Category Archives: Certification

Recap: VCP-NV Certification (2V0-642)

Earlier this week I took and passed the VCP-NV (2V0-642) exam.  I do have to say it was a really good experience.  It’s one of the few exams I really did enjoy studying for and sitting.  So I thought I might use this as an opportunity to post a short recap of my experience and what I used to study and pass the exam.

Getting some of the technicalities out the way all of which can be found at VMware’s VCP-NV landing page.  The 2V0-642 exam is VMware’s updated version 2 of the original VCP-NV exam which officially came out back in 2015.  Back then it was a 120 questions and by all accounts much harder than this new revised version.  This revised exam, based on NSX 6.2, is 2 hours long and 77 questions with a standard 300 passing score out of 500.  If you currently hold a VCP the process to certification is fairly straight forward.  Take and pass the 2V0-642 exam and earn certification.  If you don’t hold a VCP you have a number of pre-requisites to meet.  Again, all of which can be found at the VCP-NV landing page.

So first how was the exam?  As I mentioned above, a really good experience.  Gone are the days of having to take a pre-exam survey.  Just acknowledge the Terms and Conditions and the exam begins immediately -Awesome.  The questions were well laid out, clear, and descriptive enough to understand.  Of course it wouldn’t be a real exam without one or two confusing questions and there were a few of them, but only a few.  The exam questions are all weighted so at the end of the day it is a level playing field for everyone.

So what was my process for studying for this exam?

I guess firstly I’ve attended many presentations and watched a number of high level videos on NSX but nothing really deep on the product, nothing really exam helpful.  A few months back (the week before VMWorld) I attended the 5-day Install, Configure, Manage course on NSX 6.2.  This was a great course and a good primer into learning to use NSX.  Very helpful grasping the fundamentals in being able to get started.  Well recommended for everyone getting started.

Next came actually using the product in a real lab environment.  I think this is a requirement!  Bare minimum you should be using VMware’s Hands on Labs but even better is to have your own environment.  I’m lucky enough to be preparing for a production deployment and had a test lab to deploy and play with.  Having your own environment constantly available is hard to beat.

vBrownBag YouTube videos!  There is a VCP-NV series available on YouTube.  The videos are based on the original VCP-NV exam and are a few years old but still very relevant.  Actually still extremely relevant.  There’s eight videos to hunt around for which cover the original objectives with the exception of Troubleshooting.  The Objectives match up very closely.  The 2V0-642 exam has one main new Objective which covers Cross-vCenter.

In terms of reading material i would highly recommend going through the official NSX online docs pages.  Lots of mindless reading but you will find that exam questions come straight out of that.  And truthfully you will learn a huge amount doing that.  Just remember to focus on version 6.2.  I’d also recommend the Cross-vCenter NSX Installation Guide PDF from VMware.  This is also in the online docs but I found the PDF easier to consume which I found to be hugely informative and the exam did test heavily on this for me.  So I was very thankful to have focused on this reading.

And that was basically it.  Practice hands on what you have learnt and read.  Troubleshoot in your lab as you are building it out.  A few solid study days on the weekend and you should be in a really good position to take and pass the exam.

 

VCP 6, My Last VCP

VMW-LGO-CERT-PRO-6-DATA-CTR-VIRT

Ok, so I say this every time but this time I mean it… well, at least I think I do.  This is my last VCP exam.  I took the VCP 5.5 Delta a few years back now.  Before that were a few VCP 5s.  There might have even been a VCP 4 thrown in there somewhere.  I’ve taken this exam more times than I want to think about.

Last week I took the VCP6-DCV Delta.  I could have held off a few more months before my VCP 5 expired but i had some spare capacity to study so I committed to retake the exam.  Work was kind enough to give me two dedicated study days to prepare.  I used them as well as I could have.  I had also hoped to get in some solid study in the weeks leading up to the exam but unforeseen personal issues got in the way which wrote that off.  So I really wasn’t feeling confident going into this exam.  To my surprise, though, I actually passed with a decent mark.

The VCP is a real solid exam for its type, it always has been.  Personally I think one of the harder ones out there too.  Of course exams like the VCAP are on a different level but as for the standard multiple choice exam it’s right up there.  VCP exams really require that you have solid experience with the technology, especially the VCP-DCV focusing on vCenter, along with vSphere Replication, a little vCloud Air thrown in, vSAN features, and the new PSC.  it has really become quite broad.

The Delta I took was comprised of 65 questions over 75 minutes, 20 questions less then the full VCP exam thankfully.  As a guide I usually work out how many questions 70% is and treat that as what’s required to pass.  It’s usually treated me well as a format for passing.  So when I scribbled down 15 questions I was uncertain with at the end of the exam I felt it could have gone either way.  I was quite worried.  So seeing that I passed in the high 400’s out of a possible 500 was quite pleasing.

I think the community has finally gotten over and accepted this 2 year expiration with VMware certifications.  I’ve never really had an issue with it.  I’ve known this is where the industry has been heading with certifications for a while now.  It doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating though.  Which is why I’m hoping I won’t have to do another one again.  Now it’s not to say that I won’t do another VMware cert.  I just have to be a little smarter and play the game a little better by upgrading to the new VCIX cert.

In any case, it’s done, it’s out the way.  I get to use the new little logo.  And, well, that’s about it 😛

Being a vExpert is a great motivation booster!

Returning from a month long Euro Trip a few weeks back I had been struggling to get back into work mode.  So it was a huge motivation boost to receive an email earlier this week welcoming me to the VMware vExpert Program as a 2015 vExpert.  I’m thrilled to have been recognised along with a lot of other amazing people.

My history with VMware products goes back to the Virtual Infrastructure and ESX Server 3 days.  I still remember my scepticism when my manager said we’re going to migrate to this virtualisation stuff.  Over the last few years VMware and Virtualisation have become a crucial part of my role in the Cloud & Managed Services department of Optus Business in Australia.

I’m really looking forward to engaging ever more with the virtualisation community throughout the remainder of the year and into next.

The 2015 second half intake of vExperts can be found here.

and the full list here.

vExpert-2015-Badge

VCE Certified Converged Infrastructure Administration Engineer (VCE-CIAE)

Last week I took and passed my VCE-CIAE certification exam.  It wouldn’t surprise me if you said what certification.  VCE™ Certified Converged Infrastructure Administration Engineer (VCE-CIAE) is a relatively new certification released by VCE™ Company back in December.  It fits into the Manage Track of their Certified Professional Program.  The program itself only being about a year old.  According to VCE™ there are currently over 4000 certified professionals

A few months back I took VCE™’s (or as I like to think of them, VMware + Cisco + EMC) 5 day Administration and Management training course.  It was held in EMC’s Melbourne office.  It was a really well run course taught by an instructor from Malaysia.

After the course I was keen to pursue VCE™ certification.  There are currently two Tracks available, Manage and Deploy, with a soon to be released Design Track, all of which contain three levels of certification.  I found the most relevant to me was the Mange Track.

Step 1 in my study was obtaining the prerequisite Associate status, VCE-CIA.  Very similar in concept to VMware’s associate program.  It’s an online exam which can be taken any time at home.  Best of all, unlike VMware’s VCA, it’s free.  Registering and taking the exam links you over to EMC’s education portal.  The exam is presented after a free 4 hour foundation course (which can be skipped at any time).  There is no time limit with a passing score of 80%, though, I don’t recall how many questions.  I did find it interesting that you get a second attempt at a question if you failed to answer correctly.  I ended up passing with 96% which I think equated one question wrong.

With the Prerequisite out the way I could now study and take the second level Administration Engineer exam.  The study material PDF from VCE™ was pretty vague.  A few links to company websites, an EMC VNX PDF, a VMware vSphere PDF, and a Cisco UCS Manager Configuration Guide.  I used the practice exams from VCE™ to gauge my rough level of knowledge.  As expected I found my weak area was Cisco UCS.  While I have hands on knowledge with all three vendors in my day to day role most Cisco UCS work is done by a different team.  So I choose to use Pluralsight’s Implementing Cisco UCS Training to fill in the missing knowledge.  It was an excellent course presented and run by Jason Nash.  This course ended up providing 98% of the Cisco material I required to pass the exam.

The exam is booked through Pearsons and currently costs $200 USD.  I found the exam itself fairly true to the practice questions provided by VCE™.  The VCE™ exam guide stated 60 questions over 90 minutes.  I ended up getting 65 questions.  I can only assume five of those questions were evaluation questions for future inclusion into the exam.  Time was not an issue at all.  As I expect I felt the exam tested on knowledge a mile wide but only an inch deep.   Unless you ask 200+ questions it’s near impossible not to do so, especially when you have three products that have individual certs in their own right.

As with the rest of the industry, VCE™ certifications expire after two years and need to be renewed.  All this does is make it ever so harder to hold onto certs in multiple disciplines nowadays with something always expiring.  Rather than immediately looking to take the third and final Master Engineer cert in the Manage Track I’ll be holding off.  The intention being to renew and upgrade my certification status at the same time in the future.

References

VCE Manage Track Homepage

VCE™ Certified Professional Program

Pluralsight: Implementing Cisco UCS

VCP5-DCV Delta Recertification Exam Is Back

In a previous post I wrote about my VCP5 Delta experience.  I’ve been meaning to write a follow-up post on that topic since passing the exam.  But now, only days after the original limited time opportunity deadline of November 30 passed.  VMware bring a new limited time opportunity until March 10, 2015 to, again, take the exam.

Now I’m holding back a bit here.  But needless to say I’m not too impressed.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry or upset over VMware bringing back the offer.  Why should I be?  I took the exam, I passed, happy days, I move on.  But I’m a little jaded by this.  I played by the original rules.  When VMware brought in the certification expiration I didn’t complain.  When they brought out the original recertification offer I jumped on it.  Despite the short window of offer and a busy schedule I made the time.

For the people that didn’t make the time for the recertification, or couldn’t be bothered, or just had other more important commitments, too bad –right?!?!  Well, clearly no.

Look through the sales and marketing and VMware would have realised that a lot of current VCP holders are going to lose their certification.  They probably expected a higher number of new certifications to outpace upcoming expiries but that probably hasn’t been happening.

So VMware brought out the Delta Recertification.  This great idea to help recertify us.  Just the new material and less questions.  The only thing is, most people didn’t see it that way.  Most people felt it was just another way to gouge more money from us, or they just couldn’t be bother reaffirming what they’ve already done once before.

That brings us to now.  VMware are now more clearly promoting the cost savings and the ability to take the exam online from anywhere.  It’s three month left before the VCP expiry starts to kick in for us.  Many of us certification holders are starting to take Christmas and New Year’s break to spend with the family and away from work and VMware and have no interest in taking the exam.

They have to be worried, right?  It’s in VMware’s best interest to hold onto us.  Will people take VMware up on the extended offer?  Maybe.  I think a lot of VCPs made their thoughts know by not taking up the original offer.

So what happens when March 10 comes around?  Well, I think a lot of people are going to lose their certification and are not going to care.  I think there are going to be a lot of angry people around when they realise they might have to take the vSphere prerequisite courses again.  I then think VMware are going to come out with another offer to help recertify people again.

 

VMware Education Article
https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=51919&ui=www_cert

 

Original Post
VCP5-DCV Delta Done and Dusted

 

VCP5-DCV Delta done and dusted

Over the weekend logic and common sense failed me and I decided to sit my VCP5-DCV Delta Exam.  Since VMware introduced a recertification policy back in March 2014 I’ve been buying my time to renew.  My deadline was approaching and with the limited time offer to sit a Delta exam recertification I jumped on it.

To date I’ve seen nothing out there on user experiences taking the Delta exam, though, it’s only been three weeks since the VCP5-DCV Delta exam has been available.  So unfortunately taking this exam would be unchartered waters.  I’ve been psyching myself up all week so that wasn’t going to phase me 🙂

I had my plan ready for first thing Saturday morning.  I would fire up the vSphere environment on my new NUC test lab.  Download all the PDFs in the VCP5-DCV Delta Blueprint.  Then cram like I’ve never crammed before over 48 hours and take the exam Sunday night.

Step 1 was Requesting Authorization on the VMware MyLearn site.  I had already performed this earlier on in the week and was authorized the same day, my authorization was valid for 10 years, I guess just in case I became a little busy.  Step 2 was booking for the VCP550D exam on the Pearsons website first thing Saturday morning.  There’s nothing like preparing for an exam than knowing you’ve already paid to take it.  The exam cost was $130 AUD ($120 USD).

Next I downloaded and studied the Blueprint.  65 questions over 75 minutes, that’s 1 minute 15 seconds per a question.  Vmware are notorious for pushing time limits in exams 🙁  The MyLearn site states that only new material between vSphere 5.0/5.1 and vSphere 5.5 would be on the exam yet the blueprint contained everything that would be in a full VCP exam.  This made study a little difficult.  I wasn’t going to study everything obviously.  So I took advantage of the FREE 1-hr online course -VMware vSphere: What’s New Fundamentals of V5.5 to help prepare for the exam.  I used that has the basis of what I needed to study.  The online course was a good starting point of where to start the deep dives into the PDFs.  What I found was absent in the video, but clearly mentioned on the blueprint, was vCOPs and vSAN.  Something to keep in mind.

Next came the mind numbingly hard part of reading the PDFs.  I focused heavily on some of the new guides, In particular, the Replication guide, Data Protection, and Storage.  By Sunday afternoon (after a day and half of reading) I had covered most of the material in the PDFs.  The only exception being the three vCOPS PDFs totalling 400 pages which I refused to read!

Next came taking a few practice exams off the VMware MyLearn site.  I knew the questions would be broader than the Delta exam so I just focused on the new 5.5 material.

As the end of Sunday approached it was time to take the exam.  Now If it’s not clear by this point, this is an online exam.  For the people that don’t know what that means.  It is an open book exam!  Now I don’t want hate messages.  It’s an open book exam!

So this is where my three monitors got put to good use.  Monitor 1, the exam window.  Monitor 2, Google.  Monitor 3, the Advanced Search function of Adobe Reader set to search all PDFs in the Blueprint folder.

Now if you’ve read this far, plain and simply, I’m not going to give you the answers.  I feel, though, based on my experience I can comfortably recommend what you need to be studying.  So know your vSAN, know your vFlash, know your VDP, and know Replication.  It felt like the lower end of 50% -- 75% was this new material and the rest was standard VCP knowledge material that we should all know.  Looking at the exam at a high level it’s set in the format of a traditional VCP exam.  So if you can remember back to your last one expect the same types of questions worded the same way.

Where I felt I was weak on and would also recommend.  Know your vSphere Editions and high level vCOPs 😉  If you’ve done your VCA-DCV certification you’ll been fine with that knowledge for vCOPs.  Just focus on your knowledge of what Badges are and what they are comprised of.

So now long story short I am recertified for another 728 days.

As an open disclaimer I’ve been using vSphere 5.5 since day one of release.  I’ve been closely following all the new technologies that have been accompanying vSphere 5.5.  Keep that in mind before you say this was a paper certification.

References

Recertification Policy

VCP5-DCV Delta recertification exam

Pearsons VMware exam registration site

My VCA experience

When a friend sent me a link to the offical VMware Certified Associate (VCA) site shortly after release I have to admit I wasn’t too impressed.  I think my official response back to him was ‘meh’.   You had this exam track that you could take online, at home.  What challenge is that?!?  It looked like a cert targeted at the virtualization sales consultant.  But then came October and I strangely changed my opinion.  VMware had a few offers on table, when combined, allowed you to sit the exam for free.  How could you refuse!

I heard about the offers mid October and was already in the middle of unrelated study with some tight deadlines.  Never the less on the following quiet Friday after work I sat down and read through the blueprint of the VCA -- Data Center Virtualization exam.  It all looked very straight-forward.  Watch a 2.5 hour training course and a handful of short PDF {marketing} documents.  I think I got about 20 minutes into the fundamentals training video and skipped to the end.  The plan prior was to study and take the exam on Sunday.  Being free, though, I thought what the hell and just sat the exam right there and then.  75 minutes and 50 questions to answer.  It took me 35-40 minutes to complete the exam.  I scored somewhere around 430.  There was some satisfaction but I was really searching for it.  The questions held no real technical depth.  It was really more around knowing the concepts and basic vSphere terminology.

So confident I was, a few days later (Sunday), I sat the VCA Cloud exam.  Out of the three Certification tracks VMware have, Cloud is no doubt my weakest one.  Never the less I applied my same logic from the VCA-DCV --It’s a free exam and I can always take it again.  A few questions into the exam and I new I was in trouble.  Against better judgement I opened up a browser window and started searching for answers.  Great, I was starting to find the answers now.  But time was against me.  I couldn’t find the answers fast enough.  I finished the exam with 5 minutes left and wasn’t feeling confident.  I failed with a 298.  What are the odds that I failed by 2 points.  Pretty good if you search the net.  People always fail by 1, 2, or 3 points.

Feeling embarrassed I went to bed to rethink my VCA-Cloud tactics.  The following Friday night I pulled up the Cloud blueprint.  Took the 3 hour course video and read through the PDF documents referenced in the blueprint.  Saturday morning, I woke up, opened up a browser full of tabs on VMware Cloud material and sat the exam.  This time the answers came much easier to me.  With no need to reference any online material, bar one question, I completed the exam in 40 minutes with a score of 485.  With a little more satisfaction and much needed vindication I tried to find some pride in the score.  Not bad for one nights study.  Though we’ll ignore the fact that more than half the questions were the same as my first attempt.

Time was against me in the month of October and I wasn’t able to sit the third VCA-WM end user (Desktop) exam.  The multiple discount codes to sit the VCA exams for free have now ended.  One VMware offer still exists till the end of the year to sit the exams for half price.  Normally $120 US  you can sit it for $60.  I have to admit my interest to pay (only) $60 to sit a VCA isn’t really there.  My only motivation is really to just get that Hat-Trick.

In a recent VMware Communities Roundtable podcast with John Arrasjid (@vcdx001), they spoke about the VCA track.  It was an interesting podcast that helped answer a lot of questions I had around the VCA track.  They spoke about the objective of the VCA track.  Its intended target audience.  Why it was chosen to be an ‘Open Book’ exam.  Oddly it didn’t even occur to me that it was expect you would search for the answers online during the exam.

While my criticism of the VCA track has somewhat diminished I still have my doubts on it’s validity in the community.  I was a little worried about being so negative in the post.  But the truth is these are just my opinions and I just needed to get it out there.

vca_certs

VCP today

-- Part 2 --

Well, exactly two weeks after taking my VCP510 exam I received a confirmation email from VMware on the status of my VCP5 certification.  I say status, and not approval, because there are still steps that need to be taken in the myEducation portal.

During the research in taking my VCP and the process of what happens after you take an exam I found a lot of people in a similar boat to me, confused about what to do next.  I touched on some of this stuff in my previous post “VCP today, I think?!?!“.  So for this post I thought I might exam what happens after you take the VCP exam.

So after you take you exam –and I’ll assume you pass.  If you’re like me you’ll face a nervous wait to receive an email from VMware confirming whether you have met all the prerequisites.  For people who had taken the exam around February 2012 the wait was as long as 4-6 weeks.  At this time of year the wait is much less.

The email states there are three things I need to do before my transcript will reflect my certification status.

--  Confirm your shipping address

--  Consent to transcript release

--  Accept the VMware Certification Agreement

After logging into myEducation Portal and selecting myTasks.  I could now see a new Plan with an option to Manage.  Selecting this brings up very detailed track list of prerequisite courses and exams.  VMware should make this list accessible as it would make understanding the certification process much easier.

 

It would appear that the VMware email is a little out of date as there is now a fourth item that needs to be completed in addition to the above three.  You now also need to select the link to request a VMware Workstation 8 license.  Kind of a strange step, but a free license, I’m more than happy to go along with it.

Once all completed, the progress should now state Completed at the top right of the Plan.  VMware say to wait 24 hours for the certification to appear on your transcript.  I received an email a couple hours later.

Unfortunately the process continues.  The mailed out certificate takes 4-6 weeks to arrive and access to the VCP Portal takes up to 2 weeks.  But hey, at least I’m finally recognised as VMware certified.

Appendix

Part 1 -- VCP Today, I think?!?!

VCP today, I think?!?!

-- Part 1 --

Finally after two years I’ve managed to make the effort to sit my VMware Certified Professional exam.  In itself, not really news worthy.  So why is it up on failsys?  Well… because of the process I went through.

Anyone can sit a VCP exam, but pass or fail, to become certified by VMware you need to attend certain authorised training courses first and meet VMware’s prerequisites.  Two years back I attended the vSphere: Configure, Install, Manage [V4] course.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was a great course.  The instructor was knowledgeable and knew how to sell, present, and generally get the most out of the course material.  After this four day course I expect to be able to sit the exam.  At the conclusion of the course speaking to the instructor, someone who had sat the exam and going through practice tests, I realise that I was nowhere near ready.  The exam went well beyond the high level overview of course material on how HA worked.  You needed to know more than just the concepts about SANs, iSCSI, FC.  Stuff that I thought I had but realised might not be good enough.

VMware provide a thorough Exam Blueprint document that is intended to provide all the objectives of the exam and links to VMware documentation that cover those areas.  The amount of documents and pages to read is quite disheartening.  Fortunately work paid for the course but I still felt a little cheated afterwards.

Fast forward 18 months later, vSphere 5 had just been released, and I had still not sat the VCP exam.  In between that time I had happily studied and passed other non VMware exams.  So when a new job asked what training I would like to do chose vSphere: What’s New [V5].

Image 1. Requirements as of November 2011

What’s New [V5], at the time and still is, solely not good enough to become certified.  In late 2011 you still needed to have sat the vSphere ICM [V5] course or during the certification grace period currently be a VCP4.  I would either have to sit the VCP4 exam or talk work into also sending me on the full vSphere ICM [V5] course.

Fast forward another 6 months.  The prerequisites have changed a few times and now allows a non VCP4 holder with the right qualifying course to take the VCP5 exam.  When I was offered an exam voucher at the end of last month I decided to cram and finally take this exam.

Image 2. Requirements pre June 2012 (notice the non specific VCP4 course requirements)

Image 3. Requirements on VMware Training website June 2012

So after two years I’ve finally sat the exam and believe I finally met the complex and ever changing VCP requirements.  From what I gather the VMware certification process after passing the exam can take as long as 6 weeks.  Seems like VMware lack Microsoft’s automation in this process.

I have mix opinions on this whole process.  I’m one of those people that like certifications.  They’re certainly not, ‘the be all to end all’, but they are a nice to have.  They show that you’ve gone that extra mile when you didn’t have to.  I’ve seen many resumes over the years pass my desk.  Many students, fresh from Indian University, and more certifications on their CV than I can count on my fingers.  Too many certifications can obviously be a bad thing when not put in context.

VMware’s approach of having to meet course requirements is a good start.  It is frustrating though when those courses have little relevance to the exams.  It feels like a token donation (a large donation at that) to the training provider to achieve certification.  When you have Indian training institutes selling budget courses due to the high turnover of students and other regions around the world paying high premiums it does seem unfair.

In all honestly I’d like the see the prices of courses come down, maybe 5 day courses shorten to balance the price reduction.  To counter this, courses and / or certifications could only be obtained with a corporate sponsor.  Now lets be completely honest here.  VMware courses are very specifically directed at the experience IT worker who has been in the industry at least 24 months.  Having a corporate sponsor (not a training institute) would dramatically cut down on paper certification university students fresh out of school.

Are there better ways?

Appendix

VMware VCP Homepage

VCP5 Blueprint (Login Required)

Part 2 -- VCP Today