Tag Archives: EMC

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

Dynamic Distribution Groups –dynamically disturbing

If you haven’t seen or used Dynamic Distribution Groups (DDG) in Exchange before, which rock have you been hiding under?  DDG has been around since Exchange 2007 and its precursor Query-based Distribution groups way back since Exchange 2000.  QBDG never seemed to get too much attention.  With the introduction of Exchange 2007 and PowerShell it’s become a lot easier to use and manage.

DDG works by querying Active Directory for object attributes. For example, Company Name or Department.  So the foundation of fully functioning DDGs is having an actively updated and maintained AD.  As everything Exchange, you can manage DDG in either the Exchange Management Console or via PowerShell.  EMC is great for quick and dirty work but PowerShell is where you can do some cool stuff with DDGs.

DDG has been on my mind recently so this was a great opportunity to not only touch on how to create and manage a DDG but also around some of the issues around them.

Creating a DDG via the console wizard is very easy and self-explanatory.  So I won’t go delve to deep into it.

Step to create are as follows…

Open the EMC

Navigate to Recipient Configuration -> Distribution Groups

Using the Action Pane select new Distribution Dynamic Group

The Dynamic Distribution Wizard will run.  Enter a name for the new distribution group and click next.

Select mailbox types to filter by (default is all) and click next.

Create your conditions and click next.

The final screen gives you a summary detailing your options.  Clicking New will create the DDG.

The console wizard has a number of limitations, namely you only have the option to query off three main attributes, State or Province, Department, and Company plus a half dozen or so custom attributes (which I’ve never used).  For many organisations though this is more than sufficient in creating those generic company and department wide lists.  It’s only when you start working with PowerShell that you can really take advantage of DDGs, but be mindful of how elaborate (or complicated) you get.

The PowerShell command to create a DDG is New-DynamicDistributionGroup.  So as an example, say you set the Company attribute under the Organisation tab within all AD User objects.  We would execute the following PowerShell script to create our new company wide Distribution List.

New-DynamicDistributionGroup –name “My Mailing List” –recipientfilter “(Company –eq ‘My Company Name’)” –recipientcontainer ‘mydomain.local’

Fairly straight forward right?  We specify in recipient filter to use the Company attribute and make sure it equals our company name.  If it does, the user will be part of our new distribution list called “My Mailing List”.

The important part to make note here of is the –recipientcontainer parameter.  By default when you create a DDG in PowerShell it will only run its query against the default Users container.  By specifying mydomain.local we are tell the query to run from the root of our domain and include all sub OU containers.

Say you want to now modify your new DDG to query only users in a particular OU called Australia.

Set-DynamicDistributionGroup –identity “My Mailing List” –recipientContainer “OU=Australia,DC=mydomain,DC=local”

The command is similar to our initial one.  We’re telling the script which DDG to modify but this time we only need to put the parameter we want to change.

To view who has been added to this DDG we would type the follow

$Users = Get-DynamicDistributionGroup –Identity “My Mailing List”

Get-Recipient –RecipientPreviewFilter $Users

What about something we can’t do in the EMC with Dynamic Distribution Lists?  Okay, say we are setting the Managers attribute in our organisation on User objects to specify who their manager / team leader is within AD.  We could create a team mailing list that would add users automatically as they move between managers / teams.

New-DynamicDistributionGroup -name "Team Leader Mailing List" -recipientfilter "((Manager -eq 'cn=Jane Doe,ou=Employees,ou=Australia,dc=mydomain,dc=local') -or (Name -eq 'Jane Doe'))" –recipientcontainer ‘mydomain.local’

There’s two parts to this command.  Firstly we query any users whose managers is called Jane Doe, and the only way to do this is to specify our manager’s full LDAP path.  The second part is actually telling the script to statically add in the manager of the team -as they won’t be managing themselves and would most likely have a different manager specified.

You can even add users of security groups to a DDG.  I’d only recommend this is very specific circumstances.  Only because you’re basing a dynamic list of a static list.  You may have good reason to do this however (e.g. You may have to add addition recipients but not want them part of the security group).

New-DynamicDistributionGroup -name "My Mailing List" -recipientfilter "((MemberOfGroup -eq My Security Group’) -or (Name -eq 'Jane Doe') -or (Name -eq 'John Doe'))" -recipientContainer 'mydomain.local'

Don’t get carried away with Dynamic Distribution Groups just because you can manage to find a query to add anyone you want.  The above script is a perfect example.

Things to make note of…

Don’t implement a Dynamic Distribution Group if it adds users that haven’t been requested part of a list.  These situations call for tradition distribution groups.  Forcing a DDG onto a team with superfluous users doesn’t achieve anything.

Be careful of users hijacking onto the back of a Dynamic Distribution Group.  DDGs are based on AD attributes.  Depending on your environment, users will be able to update certain attributions on their OU object.  If a user is allowed to update their own Title and your DDGs are based off Titles.  A user can move themselves in and out of Distribution Lists at will.

You will not be able to view DDGs through Outlook.  This is by design as you don’t want to overload AD with constant queries on distribution groups.  Keep this in mind when a user rings up asking why they are not part of a list.

Lastly, remember the -recipientcontainer parameter in your script.  I always forget this 🙂