. Its not just about knowing every crazy detail about weird VMware settings, you have to understand how to design and work with customers. This is mostly something that comes with experience. This is not to say that if you work in an engineering or admin role that you could not pass the exam, its just not focused on those roles.

Anyway I am happy to be done with the exam for this version of vSphere and wish you good luck if you are preparing for a VCAP yourself. There are good resources out there like the Brownbag sessions that are lead by a number of smart community members.

 

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

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Open letter to Vendors on training classes and partner enablement

To be open I work for a partner and on a regular basis get introduced to new products. For this I spend a decent amount of time researching these products, playing with them in a lab and tacking training from the Vendors. There are a few vendors that do a good job with their training and there are a lot that don’t do a very good job. Yesterday one of my co-workers mentioned something to me about how he thought these training programs should be structured.

What it comes down to is there are a few layers or roles within partners and customers that need to be trained on a new product. I’ve broken it out below into 3 classes that vendors should offer for their products. These translated into software or hardware products I believe.

  • How do I design for your product – This should be an design / architecture focused class. In this class we should be talking about customer requirements, sizing decisions and other things that might affect how I would create a design for Product X.
  • How do I install your product – This class is focused on install and implementation work. I think this is pretty straight forward, what are the pitfalls to look out for when setting up your product etc.
  • How do I manage your product – So this one might be a bit more customer focused but partners still need to be able to understand this and be able to assist their customers on these types of issues. What types of tasks do you expect me to have to complete on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. How do I patch or upgrade your product and these types of tasks.

To me it seems that if these classes were available I could pick out the one that I needed at the time to gain the knowledge that I needed. For me I would usually start out with the design course but also need to understand the other parts at some point.

Out of all the Vendors that I deal with VMware seems to be the one closest to this model. They do have a limited amount of design classes. The most popular VCP related course is heavily focused on the install porting with a bit of management. And the newer performance related courses would fall into the management area. I would like to see other vendors take this approach also.

 

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

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The VCAP4-DCA Exam Blueprint is now available to download

The first exam in the new VMware intermediate series has released the Blueprint document. Blueprints are intended to give you a list of topics that are covered on the exam. So that if you are well versed in these topics you should do well on your exam. For this type of exam there is no substitute for real world experience or hundreds of hours of lab time.

The VCAP4-DCA is the VMware Certified Advanced Professional exam focused on Datacenter Administration. This is going to raise the level for VCP’s who want to show that they know their stuff. The exam is 100% hands on lab based exam material.  The VDCA410 exam consists of approximately 40 live lab activities and a short pre‐exam survey consisting of 9 questions. Live lab activities consist of multiple tasks, where each task is scored. The total number of activities provided is based on the total number of tasks. Because of this, the actual number of lab activities may vary slightly between exams.

The scoring for the exam is not fully worked out until after the Beta period is over. The scale for scoring this exam will be like other exams and will have a range from 100-500.

For now the exam is available in English and countries where English is one of the languages will get an additional 15 minutes of time for the exam.  The retake policy will require someone to wait 10 business days before they are able to try again. Something different or at least I have not noticed this before is that once you achieve a passing score you are not allowed to take the exam again.

Since you cannot yet book this exam the pricing is not yet available. According to earlier estimates from John Hall of VMware this exam should be in the $400 range depending on your location and exam provider.

You can find out all of the details on VCAP and download the blueprint from here.

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

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