Back in June / July of this year VMware quietly released a new certification, VMware Certified Professional -- Application Modernization (VCP-AM). The certification, as its name implies, focuses on application modernization but more specifically VMware’s cloud native portfolio. This includes VMware’s Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, vSphere with Tanzu, and Tanzu Mission Control solutions.
Early this past week I finally decided to sit this exam after procrastinating with it over the last few months. The TL|DR of this exam is that it’s quite a challenging exam to sit, requiring a very broad range of skills and knowledge to be familiar in. I’ve been actively using Kubernetes for over a year now. I’m CKA certified. I’ve done numerous deployments of all the different TKG flavours VMware has to offer. But when I hit that finish button at the end of the exam, I fully expected that I failed. It was a huge relief, though, to see that Pass flash up on the screen. But don’t let that scare you. I pretty much feel like this at the end of every exam I do 😉
Meeting The Prerequisites
Sitting the exam is just one part of the VCP-AM certification process. As with most certifications you have prerequisites that also need to be met. When the VCP-AM exam, 2V0-71.21, was initially released you needed to hold a previous valid VCP in another discipline. This has now been removed and you only need to complete one of the required training courses, which can be found here. Of course, you can sit the exam at any time but you won’t be award the certification status until you also complete one of these courses. From what I can see only one of the courses can currently be taken On-Demand, VMware vSphere with Tanzu: Deploy and Manage [V7] -- On Demand. Though by the time you’re reading this there may be more.
The VMware vSphere with Tanzu: Deploy and Manage [V7] course was the one I chose to do as it was the most convenient to do on-demand. It’s noted as being a three-day course, but you can obviously speed up the lecture parts and perform it a little faster. It does a good job of covering the fundamentals of Kubernetes. As well as explaining and breaking down vSphere with Tanzu, and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG). As a minimum I would highly recommend you do this course. The other course I would consider would be VMware Tanzu Mission Control: Management and Operations 2020 if you have the option available. I have not sat this course, so I can’t speak to it, but TMC is a core component of the VCP-AM exam, so make sure you cover it.
Study and Preparation
The first place to start, outside of meeting the training course prerequisites, is the official Exam Preparation Guide. Try not to have a heart attack when you first look at the guide. It is quite broad and in depth on content that you need to study and be familiar with. There’s no shortcuts here! You have to just be methodical and work your way through it. The objectives are well defined in the knowledge you need to learn to pass the exam. I find copying out the objectives into Excel and ticking each one off as I study and work my way through them works best for me.
One particular objective I feel needs calling out is Tanzu Mission Control (TMC). This is a SaaS product provided by VMware which requires a subscription to use. Many people may find it difficult to get access to this. There is, though, a Hands On Lab that can be used to guide you through some hands on experience. Don’t ignore this.
An area I don’t think gets called out well in the study guide objectives, is an understanding of how general ‘vanilla’ Kubernetes works. You may find yourself focusing a lot of your time and energy on how to install and manage TKG but forget to learn how to actually use Kubernetes. I’m talking about more than just logging in after deployment. How do you deploy an application, a pod, a container? Can you describe that? Are you comfortable modifying Kubernetes deployment YAML files? All things that will greatly help you during the exam.
I sat the exam online via Pearson VUE. I have performed several online exams over the last year and generally had pretty good experiences with no issues. So I won’t go too much into the process. I think we’ve all read a lot about how it works over the last year.
The VCP-AM exam consists of 55 multiple choice questions over 130 minutes. This is fairly typical for a VCP exam. You have roughly a little over 2 minutes per a question to answer. I found I had ample time to answer each question, then go back and review each question, with a little time to spare.
The range of questions did a good job of covering all the objectives. So certainly don’t skimp on studying any of the areas. I’ve already hinted at this above, study TMC, and feel confident in how to use and manage it. Despite its small section in the study guide objectives you may be surprised at the number of question you get on it.
I’m sure by looking at the exam study guide you can pick up that this is not going to be an easy exam to study and sit, and it certainly isn’t. That being said, if you learn and know the content you will be fine. I think your best weapon will be real hands on experience. No doubt about it. The more you use and play with Kubernetes, TKG, Tanzu, the better off you will be.
Whether you are studying for this exam or not I encourage everyone to just get out there and learn Kubernetes. I see this being a valuable skill to have in the near future.