VCDX Spotlight : Rene Van Den Bedem

Name: Rene Van Den Bedem

Twitter Handle: @SandyCloudKSA

Blog URL: sandycloudksa.tumblr.com

Current Employer: Bank AlBilad, Riyadh, KSA

VCDX #: 133

How did you get into using VMware?

When I joined Bank AlBilad in 2009, we had a fledgling ESX 4.0 environment that was running some test workloads. Our Data Center was bursting at the seams with 200+ physical servers and the CIO agreed on the strategy to virtualise all physical workloads where possible, instead of expanding the Data Center and continuing down the physical server path. So someone had to own it and that person was me.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

In 2012, I convinced the Bank that a major investment in vSphere training (ICM, VSOS, Design Workshop) was required since vSphere was a critical platform for delivering infrastructure services. During that training sequence, I decided to lead by example and took the VCP and VCAP-DCA/DCD exams. From there I figured, “Is the design I implemented at the Bank good enough for VCDX? Let me find out.” Little did I know the time and effort it would take to get there, but I am glad I did it.

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

vSphere Training started in September 2012, final VCAP exam in December 2012 -> 18 months to VCDX.

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

Do it, but give yourself time to develop the skills necessary to succeed. If you want to evolve as an architect and be the best that you can be, DO IT. However, it is tougher for people who are non-native English speakers, use a fictitious design and have poor documentation skills. If you hate documentation, then VCDX may not be for you.

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

Yes, during my first attempt, the biggest mistake I made was to not join a study group of VCDX-level candidates. Join a study group to push yourself and convince a VCDX to mentor you. Otherwise your chances of success will diminish to zero.

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

Too soon to tell. But personally, it feels great. I have two years of blog posts that I have been saving up to distribute online.

Posted in VCAP, VCDX, Virtualisation, VMware | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Extra VCDX Experience achievement unlocked

Yesterday after ~450 hours of blood,sweat and daily mock panels I defended my VCDX design at the Frimley United Kingdom defences. The experience was much more pleasurable than I thought it would be and my panel were all really nice guys and I could tell they were asking me questions to try help me show my knowledge and strengthen portions where possibly my design was weak. Unfortunately when I woke this morning and checked my emails and after asking my wife to open the attachment due to being too nervous myself to do it ,it stated I was unsuccessful in my attempt.

I was certainly hoping I would crack it first time and be able to prance around like a pony at the next London VMUG with my VCDX shirts,caps,blazers and new tattoo (I’m joking on the tattoo but the rest I can’t deny I may have done Winking smile ) But all jokes aside I really learnt a substantial amount and can say without a doubt that I’m a much better architect than when I started the journey and it showed me where my knowledge needs strengthening for my resubmission in the future. I don’t think i’m going to resubmit this year for a few reasons, one being that you have to pay the entire submission fee again and I just don’t have $1200 lying around to do this but more importantly I am just looking forward to spending time with my family as I’ve been spending all my evenings and weekends for the past 6 months working on my VCDX. I will however resubmit and give it another go as I didn’t think i was miles and miles off and with more prep and strengthening in certain areas I could get it the second time around and there are numerous super intelligent current VCDX’s who only passed the second time.

There’s loads of great advice out there but i felt there wasn’t a large amount of portions from people who have failed and I can certainly understand the desire to crawl under a rock after finding out your result but i wanted to put out something around what I felt helped me for the defence yesterday as well as what I’m going to be starting to slowly go through in the next few months for my resubmit next year. However Rene van den Bedem one of my study group buddies and a newly minted VCDX #133 from the Frimley defences (without a doubt deserved) beat me to the punch on most of them in his posting this morning. So I’m going to list additional portions and complimentary portions around resources and things i felt are needed:

  1. Try put in a design that is as real world as possible. I know this isn’t easy, especially as most companies are now 100% virtualised but there are loads of projects around creating a new environment for a new exchange environment or a new department in your company and how you designed it which i’m certain can meet most of the VCDX blueprint requirements. Also if you are going to fictionalise portions don’t try and put in too much as real world customers need to operationally maintain this after you leave and if you have done some no doubt amazing custom configurations but they mean when an upgrade is due you have to change half the environment then you will be called up on this.
  2. Eat,sleep ,VCDX ,repeat. As you can tell by the hours I estimate I put into my submission ~450 and the hours Rene put into his two submissions ~1000, the VCDX is an all encompassing goal where you have to be willing to spend your evenings and weekends for months and months working on the design and there will be loads of points where you feel like giving up and you question why you decided to do this (mine normally came when it was warm weather outside and I was sat trying to decide on VMware security settings). BUT the amount I have learnt from it I fully believe and have already noticed tangibly has made me a better architect and forced me to gain new skills.     Success Kid - Eat,Sleep VCDX,Repeat
  3. Join a study group ASAP. For this submission I had it planned in my head from almost the middle of last year when i passed my VCAP-DCD that i was going to go for the VCDX. I coaxed a whole bunch of guys I know from the London VMUG to put in their interest to defend this year at Frimley which partially resulted in there being two defences in the UK this year Smile Unfortunately due to time blurring by I ended up being the only one to submit for the April defence but I created the EMEA VCDX Study Group after getting the idea from the guys who defended at PEX and was able to gain loads of feedback around my design from people with various backgrounds and thereby strengths in different areas and had a few trial by fire mock defences. I also had a core study group of Rene and Bobby Stampfle who were both also defending at Frimley and so we worked together and did webexs almost daily for three weeks and really learnt a substantial amount from each other and even did a face to face practice this past weekend to calm our nerves and try make the defence not as scary.
  4. Gain help from the best. I’m fortunate enough to know quite a few current VCDX’s and as is the case with the VMware community everyone is really happy to help out where they can. I got a few current VCDX’s to review my design and not hold back on the  feedback as what these guys will find you can bet the panellists will find also.I know there is a plan by John Arrasjid around the academy X program and how this will help people nearing the end stages of their VCDX designs to gain some 1 on 1 help from current VCDX’s and I was getting ahead of myself and planning to ask to be part of this when I passed my VCDX as I knew the sheer benefits this has. I will certainly be working with as many top people as possible as well as my EMEA VCDX Study group.
  5. Go to a VCDX bootcamp and watch the online videos and the vBrownbag VCDX videos. These are really helpful and I attended the bootcamps at VMworld Europe last year and the one last week here in the UK. the one at VMworld was certainly a lot better possibly due to the amount of VCDX’s in the room and so the role playing for the two scenarios was much more beneficial than the one I had last week. I’ve refrained from ranting about why as I don’t think it was as helpful but I would encourage the time keeping of the VCAP bootcamp prior to be much better so that it doesn’t severely impact the VCDX bootcamp.
  6. Keep your knowledge up to date and start your design right now. For the VCDX i submitted a design I worked on over two years ago and so with a lot of my current work being around vCloud and vCAC I was rusty on some areas and needed to refresh them. Rene listed loads of top books and I did a selective few of these due to time constraints to refresh my memory on advanced HA and DRS portions and storage. I think if I had slowly kept my skills up around reading tech books like I used to the sheer amount of things I had to refresh on wouldn’t have been as much and possibly made a lot easier. Also I got asked by quite a few people about if their older designs were good enough. I’m certainly not the expert around what is and isn’t VCDX level but what I would highly recommend is getting started on your design even if you still have VCAP’s to finish as it is a very long process and the more you spread it out over time and the amount of times you go through the better design you will have in my opinion.
  7. It isn’t as scary as you think. I was a bundle of nerves for weeks before my defence but once I got in and met the moderator (i’m not sure if i’m allowed to make public the names of my panel etc so I’ll refrain from it in case) who I knew very well as well as almost my whole panel so it really felt like another VMUG or customer meeting but in front of my peers who were all really friendly rather than these levitating vBrains who sit on great thrones. The panel are there to tests your skills and will ask questions to try help you to prove your skills where maybe you haven’t scored very well and are certainly rooting for you to pass whilst being very professional. They will challenge your knowledge but the thought that they are out to catch you out with crazy abstract questions is a total myth (maybe it’s just something I had in my mind)
  8. I’m disappointed without a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t pass it this time but I’m certainly glad I did it and I would recommend the journey to anyone looking to try force themselves to the next level. As I’ve stated I’m going to take a breather to recharge and spend time with the family but I will give it another go and fully believe that with more planning I can do it next time.

Good luck to all of those defending this year and hopefully you have a better result than me.

Gregg

Posted in Certifications, VCAP, VCDX, Virtualisation, VMware | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

vCloud endpoint wont delete from vCAC 5.2

I am currently working on a project that is using vCAC 5.2 ,vFabric Application Director 5.2 and vCloud 5.1 to provide automated self service provisioning of resources for customers (super learning experience).

Whilst going through the manual steps of removing a test customer from the solution before automating the steps through VCO, I hit a very strange problem where at the point of deleting the endpoint to the vCloud Organisation that was assigned for the test customer I got an error stating “ Error has been caught,see event logs located on the vCAC server for detail” and as shown below.

clip_image001

If I went to the the logs within vCAC there were two errors linked to the problem. the main one stating “….  Inner Exception: the DELETE statement conflicted with the REFERENCE constraint “HostNic….”

clip_image002

The error is showing that a computer resource is still attached to the endpoint even though I had removed the computer resource from the vCloud Enterprise Group computer resources selection, removed the Org VDC from vCloud and run a manual data collection. It seems that there is a bug at present that doesn’t allow the removal via the UI (bug report already opened before someone asks) so what you need to do is (I make no promises or guarantees around this script so use at own discretion and backup your DB before running this):

  1. Go to the SQL server that hosts the vCAC database.
  2. Open SQL Management Studio as a user with sufficient permissions.
  3. Select the vCAC database and click the New Query button at the top left.
  4. Ensure the vCAC database is selected.
  5. Paste the following SQL script in the query box and change the ‘ORG VDC NAME’ to the name of the Organisation VDC that the endpoint was connected to and execute the query.

DECLARE @HostId uniqueidentifier

SET @HostId= (SELECT HostId FROM Host WHERE HostName = ‘ORG VDC NAME’)

DELETE FROM VirtualMachine WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM HostNicToReservation WHERE HostNicID IN (SELECT HostNicID FROM HostNic WHERE HostID = @HostId)

DELETE FROM HostReservation WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM HostNic WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM HostToStorage WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM AdminGroupToHost WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM ResourcePool WHERE HostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM Host WHERE HostUniqueID = (SELECT HostUniqueID FROM Host WHERE HostID = @HostId) AND ClusterHostID = @HostId

DELETE FROM Host WHERE HostID = @HostId

  1. The results should show that some values have been changed.
  2. Now you can remove the endpoint from vCAC and the computer resource won’t show up for selection under the vCloud Enterprise Group either.

I hope this saves someone the time I spent trying to fix the problem.

Gregg

    Posted in Automation, vCAC, vCloud, Virtualisation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

    VCDX Spotlight: Hersey Cartwright

    Name: Hersey Cartwright

    Twitter Handle: @herseyc

    Blog URL: http://www.vhersey.com/

    Current Employer: ABS Technology Architects

    VCDX #: 128

    How did you get into using VMware?

    I started using VMware back in late 2006/early 2007 when I was working for a community Credit Union. I was really impressed with HA. Prior to VMware getting the same level of availability was costly and complex, HA greatly simplified this. By the time I left the Credit Union about 85% of the environment was virtualized on VMware.

    What made you decide to do the VCDX?

    I saw it as a learning experience. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and my abilities through the process of designing the solution, preparing the documentation, and participating in the defense.

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

    I completed the VCAP-DCD in December 2012. I made the commitment to pursuing my VCDX in February 2013 and set a goal for defending at PEX 2014. So a little less than a year of actually preparing.

    I started the design I submitted in October 2013 and it was implemented in November. I had somewhere between 120 and 180 hours of preparation for the VCDX defense outside of the work that was done directly for the customer. This included preparing the design documentation, studying, and participating in mocks.

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

    Set a goal and work towards it. I think that setting the goal on defending at PEX 2014 helped me keep focus. Attend the VCDX boot camp if you can, or at least watch the ProfessionalVMware.com vBrownBags on it. This will give you a lot of insight into the defense. Sign up for one of the study groups and participate in as many mocks as possible.

    During mocks don’t forget about the Design and Troubleshooting scenarios. Be sure to practice these also!

    Another piece of advice I would give is to choose a design you find interesting. The design I submitted and defended was for a 911 call center. It was a small environment but I found the availability requirements for the solution interesting. I also really enjoyed working with the customer to meet their requirements. I was very involved through the entire project, from design to implementation, and that definitely helped me defend the design.

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

    More mocks!

    I did a bunch of them but they were all with the people I worked with. The “unfriendly” mock defense I participated in the day before my actual defense, with people that I did not know (other than the occasional tweet), was extremely beneficial. During the “unfriendly” mocks the participants dug much deeper into my design decisions than the folks that I worked with on a regular basis did.

    There was a lot of benefit in both the “friendly” and “unfriendly” mocks, but the “unfriendly” mock really helped to prepare me for the defense panel.

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

    Preparing for and successfully defending the VCDX was definitely worth it, especially for the learning experience. In a short period of time it has benefited both me and my company.

    If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would!

    A little more on my VCDX experience can be found here: http://www.vhersey.com/2014/02/vcdx-cxxviii-128/

    Posted in Certifications, vBrownbag, VCDX, Virtualisation, VMware | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    VCDX Spotlight: Garrette Grouwstra

    Name: Garrette Grouwstra

    Twitter Handle: @VirtualCanadian

    Blog URL: vCanadian.ca

    Current Employer: Long View Systems

    VCDX #: 127

    How did you get into using VMware?

    I was working for a small ISP in 2009, and began a consolidation project to go hand-in-hand with their upcoming infrastructure refresh. As soon as I started using ESXi 3.5, I thought that the whole idea of virtualization was something I needed to focus on professionally.

    What made you decide to do the VCDX?

    For the past 2.5 years, I have had the privilege of building and architecting a public cloud offering to help diversify the services that the company I work for offers to clients. VCDX-DCV had been on my mind at the time as I watched others in the organization (@vcloudmatt and @DavesRant) go through the process. Once the Cloud track was announced, I knew that would be my next goal.

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

    That is a tough question, as the VCDX-Cloud certification is still brand spanking new. I had to complete all of the prerequisites first, I received the VCP-Cloud in August of 2012, followed by the Beta’s of the VCAP-CID, and VCAP-CIA, which I received in February 2013.

    I started writing my design documentation in March of 2013, putting it aside while I planned a wedding and went on a honeymoon, and picked back up in August 2013. With the help of my design Co-author, Matt Vandenbeld (@vcloudmatt), I was able to complete the application by the end of December, and was fortunately invited to defend in February 2014.

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

    1. Get support from your family, and work. I was lucky that both my husband and Long View Systems gave me time, and supported me on this journey. I could not have remained sane without them.

    2. Set milestones to complete sections of your design doc, and within all supporting material. Keep to the deadlines.

    3. Don’t work in a vacuum. There are many great resources out there, both blogs and people (Inside and outside of your organization). Use them

    4. Know your design inside and out. Really, I mean it.

    5. Accept that you may have submitted a design with mistakes. Own those mistakes and call them

    6. Practice, practice, practice! Find others in the community that are able to assist you, and do mock defences, design and troubleshooting scenarios. Brad Christian (@BChristian21) organized mock defences between most of the candidates defending at PEX. The group ripped my design apart more so than they did in the room, and were amazing help preparing.

    7. Breathe. Take a time out before the actual defence to compose yourself.

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

    The only thing I would do differently is more mocks. I saw myself grow so much as a consultant and VCDX candidate during the weeks leading up to the defence, and the mocks were a LARGE part of that. I wish I would have done more troubleshooting and design mocks.

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

    The VCDX is a certification I achieved for myself, not for my company. They have been supportive along the way, and all congratulated me, however I did not, and do not expect much to change from a company perspective.

    The biggest change personally, is that I have free time again. I’m still trying to come to terms with that and debating how to fill the void that VCDX prep has left.

    Posted in Certifications, VCDX, vCloud, Virtualisation, VMware | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

    VCDX Spotlight: Derek Seaman

    Name: Derek Seaman

    Twitter Handle: @vDerekS

    Blog URL: www.derekseaman.com

    Current Employer: Nutanix

    VCDX #: 125

     

    How did you get into using VMware?

    In 2006 I was a Sr. Unified Communications Consultant and used VMware Workstation on my home computer to try out various software products. By 2008 I had some customers wanting to virtualize Exchange and other services, but my exposure to the ESX platform was still limited. In 2009 I started a new job as a Lead Systems Engineer for a U.S. Government project and took my first vSphere 4.0 install/configure course. After that course I was truly fascinated with the technology, breadth of skills needed, and the wicked cool features like vMotion. Ever since then I’ve focused on virtualizing enterprise services and VDI.

     

    What made you decide to do the VCDX?

    Through my blog came to know several well-known bloggers and virtualization geeks. By 2013 nearly all of them were VCDXs and I told myself that I could do it. VMworld 2013 in San Francisco was a turning point and lit a fire to knock out my VCDX. I also figured it would professionally open up doors that might not otherwise be as open.

     

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

    I took my first ever VCAP exam (VCAP5-DCD) the day before VMworld 2013 San Francisco, and passed. A few weeks later I took the VCAP5-DCA exam, and was also successful. All told it was a six month effort from starting the VCAP pre-reqs and getting my VCDX congratulations letter.

     

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

    The certification takes a lot of time. How much time depends on the complexity of your design, and how much may already exist in terms of documentation that you can use. Not much existed for the project I chose, so I spent literally hundreds of hours writing everything to make sure it met the VCDX blueprint requirements. Also, get involved in a study group early on, so you can do peer reviews and support each other throughout the process.

     

     

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

    Overall I wouldn’t change anything, except getting connected with more candidates prior to the initial application submission. I had connected with two others, but didn’t know there were a dozen more on the same track. Definitely get on Twitter and find your peers.

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

     

    Social media blew up (in a good way) after getting my certification. After being accepted to defend for the VCDX but prior to my passing I had accepted an offer from Nutanix as a Sr. Solutions and Performance engineer. That team already has two VCDXs, and I couldn’t be more excited to join them and other VCDXs within the company.

    The entire process was totally worth it. I feel that I’m a better architect, and made great professional connections with both existing VCDXs and those that went through the PEX 2014 process.

    Posted in Certifications, VCAP, VCDX, Virtualisation, VMware | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

    VCDX Spotlight: Sean Howard

    Name: Sean Howard

    Twitter Handle: @showardvmware

    Current Employer: VMware

    VCDX #: 130

     

    How did you get into using VMware?

    I was working at a reseller in Seattle back in 2006 doing SAN implementations. The need to develop VMware skills was driven by fast growing customer demand for ESX. Once I had a couple of deployments under my belt, I was hired away by one of our customers where I was able to do it on a larger scale.

     

    What made you decide to do the VCDX?

    It was mostly a personal challenge, but also to help build credibility with customers in my pre-sales role at VMware.

     

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

    3 years total. I did my VCP in 2011, VCAPs in 2012, then worked on my VCDX submission throughout 2013 on and off.

     

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

    I am not in an architect role, and I know a lot of people thinking about the VCDX believe that is an absolute requirement. It certainly helps, but it’s not a necessity. Though I will say hands-on experience is.

    I know everyone says this, but really, truly read the VCDX Boot Camp book, and try to fully digest what is being said in it. Also try to attend the VCDX Boot Camp in person before you put pen to paper.

    Get in a study group that does mocks. I lucked into one that was organized by Brad Christian. I doubt I would have passed otherwise. Also, don’t neglect the troubleshooting and design scenarios either. Practice those.

    Spend 30 minutes every day on the elliptical, going for a walk (or whatever) and listen to the brownbag sessions, VMworld sessions, VMware related podcasts, stuff like that. It’s a great way to slowly absorb information over a period of months rather than trying to cram.

    Finally, create flash cards for yourself on a service like Quizlet. I made almost 500 and had my wife ask me them. This forces you to say the answer out loud and work on crisp delivery.

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

    I made things a lot harder on myself than they had to be. For one thing, I could have just done a mostly real design, I had enough projects under my belt. However, I felt that the projects I had done weren’t “cool enough”. So I took a real project as a base, bumped the scale up, added in components from other projects, etc. So it was probably 90% “real”, but was a collage of designs.

    Yes, this resulted in a more whiz-bang design, but was a far greater burden during my prep for the panel. I had to be able explain interactions between things that had never actually occurred in real life. Luckily, I had access to enough lab gear to mock things up so I could answer confidently, but this was a lot of work that could have been avoided.

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

    I immediately received a lot of recognition inside my extended team and several layers of management up. Of course people outside the company take notice and my LinkedIn got red hot pretty quickly. It’s only been a couple of weeks, so who knows what the future holds.

    For me, this was mostly about proving to myself that I could do it. To me, that is its own reward.

    Posted in Certifications, VCAP, VCDX, VMware | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment