My ramblings about all things technical

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VCDX Spotlight: Niels Hagoort

Name: Niels Hagoort

Twitter Handle: @NHagoort

Blog URL:

Current Employer: YaWorks

VCDX #: 212

How did you get into using VMware?

I was working at an ISP back in the days. One day we decided to create a platform for customer to host VPS (Virtual Private Servers). I did the VI3.5 course and obtained the VCP3 certification. So that project was actually my first experience with VMware. After that, I was pretty much hooked and became an instant fan of virtualization and VMware in specific!

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I wanted to know if I could do it. I’ve spoken to several Dutch VCDX holders, and was curious to see if I got what it take to become VCDX. Next to that, it does look really sweet on your CV because it still is a pretty exclusive certification. J

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

Well, I actually took almost half a year ‘off’ between getting both VCAP’s and beginning with my VCDX application. So I guess, all in all, it took me a year after deciding I wanted to give it a shot.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

I would like to say to them to take all the known VCDX clichés into account, but do pave your own path to VCDX. Believe in your own approach to actually apply for it. Do not get ‘scared’ of by some of the stories dwelling around on the internet. If you have questions about VCDX, reach out to a mentor / current holder. Another important one; set realistic targets for yourself and stick to it!

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Not that much I guess… Knowing what I know now (having experienced an actual defense), I would have definitely gone for it earlier on that I did.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

So life does go on, but it was definitely worth it!! Although the VCDX track is there to verify you as an architect, I did learn a lot during my journey. All in all, it made me a better architect than I was before.

My employer, my customers and people around me were over the moon with the result, as was I. It was also very cool to see all the good vibes from the VMware community on me passing the defense!

It is a little bit harder to explain what VCDX beholds to people not familiar with it, but the part that it still is a very exclusive certification to have is very well received and instantly respected.

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VCDX Spotlight – Konrad Clapa

Name: Konrad Clapa

Twitter Handle: @clapa_konrad

Current Employer: AtoS

VCDX #: 211

How did you get into using VMware?

I first learned about VMware at University doing an internship in Spain as a Systems Technician. I was very much into networking and I got amazed what possibilities virtualization could bring and I made me to make a change in my future career. I decided to do my thesis on Servers Virtualization. No one was really interested in it at that timeJ.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I haven’t really planned to do VCDX. I always found VMware exams very challenging comparing to other Vendors. Having VCP certificate few years ago was an achievement. When I did my first VCAP I understood I can actually do more, but still did not think about VCDX as an achievable goal. There were less than 200 people in the world with that accreditation! When I got my second VCAP I thought, “OK, let’s do it”.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

Well there are 2 things actually. One is the time I needed to get proper experience and second is the time to prepare and pass all exams. I believe you really need to have Enterprise experience to pass VCDX as it is not only about technology. Thankfully, I always worked with big customers in Atos so it was a natural process for me. I believe it took me minimum 2 year to pass all the exams. But I would not be able to make it if I did not get the hands-on experience in the first place.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

There are few things. First, stop thinking that there is any limit to what you can achieve. Second, take small steps. Third, understand that VCDX is not only about technology. Fourth, know EVERYTHING about you designs. Fifth, do mock exams with people that can really challenge you.

Last but not the least, find a Mentor.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I will not lie. VCDX journey took part of my private life away and you really need to take it into account. I did and I actually took some weeks of holidays just to concentrate only on VCDX. However, I would not really do anything differently. I took every opportunity to prepare and learn about the program. We had lot of on-line mock exams with my peer Krzysztof – invaluable. I also prepared myself mentally for the exam and possible result. I wanted to pass it in first attempt but I thought if I don’t then I am not there yet. It allowed me to accept both scenarios and get confidence.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

Getting my application accepted was already a big achievement for me so I really felt like on a cloud nine! When I got a phone call from my peer in the morning saying ‘results are out, I passed!’. I set in front of my laptop, browsed my mails and found out that I was VCDX #211! That was a day I had champagne for breakfast! (Btw. I was on my annual leave at that timeJ).

I still think that VCDX is not as recognizable as it should be. We did get a lot of recognition from colleagues that understand what VCDX is but I guess it will take some more time for people to understand the real value. So was it worth? – yes definitely! The thing that I was most happy about was that I did stand in from of the panellist and I did defend my own design! I would definitely do it again just for this experience!

Btw. I would like to thank Krzysztof Hermanowski for all the time spent late evenings doing mock exams. Artur Krzywdzinski and Magnus Andersson for all the useful tips I got. AtoS colleagues for all the support. Also all guys from the Study group.

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Finally I made it to a #UKVMUG

Yesterday I finally made it to my first #UKVMUG. They have been running for five years but each time they have happened I’ve been unable to attend either due to having attended VMworld so also attending UKVMUG would be pushing my luck or I couldn’t motivate a day not billing time to a customer. This year I didn’t attend any VMworld’s so made sure I booked out the day to attend and I’m really glad I did.

My day started a bit later than most attendees as I had to drop off my daughter at nursery as it opened and then drive the 93 miles to the Birmingham motorcycle museum where the UKVMUG was being held. I unfortunately missed the keynote by EMEA CTO Joe Bagueley as well as my mention alongside colleague Sam McGeown for our achieving of our VCDX’s and the award of shirts until our vouchers for the official VCDX shirts come through.  Thanks to Alaric and the rest of the UKVMUG crew for printing this for me =0)

image1 image2

I then spoke to quite a few fellow London VMUG attendees as well as peers from twitter and was very very appreciative of all the VCDX congratulations from so many of them.

I then attended a discussion by Zerto all around their offering and what has been released in their new version. A really great product and very interesting alternative to VMware SRM and vSphere Replication.

I then attended a session by two current and one ex Xtravirt employees around finding the silver lining in vCAC/vRA projects and the sharing of their war stories. Certainly some really great advice from the guys and the most important bit of advice around integrating tests and error reporting into your vCO/vRO workflows from the beginning.


It was then lunch time where again I spoke to a number of current and ex colleagues as well as fellow London VMUG regulars as well as fellow vBrownbag host (albeit he is on a sabbatical from it at present) Josh Atwell. Mike Laverick then did his swag bag raffle that he does every year in aid of charity which this year had raised £470 and the winner was Sean Killen.


After some talking shop with some vendors I made my way to the “VMware’s Virtual SAN: A technical Deep Dive and Product Roadmap buy Christos Karamanolis and Lee Dilworth. the session was very interesting and Christos certainly gave in-depth explanations around VSAN, I just wish they had spent more time on the roadmap and new features in the releases due in Q1 next year.


Next was a session by Frank Buechsel who is one of my fellow EMEA vBrownbag co-hosts who presented all around vRealize Automation-Lessons Learned. To say Frank didn’t sound like a big fan of vRA and the sheer complexity of getting a production setup working (tell me about it I’ve spent the last year of my life doing this) would be an understatement and I actually asked him at the end if he had anything nice to say about vRA which he did say it is a brilliant product but the errors are far too vague and the start-up and shutdown orders of a distributed installation are a nightmare.

Doing the closing keynote was then the illustrious John Troyer. It was a brilliant keynote all around how to try architect your IT career and how you need to keep learning new skills as the skills you have now will most likely be replaced/redundant in less than ten years. Poor John did seem to be suffering from a cold and jet lag but gave great advice. It was also great to hear a mention of the vBrownbag in his discussion. Thanks for that John :)


Then it was the aptly named “The Red Wedding” ( G.o.T SPOLIER ALERT!! ) section of the day where Jane Rimmer, Alaric and Stuart all announced they would be stepping down as leaders of the London VMUG and UKVMUG after 25 years of service between them to allocate more time to their jobs and hobbies. These three have been amazing in building the community and dedicating so much of their time to the user group. Simon Gallagher hasn’t stepped down so that’s one consolation from it.If you think you could dedicate the time and are interested in becoming a leader then there is a survey available to complete as part of the process. this closes next Thursday so get your interest in ASAP.

Last but not least Pietro Piutti was generous enough to bring me over a few bottles of beer from the only certified trappist brewery in Rome. Not sure about the eucalyptus they add but man it was good. Not a Westvleteren 8 but it still got 4.75 out of 5 on untappd :D


It was a brilliant day and I certainly will be aiming to attend again next year even though I plan to attend the US VMworld next year also.



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VCDX Spotlight: Jason Grierson

Name: Jason Grierson

Twitter Handle: @JasonTweet7889

Blog URL:

Current Employer: Cisco Systems

VCDX #: 206

How did you get into using VMware?

I started just prior vMotion being introduced. I was working for a loaning company at the time which was an early adopter of VMware. At the time I was lucky to be part of the project to upgrade to the latest version and saw vMotion for the first time. I knew right then this would change the way Datacenters would work.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I had been working with VMware for a number of years now and had held my VCP since 3.5 upgrading it along the way. I figured it was just time to strive for my VCDX. Why couldn’t I reach the VCDX and what harm would come in trying. Little did I know where the journey would really take me.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

Between the VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD and VCDX the journey took me a year and half pretty well.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

My advice would be to go for it! It’s not an unachievable exam that sits on a pedestal. It’s a lot of hard work and time commitment but in the end the lessons you will learn while striving for your VCDX is priceless. You will become a much better architect and meet many others striving for the same thing which will only expand your network of professionals. The lessons learned along this journey will only better your career no matter where you end up going.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Umm I don’t really know lol. I would probably focus more on my defence probably knowing what I know now. Also there would probably be sections of my design I could improve on.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

Life after my VCDX has gone back to normal for the most part now that the dust has settled. My company was very excited that I passed and send out a Canadian wide email so now there a lot more VMware questions being fielded my way lol. Was it worth it, yes absolutely! I couldn’t imagine the growth in my career or where an exam track would take me and am extremely appreciative of all of those who helped me along the way. I’m also beyond over joyed to have my VCDX # and am looking forward to seeing my Partner achieve his soon as well.

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TurboStack Home Lab of the big and most popular skills that a large number of organisations nowadays are looking for is OpenStack experience and knowledge. But being able to learn this on VMware Fusion or VMware workstation isn’t always very easy and no one wants to pull apart their VMware environment either. So then the competition VMturbo are running at the moment around giving away a TurboStack Home Lab is perfect for those people like me wanting to learn OpenStack. VMTurbo are giving away an individually assembled TurboStack homelab that will be assembled by a VMTurbo engineer with the following specifications:

  • 1x Intel NUC NUC5i5RYK
  • 2x Corsair 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1x 256GB Samsung 850 Evo mSATA Drives
  • 1x Synology DS415 4-Bay NAS
  • 2x Western Digital 1TB 3.5″ SATA Drives
  • 1x Cisco SG300 10-Port Gigabit Managed Switch
  • 5x Ethernet Cables

Leveraging the OpenStack Juno build, the TurboStack also includes a full NFR License to VMTurbo 5.2.

In order to bring control to OpenStack, VMTurbo has contributed to Nova (Compute), Cinder (Block Storage), Ceilometer (Telemetry), and Keystone (Identity) with the intention of bringing OpenStack confidently to your data center through community contribution, and with our industry leading demand-driven control platform.

So watch the video ,submit your entry form and good luck!




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VCDX Resources

I made it fairly public when I failed my first VCDX attempt that I was going to go all in for my second attempt and set myself a serious list of resources I was going to go through for it. I’ve received a lot of messages from people asking did I use all those resources and is all of that really necessary to obtain a VCDX number? There’s a few answers to this so I thought I’d write up this blog posting to cover it:

  1. Did you use all those resources!!?? Honestly yes and no, yes I used each of them during my preparations but I didn’t read and watch every single one from start to finish due to time constraints and also deciding at a point that focused preparations was a better method. Now this focused method was still fairly wide and I even used resources that were not even on the list, one of the biggest was the soon to be released “The Art of IT Infrastructure Design” by John Arrasjid @vcdx001 Mark Gabryjelski @MarkGabbs & Chris McCain @hcmccain.
  2. Which of those resources helped you the most?? Hard to say as each of them filled gaps in my knowledge. What I will say though is that for some of them they went into details I knew I would never remember but for ones like the 5 different HA states I made sure I learn them by adding them to my quizlet to test myself so they would be burnt in my memory ( Running,Partitioned,Isolated,Failed and FDM Agent Down in case you were wondering). I knew I had gaps in my knowledge and after speaking to colleagues and peers and asking them about their area of expertise I would then be able to see how far I had to go to learn. A few of these came from mock sessions where people would ask me about for example “How would your design have changed if the customer asked for FCoE?” or ” What mechanisms did you use to span the VLANs between the two sites?” , these showed me I needed to learn about not just the storage mechanism in my design but how it would have looked if they asked for something else and that I needed to T Skill on networking and truly understand why certain things were done.
  3. How did you find the time to go through these!!?? A few methods helped me do this:
    1. I would watch Pluralsight videos at 1.5x speed. I’ve been doing this for ages not just for CBT videos but also podcasts and you get used to it really quickly.
    2. Pluralsight lets you download a certain amount of videos to view offline on your tablet or even phone. I would watch the videos whilst at the gym on the bike, on the plane back and forth from my current project in Rotterdam as well as the train and metro back and forth to Rotterdam.
    3. As mentioned above I would watch CBT videos, read books, read blogs and listen to podcasts whilst commuting back and forth each week. I also would read and watch them in the hotel most evenings before going out for dinner or even get room service and just spend the evening doing that.
    4. I’m still trying to perfect this but after reading so much I seem to be getting closer and closer to being able to speed read whilst still retaining what I read. If I went to school now they would possibly diagnose me as ADHD so it certainly took me a fair amount of time to focus my mind and block out external noise (my wife isn’t too keen on this new skill :) ) For this to work I’ve found a certain font and size via my kindle works best and I would ask myself after each page if I could explain what I had just read to someone and if I couldn’t I would reread it until I felt I could.
  4. What about new versions for example vSphere 6.0? True none of the resources I listed were even 5.5 per se nevermind vSphere 6. My design was a 5.0 design so I needed to ensure I remembered what was possible then but I did relatively keep up to date on the latest versions and what was possible. As rob Nolen mentioned in a vBrownbag we did around the VCDX, a good architect should know about the latest versions and what decisions you may have made in your 5.0 design that you would have changed now knowing where the newer versions have gone to ensure ease of upgrading (I paraphrase here).  It was hard to try not get mixed up between new features and what was possible in 5.0 so one bit of advice I would give is try submit a design for VCDX as soon after designing it as possible or upgrade your design to the latest version of vSphere 5 or even vSphere 6.

For the resources like most of the things for the VCDX it’s all about making time for it and realistically looking at how you spend your time and how you can use it more efficiently. I was catching the 6:50 flight to Amsterdam every Monday morning after waking up at 3:30 am to make it to the airport and through Heathrow in time to board and 99% of the time I looked around the cabin everyone but me had their eyes closed and was trying to get another hour of sleep. It’s not easy at time but you have to ask yourself how badly do you want it.



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What Changed Between My Two VCDX Design Submissions

I’ve been asked quite a few times what did I do differently in my architecture design between my first submission and my second so I thought why not put out a posting around some of those changes whilst not breaking NDA and also still making people work at it so they learn like I had to which has benefited me greatly.

  1. The first change was that after my defence I did what Lior has  recommended in his VCDX Attempt, Strike One – Part 3 posting and wrote down all the places I thought I was lacking and needed to strengthen for my next attempt. I also ensured that the feedback I got from the panel around my weaknesses (these are fairly generic for eg. “ Recoverability was lacking in the logical design” ) were addressed in my design so that I wouldn’t have those problems next time.
  2. I got good design review feedback from peers and my mentor that were also generic in that they told me to look at an area and think about all the decisions there without telling me what was wrong. This may seem harsh but I think it’s the best way and keeps to the mentors “code of conduct” as it makes you learn how you can do better without someone telling you what to change as then 1. You aren’t learning and 2. It’s your design not theirs.
  3. The next change was one that took quite a while due to me having to retrofit it into my design but I implemented and applied the requirements matrix mapping Rene mentions in his posting to ensure I had clear mapping between my conceptual,logical and physical design sections. A large portion of this was implementing all of the design decision tables into my design for all my design decisions. This method was/is brilliant and really makes you think about every possible option and why not only did you choose one of them but why you didn’t choose the others. This also helps you remember in the defence why you made these decisions and why the others weren’t the most optimal. An example of one of the logical design tables that I had for VDC is below:Design Decision – DRS Enhanced vMotion Compatibilityimage
  4. I  read through my whole design whilst doing the requirements matrix mapping and with now more experience as an architect behind me made improvements to my design and simplified wherever possible so that the solution not only met the customers requirements but was also operationally easier to manage once I walked out the door. This also applied to my operations guide where I made improvements.
  5. I ensured all my physical design decisions mapped to validation/tests within my validation guide thereby proving I had validated them and the test we ran to prove this. As stated before my design was a real world design so these tests were actual ones I had done before and actually had in my original submission but the mapping of these ensured there was a clear link from conceptual all the way to validation.
  6. I standardised and simplified all my diagrams. For my diagrams I had a few that I had used varying colours for when I first built the design to make it look flash but all it made them look like were that they came from different sources. For my design I tried to standardise all the colouring and not make the colours neon colours and also simplified them where applicable so they made more sense.

If you want to read about my utter joy about passing the VCDX then have a look at my VCDX #205 posting and also my VCDX Spotlight.



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