My ramblings about all things technical

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VCAP6-CMA Design achievement unlocked


This morning on my second attempt I passed the VCAP6-CMA Design exam. For those that aren’t sure what the exam is it is the VMware Certified Advance Professional –Cloud Management & Automation Design exam. The exam is a 3 hour exam where you have to answer 23 questions consisting of a variable number of drag and drop as well as Visio style question all around vRA 6.2 design.

I’m not going to break any NDA’s around the exam so please don’t ask. What I will do however is list here what resources I found helped me the best to pass the exam this time around and will add these resources if they are not there already to my VCAP6-CMA Design study resources page and also give advice keeping to the NDA that I feel would have possibly helped me pass the first time.

  • The VMware Cloud Automation: Design and Deploy Fast Track course is really great and certainly fills in any gaps in your knowledge that you might have. I was fortunate to be able to do it due to having access from my work white labelled as VMware PSO. The course is good but if you have been doing enterprise level vRA designs for a number of years like I have it can be very slow at points!!
  • The the vRealize Automation Reference Architecture from VMware was brilliant when i started learning vRA and it is still true. One word of advice is to not only spend time learning vRA components which are obviously important but also what supporting technologies are required for certain functions and capabilities to be possible (NSX, vRB, Endpoints, vSphere etc etc) .
  • Remember the exam is currently based on vRA 6.2 so all those fancy features you get in vRA 7.x aren’t possible during the exam so you need to know how it was done previous to those features if possible at all. A great resource I used to remind myself how it was done in vRA 6.2 was to  read the reference architecture i listed above.
  • This ones a biggie and i used two different resources for it, it is the various roles in vRA and what permissions each gives you. Sam McGeown’s mindmaps were the first I used as well as Grant Orchards mindmaps. Knowing what each role does and what permissions it gives is extremely important and maps directly to VCAP6-CMA objective 4.2. Remember a good design is all about giving the least privileges possible.
  • This one I didn’t expect to have to learn as much about and ties into point number two, I read the NSX Design Guide as design objective 3.5 mentions NSX but the amount of NSX knowledge needed for the exam was certainly much more than I expected so for my second attempt i made sure I was prepared.
  • This is part of the study resources for the exam but the amount of application services weightage amazed me so make sure you have read and fully understand all the capabilities and requirements of vRealize Application Services.
  • Last one that is weighted more than I expected is machine extensibility which ties in objective 8.2.

The exam is certainly worded strangely and one bit of advice that i stumbled across during my second exam is that if the text in the question seems to be a repeat of an earlier one and the options to build it don’t match then try click the wide option for the question text and it might bring up the correct text for the question. Good luck if you are planning to take the exam and for me it’s now onto prep for my VCDX6-CMA defence in just over a week.



vSphere 6.5 Operations Management Announcements

At today’s VMworld Europe conference in Barcelona VMware are announcing vSphere 6.5. There are a plethora of new features and fixes in this series of postings I plan to cover the ones that caught my eye and so for the first second one let us cover the updates to vSphere 6.5 Operations Management.

vR Ops – New Home Dashboard

The vR Ops home dashboard as part of vSOM has had a makeover where you can now filter and find important things to the environment easily such as

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Quickly identity top problem objects


Filter by severity


Condensed alert and information and remediation guidance


Enhanced vSphere DRS Cluster settings dashboard

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Conveniently monitor each cluster workload


Updated Workload Utilisation Dashboard

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Easily visualise separate workloads


Quicker access to rebalance plan


vR Ops – Additional Improvements

vCenter Configuration

  • Combined Configuration of vCenter and Action Adapters
  • One-button ease of enabling or disabling actions
  • Create and apply global monitoring goals to multiple vCenters


  • New CaSA public REST API interface
  • Documentation available@ <vrops>/casa/api-guide.html
  • Allows for cluster and node management

Security and Compliance

  • Added support for the vSphere 6.0 hardening guide
  • New certificate validation checks
  • Import certificates via CaSA REST API

Log Insight Integration

  • Log Insight management pack comes pre-installed
  • Improvements of Log Insight alerting to vR Ops

Log insight – New Clarity UI


Log Insight – Additional Improvements

vSphere Content Pack

  • New vCenter Server Dashboards
    • Overview
    • Performance
  • Updated Dashboards
    • General- Problems
    • vSphere – vMotion

Widget Updates

  • New Event Widgets
    • Event Types
    • Event Trends
  • New vSphere widgets:
    • Replicated VMs
    • Recovered VMs
    • Upgraded VMs

Other Notables

  • Added PSP PhoneHome Support
  • API-Based Improvements
    • Install
    • Upgrade
    • Query API Enhancements
  • Streaming Support Bundles

Make sure you attend one of (if not all) the multiple sessions by Kyle Gleed to learn and see more if you are at the show or watch once the recordings have been released


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vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients Announcements

At today’s VMworld Europe conference in Barcelona VMware are announcing vSphere 6.5. There are a plethora of new features and fixes in this series of postings I plan to cover the ones that caught my eye and so for the first one let us cover the vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients announcements.


  • Native high availability – An all new HA solution that reduces RTO and is easy to configure. No dependency on expensive 3rd party database clustering solutions of RDMs while eliminating the single point of failure for vCenter Server
  • VMware Update Manager – is now integrated into the vCenter Server Appliance. Simple, enabled by default, and removes the requirement for a separate Windows VM.
  • Improved appliance management – an improved vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface (VMAI) brings more CPU, Memory, Network and Database monitoring right into the UI. Reduces reliance on CLI for simple monitoring tasks.
  • Native Backup and Restore – Simplified backup and restore with a new native file-based solution. Restore the vCenter server configuration to a fresh appliance and stream backups to external storage using HTTP, FTP or SCP protocols (Only available on the vCenter Server appliance)

VCSA Deployment

  • Installer support now for windows, Mac and Linux
  • An updated menu where you cannot just select to install or upgrade but also migrate and restore.


  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included
  • VCSA and PSC install is now a two stage process
    • Stage 1- Deploy OVF
    • Stage 2 – Configuration
  • The benefits of the 2-stage deployment are:
    • Improved validation and checks
    • Manual snapshot between stages for rollback
    • Create a template for additional deployments

VCSA Migration – 6.5

  • 6.5 support for Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 -> 6.5
  • Migrations for both embedded and external topologies
  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included as part of migration
  • Assumes the identity of the source Windows vCenter (UUID, IP, OS Name, Certificates)
  • Embedded and external Database support: MSSQL, MSSQL Express, Oracle
  • Migration Assistant pre-checks
  • Option to select historical and performance data


VCSA Monitoring


  • New vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface
  • Built in monitoring: Network, CPU and Memory
  • Visibility to vPostgres DB
  • Remote syslog configuration
  • vMon: Enhanced watchdog functionality

Native vCenter Server Appliance Backup & Restore


  • Removes dependency on 3rd party backup solutions
  • Restore vCenter Server instance to a brand new appliance
  • Supports backup/restore of VCSA & PSC appliances
  • Includes embedded and external deployments
  • Supported protocols include:
    • HTTP/S
    • SC
    • FTP/S
  • Option for Encryption
  • Restore directly from VCSA ISO

Native vCenter High Availability


  • VCSA Only
  • Active/Passive with witness
  • Required network configuration:
    • Eth0 – Public network
    • Eth1 – Private network (added during configuration)
  • Two configuration options: Basic and Advanced

Client Integration Plugin Deprecation

  • In 6.5 CIP is no longer required
    • Replaced by native browser functions
    • Optional plugin called Enhanced Authentication Plugin for smart card and Integrate Windows Authentication login capabilities.

vSphere HTML5 Web Client


· Clarity UI standard

· No browser plugins

· Integrated into vCenter Server 6.5

· Fully supports Enhanced Linked Mode

Make sure you attend one of the multiple sessions by Emad Younis and Adam Eckerle to learn and see more.


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VCDX Spotlight: Byron Schaller

Name: Byron Schaller

Twitter Handle: @byronschaller

Blog URL:

Current Employer: RoundTower Technologies

VCDX #: 231

How did you get into using VMware?

I started with VMware Workstation in 2000 when I was writing code for a living. I started working with ESX in 2005 with version 2.5.1. VMware products became my main focus with the release of VI3.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

This is complicated. Mostly the challenge and to prove I could. In seeking validation, I ended up gaining far more. I’m easily twice the architect now compared to when I started.

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

I completed my VCAP-DCD in February 2014. I guess I was passively preparing from that point until I began in earnest writing my design in May of this year (2016). I submitted in July and worked on my deck from the day I submitted until 2 days before I defended in September. In all I probably spent 200 hours this summer between writing, revising, and raw study.

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

Three points:

1. Get a mentor.

2. Get a study group of people you respect and trust. Mine was fantastic and I’m sure we will be friends post VCDX for a long, long time.

3. Understand your use case. What the workloads you are running on your clusters actually do for the business matters. Understanding the business impact of the applications leads to justifying design decisions. If you design an infrastructure for it’s own sake without taking this into account, I’m almost sure you will fail the defence.

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

I would have used a real use customer design. Mine was entirely fictional. The upside is I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only folks to pass on the first attempt with an entirely fictional design and without working with a partner(s).

The downside is that it made the process significantly harder. I had to make up all my performance and sizing data and make it feel real. That was very hard, and I still think I could have done a better job of it. If I had those numbers collected, because they were real, it would have saved me significant time.

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

My goals around learning include knocking out all 5 AWS certs by the end of the year and then starting on my VCDX-NV.

My company has been pretty great about everything, however with Rene (VCDX #133) as my boss I would expect no less.

In the end was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

The friends I gained and the skills I cultivated were well worth the effort. Without a doubt the VCDX journey changes you in ways few things can.



New Horizons

Almost five years ago I wrote a posting titled The Next Chapter where I was blogging about my leaving the then named EMC Consulting to join Xtravirt as I wanted to spread my wings and test myself against being a consultant and with the dream of getting the experience to attempt the VCDX one day. Well I’m pleased and blessed to say that I went from a Technical Consultant to now a Lead Consultant and after my second defence attempt last October I am now VCDX #205.

So to the part that everyone is more interested in, as of October the 3rd I will be joining Dell EMC as a Global Cloud Architect . The role is far too good to not take and the technologies I’m going to be working with plus the exciting  future from the acquisition by Dell scratches my nerd itch. I am not leaving Xtravirt due to not having loved my time with the company and will be leaving many highly intelligent friends and a fellow VCDX (not that he isn’t intelligent as well😀 ). Without the experience I have gained working for Xtravirt and the high end projects I have been very fortunate been part of as a white labelled VMware PSO consultant ,the ability to work alongside and learn from some of the smartest people in the industry  I don’t know if I would have had the experience and knowledge to gain my VCDX.

I’ll still be on twitter whenever I have the opportunity and will still try answer and help people on the VMware Communities , try attend the London VMUG’s + vBeers as well attend VMworld US and EU. I will also still be running the unofficial VCDX Study/Mock group and be a VCDX mentor as much as time allows.

Also don’t worry I won’t be posting comments on twitter around “My HCI solution is better than yours and your metrics are rubbish” so you don’t have to unfollow me😀


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#VMworld Day 2

My VMworld day 2 started with getting into the VMvillage so that I could write up my #VMworld Day 1 posting as well as make sure I was near the vBrownbag presentation area so that I could setup whilst the keynote was displayed over the screens in the VMvillage.

I am not going to go over over the keynote point by point as to be honest I was half setting up for vBrownbag and also only paid full attention when Kit Colbert was presenting around cloud native apps as that is the bits I am extremely interested in and with VMware supposedly stopping their licencing/agreement with SUSE and planning to “drink their own champagne” and use their own code moving forward.I strongly believe this is the next step in the journey of those who were server admins, then virtualisation admins and now holistic/full stack Virtualisation admins. If you want to watch the keynote then you can watch it here.

After setting up for the vBrownbag TechTalks I attended an invitation only vRealize Automation workshop in the Hands on Labs hosted by Jad El Zein which was amazing and has certainly shown me the amount of progress VMware has made and will be making with containers and reigning in the management and lifecycle of DevOps for their customers.

After the session I made my way back to the vBrownbag area where we ran sessions consistently for the rest of the day. you can watch all the recordings from Day1 and Day2 on the the YouTube channel here

I also wandered into the solutions exchange as I had heard a rumour that Anxcient had a VCDX gift of a poker set. The poker set gift rumour was true and it is certainly a great bit of swag and a good way of alerting a group of highly skilled people about your company


I ended the day fairly low key after getting a wholesome meal at a restaurant nearby the conference and then made my way to the Bellagio fountains which was really awesome and is something I always wanted to see as I don’t know when or if i will be back into Las Vegas.

Today the vBrownbag TechTalks continue from 11am PST. You can watch the live stream here and as per usual they will be recorded and uploaded as quickly as we can upload them.




#VMworld Day 1

Yesterday was the official first day of VMworld for those that are not partners. The day started for me with a bit of breakfast at the conference with Rene van den Bedem (VCDX133) after which we made our way to the bloggers area which had already started to fill up with bloggers and those deciding to not venture into the keynote hall but rather watch the keynote on the big screens in the VMVillage.

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow analysis of the keynote but would rather recommend you  watch the keynote recording here. Some highlights from the keynote for me were:

  • 23,500 attendees (I wonder if cheaper hotel rooms helped this number)
  • 21 alumnus get lifetime passes for them and their spouses
  • By 2021 June 29th 3:57 the enterprise with be 50/50 in the cloud
  • By 2030 52% of all workloads will be public cloud.
  • Tech Vendors are #1 for embracing the Cloud.
  • The Cross Cloud Architecture was announced. You can see the whitepaper for the Cloud Foundation here
  • VMware Cloud Foundation as a Service first partnership is with IBM
  • A pet hate of mine that both Pat Gelsigner and a number of others used on premise. As Smeagol would say


After the keynote the #vBrownbag TechTalks kicked off with the vExpert Daily and ran almost continuously for the rest of the day with a new session every 15-20 minutes to finish up with us having streamed and recorded 20 sessions which we are very pleased with. You can see all the recordings on our YouTube channel here.

I also snuck out during the day to pick up some exclusive #vExpert Swag like the VMworld Survival Kit from Cohesity with was a Timbuk2 bag with a portable charger, usb stick, water bottle and multi charger cables. A very good idea by their marketing, so much so they are having to mail a whole bunch as they ran out by lunchtime.

We finished the last vBrownbag near 5pm after which I made my way back to my room to drop off my bag then went early to the VMware Code Hackathon. I purposely didn’t bring a laptop so that i could just watch without showing my lack of programming knowledge but i still managed to have loads of brilliant conversations and numerous discussions around the VCDX Study/Mock group I run for those realistically looking to obtain the VCDX. The hackathon was a great success and certainly linked up like-minded people where everyone could learn and make connections whilst having some nice food and drinks.

Today the vBrownbag TechTalks continue from 11am PST. You can watch the live stream here and as per usual they will be recorded and uploaded as quickly as we can upload them.