TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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My First VMware Certification #vExpert NSX

The VMware vExpert NSX program is running a community blog series and this post is about my first VMware certification.

Why did you decide to take your first test and what was your motivation?

I had been allocated to look after the VMware 3.5 estate of my old company and decided that trying to pass the VCP3.5 was the best way for me to learn VMware. I followed this up with the VCP4 which had been released around the same time in quick succession to help me learn what was coming in the next version.

What was your journey for the first test?

The VCP3.5 was my first one but due to me doing the VCP4 almost immediately after the journey actually merged covering both which I blogged about on my blog here https://thesaffageek.co.uk/2009/12/02/vmware-certified-professional-vsphere-passed/ . VMware was very new to me then but the community was in it’s relative infancy in 2009 and twitter had a small but hard-core group that I loved being a part of and learning from some of the famous pioneers like Scott Lowe, Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman to name but a few. My preparing for the exam started off my interest and now continued link to writing up the study resources (Part 1 and Part 2 ) I used for the exams which became very popular and actually led me to getting my first vExpert the year after.

Were you nervous, how did you study?

I was very nervous as I actually mentioned in my posting for VCP4 as the technology was very new to me as I had up until that point been a Microsoft fan boy having done the MCP’s and MCSE’s and virtualisation plus what it could do was in it’s infancy (at least in my opinion then) . How i studied for it had been covered in the blog postings I mentioned earlier around the VCP4 (Part 1 and Part 2 ) and the methods I followed then I still follow largely today around using multiple techniques to learnt he material such as books, podcasts, CBT and good old lab time. I also had much more time then to read blogs announcing the latest features or what people were having issues with and how they fixed them. This interest in learning what issues people had and how they fixed them as well as trying to help people with issues drew me into the VMware communities and which led me to become Master status and being asked to become a VMware communities moderator.

How did it benefit your career as well as your community?

Immense amounts as just reading the posting around my passing the VCP4 reminds me how much I’ve learnt over the time from doing those exams as a junior IT Technician freshly “off the boat” from South Africa to a Cloud Practice Solution Lead and VCDX #205. The community involvement was what really got me excited and I made some great vFriends whom I am still very friendly with as well as countless others from VMUG’s to VMworld’s to Twitter to the communities to now being part of the vBrownbag crew that I learnt so much from in the early days. The VMware community was amazing then and even though some people have moved onto other things that ethos is still around and is something I personally try give back to the community.

Knowing what you know today, what are some of the pain points in this certification that you can share with your audience?

It varies based on the level of the VMware certification you are going for. For the VCP it is now much easier to learn about the technology as there is a sheer abundance of resources out there to learn from whereas the amount in the 3.5 days was much less although the suite of products and amount of features were much less then so I think it balances out somewhat. As with any certification it is about spending the time understanding it and for me as I’ve mentioned before I sometimes find different methods of learning it helps explain it better as sometimes reading page after page of a book can make you lose focus but a video by the vBrownbag where you hear it from someone in the community can keep your interest much more and maybe even explain it in terms you would have never thought of.

 

If you are going for the VCP6 then why not have a look at my study resources page and good luck on the journey. If you told me in those VCP3.5 days that I would be a VCDX doing enterprise level work like I am now I would have never believed you. Also with so many paths such as NV,DTM and CMA the amount of amazing technology you can learn to advance you career never mind the integrations with Openstack, AWS and Azure it’s still an exciting time to being doing virtualisation.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight – Johan van Amersfoort

Name: Johan van Amersfoort

Twitter Handle: vHojan

Blog URL: vHojan.nl

Current Employer: ITQ Consultancy

VCDX #: 238

How did you get into using VMware?

In 2005 I was working as a field engineer and partly responsible for R&D related stuff. Especially when testing out new software, it was an challenge to constantly reinstall desktops to a clean state in that process. So we started using VMware Workstation. And that saved us with a lot of time that could be wasted in reinstallations. Now we were able to create snapshots, whoohoo!

Early 2006 our management decided that for a new infrastructure we needed to consolidate our servers and because of our experiences with VMware technology, vSphere was chosen. That was the same year that I executed my first vMotion. A game changer!

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

A couple of things to be honest. First of all, there are too few architects focussing on EUC solutions. As VMware is more and more aiming on taking over the Digital Workspace market, proper knowledge and experience of architecture is needed to achieve that goal. At VMware as well as partners. So I decided to have a part in that and go for it.

Second, I wanted to gain skills as an architect. In the past couple of years I designed quite a lot infrastructures, from vSphere to vROps to Horizon View and Workspace ONE. Every design got better and better, but I wanted to take my skills to a next level. And VCDX-DTM was the way to go.

And third, I don’t have a bachelor or master degree in IT because I disliked long-term education. In this case I was working on something that I really enjoyed and gave me a lot of energy. So when finished, it validated my skills as an architect and that was a great feeling.

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

In total it took me 14 months from the first day at the customer until the final email from the VCDX program that I passed.

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

A wise man (or whatever it is) once said: “Do, or do not. There is no try”. And that is probably the one thing that kept me focused. Especially when things went bad. And most of us know that you will go through hard times. So before you start, be absolutely positive that this is what you want.

Also, it has a low WAF which needs to be compensated with boxes of chocolate, roses and romantic dinners.

And of course, enjoy the journey. Because even in the hard times it is still a lot of fun!

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

I would contact a mentor much earlier in the process. After delivering my PSO documents to the customer, I continued working on these documents for the application until my first mock defense (3 months prior to the application date). During that defense my complete design got roasted so I had to rewrite 231 pages so it was panellist-proof (although no one really knows what that means). I would probably not have used the PSO kit if I could start all over again (which might happen if I want to go for DCV or CMA).

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

ITQ Consultancy is one of the most awesome employers in the world. We invest in knowledge to share knowledge. And now they have the first VCDX-DTM in the Benelux in their presence (next to Sjors Robroek, VCDX-NV and Marco van Baggum, VCDX-DCV). And they are really proud of this achievement.

After passing the defense, I took a couple of months off of studying. But I want to focus on one of my weaker competencies, networking. Mainly by aiming for both Cisco CCNA and VCP-NV certifications.

The journey and certification made me a better architect. So it was definitely worth it!


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VCP6-NV (2V0-642) Exam Experience

Last week Friday after a few weeks of studying I sat the VCP6-NV (2V0-642) exam. I decided to do the track as I wanted to update my knowledge around NSX and it was also something I realised i wasn’t as strong in as I probably should be after my unsuccessful VCDX-CMA defence last year October.

The exam is based on NSX 6.2, comprises of 77 multiple choice questions and is 120 minutes long. The resources I personally used for the exam were:

  • The Pluralsight course by Jason Nash were brilliant in covering NSX basics and more advanced topics:
  • The VCP6-NV Official Cert Guide was an amazing resource and goes into great detail about so many topics. I read this on my trains back and forth each week between Zürich and Bern and I would highly recommend the book even though it covers the 641 exam.
  • Lab time. I spent a fair amount of time playing around and learning in an EMC vLab as well as numerous VMware Hands on Labs getting my understanding of the differing components and interdependencies. I know the exam isn’t hands on like the VCIX but to get my head around some of the concepts, building.modifying and deleting portions helped me understand some of the main features of NSX and has hopefully laid a good groundwork for a possible future VCIX-NV attempt.

The exam was fair in the questions it asked, finished all the questions and reviews with about 45 minutes to spare and I passed with a respectable score. The exam is certainly achievable if you do the above resources and understand them. For me the mix os the book by Elver, the videos by Jason and my hands on practice worked really nicely as I feel each one filled a gap the other left and also my attention span for reading books deep in technical details isn’t my strongest attribute.

What has passing the exam done for my career?

Knowing NSX as I mentioned in the beginning was important for me to understand the whole SDDC ecosystem, strengthen it for my VCDX-CMA and be able to advise my customers on the correct solutions as well as have the ability to review NSX designs by NSX SME’s. It has already proved beneficial in discussions with customers and has also saved me in a troubleshooting issue where I would have probably spent much much longer trying to fix an issue.

For those looking to take the exam, good luck.

Gregg


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Why do you want the #VCDX certification?

A recent twitter comment or should I say declaration by Craig Kilborn reminded me that I wanted to write a posting about doing the VCDX for the right reasons (Disclaimer: this is my opinion and if you disagree then that is perfectly fine). Also I am really looking forward to the posting Craig is going to put out as he was and still is one of the most prepped people I know for the VCDX defences yet sadly failed it.

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When people come up to me at conferences or VMUG’s and chat to me about my VCDX journey and my achieving the VCDX certification and state they are looking to start the journey towards getting a VCDX number I always ask them one initial question: Why do you want the VCDX certification? The VCDX and path has been an amazing experience and learning curve for me and I know many many others and I personally feel you should do it for the cliché reason of “for the journey and not the destination” as the amount you need to learn and the breadth of not just technical skills but also public speaking, white boarding skills, stress management skills and the biggest one I had – realising how little you actually know and still need to learn is the best reason to do it. I know I ruffled a few VCDX feathers on a Geek Whisperers podcast appearance I did where I stated that getting the VCDX won’t always mean you will get a top role at VMware or get that six figure salary or automatically get that promotion. But the skills you have learnt and perfected along the way to obtaining your VCDX might bring some of those. I still believe this and if you do it for those reasons you might be disappointed once you get your number.

I use certifications to force myself to learn new technologies and for me the VCDX track was something that was going to push me to learn VMware technologies to a level only a certain amount of people globally had “proven”  this level of knowledge. What I didn’t realise was that the VCDX was going to force me to not just know VMware technologies to an expert level but also all the supporting technologies around it and how the VCDX requires people to have a very strong holistic understanding of all the technologies in a solution and how differing decisions can/would have impacts on the success of the design/solution. So even though this might sound a level that is daunting to you (it was certainly for me and to be honest it still is a work in  progress due to the ever changing landscape of IT) the amount you learn about all the supporting technologies, from people also aiming for the certification as well as the community around it is priceless and for me has been the main “prize” of doing the VCDX.

Last year October I defended a vRealize Automation design I had done in my spare time for a real world customer along with the infamous Rene van den Bedem and Andrea Siviero to hopefully obtained my VCDX6-CMA. I was ultimately unsuccessful in this attempt but gained an untold amount of experience not just from building a VCDX level design for vRA along with the required supporting documentation but again realising where there were gaps in my knowledge that needed to be filled. One of these was NSX where I knew a certain working level but in hindsight I naively  should have realised the amount NSX played a part in our solution and even though the defence was about vRA the impacts on the decisions and design we had made for NSX was a direct influencer on if the solution succeeded or failed. From this I have been up skilling on NSX and last week Friday I passed the first step in this by obtaining my VCP6-NV. I will also most likely resubmit for my VCDX6-CMA in the future because 1. I seem to be a masochist and 2. I fully believe a quote from a video I used to watch in prep for my VCDX-DCV second defence of “Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day or even a year but it will subside, if you quit however the pain will last forever” and I can’t help myself but want to complete what I started or else I am accepting the failure. From needing to better my knowledge of NSX I have seen a direct impact and benefit to my role as a Solution Lead in Dell EMC’s Cloud Practice and the methods I learnt and used for my DCV and CMA submissions have proven untold benefit on the deliveries I have had to produce on projects I have worked on.

I’ve possibly been as clear as mud in this posting but my main personal thoughts and opinions about wanting to go for the VCDX are:

  1. Do it as it has been an amazing learning experience and continues to be for me.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail it as for me it has been the best way to truly show me where I need to be better.
  3. Do it to be a better architect and have a more well rounded knowledge as the IT landscape is forever changing and you never know when one of those supporting technology skills will maybe get your foot in the door to a new exciting opportunity
  4. The community around the VCDX is amazing and 98% of VCDX’s are more than willing to help you along your journey but you have to take the initiative as no one is going to carry you. As Rebecca Fitzhugh a relatively recent VCDX wrote about, a good mentor never coaches you but challenges, encourages and provides “wisdom” when needed.
  5. There is a fair likelihood that once you achieve the VCDX your company and/or boss will have no idea what it really means and most recruiters are more excited about someone being a vExpert than a VCDX but the skills you learnt in the journey towards VCDX will be what might get you that new role or promotion but don’t do the certification for those reasons as you might be disappointed that not much changes initially if possibly at all once you get a VCDX number. It’s actually one of the reasons I ask “ Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?” in my VCDX Spotlight postings as for most the change is minor and might only happen a fair time later.
  6. There is a substantial amount of personal time and effort that goes into the journey and if you don’t use it for all the lessons along the way then once you achieve it you might be saddened by what is behind the Wizard of VCDX’s curtain.

If you are realistically aiming for the VCDX(You have the VCAp’s/VCIX in your chosen track or are on the cusp of having them) then I run a VCDXPrepGroup slack channel where people also aiming for the VCDX can work together and where we have almost a dozen VCDX mentors covering all four of the tracks. Message me and I’ll add you to the group but be warned the group won’t give you anything that will break the NDA’s and you won’t be supplied people’s VCDX submissions so you will have to put in the work, the group just provides the platform to get some valuable feedback and link you to fellow VCDX Wannabe’s.

Lastly good luck to those that defended VCDX this week (a fair few from the slack group) and for those aiming for future defences good luck on the journey.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight – Rebecca Fitzhugh

Name: Rebecca Fitzhugh

Twitter Handle: @rebeccafitzhugh

Blog URL: technicloud.com

Current Employer: self-employed

VCDX #: 243

How did you get into using VMware?

I was voluntold! I learned VMware while serving in the military. My direct supervisor instructed me to upgrade an ESX host; I had no idea what VMware, ESX, or virtualization even was at the time.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It seemed like the next logical step. I had achieved multiple VCAPs and VCDX was next. It was more of a self-validation than anything. I also hoped that it would help open up doors in order to take my career to the next level.

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

A little over three years. I attained both VCAP certifications on v5 in 2013. As for actively pursuing VCDX, it took 10 months. I began rewriting my design (had briefly started the previous year) with my VCDX partner in February 2016, submitted in May, unsuccessfully defending in July, resubmitted in August, and succeeded in November.

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

If you are considering pursuing the VCDX, I would recommend doing a self assessment and evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. Work to shore up the weaknesses because as an architect you must be well rounded in many technical areas. Secondly, practice public speaking. Your soft skills matter as much as your technical expertise. And lastly, set realistic goals for yourself and find a study group that will hold you accountable.

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

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t change much. Failing was a huge learning experience and helped me get a clearer understanding of what the panel was looking for. I would spend more time up front doing mocks with more people and working on my presentation earlier.

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

My company was super supportive because I own it! Ha! As for post VCDX life, it has mostly returned to semi-normalness. But, I would say that the process and my preparation have changed my perspective and how I approach the design process. I’d say it was worth it for the personal growth and the people you meet along the journey.


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VCAP6-DCV Design Objective 1.1 on the #vBrownbag

Last night I decided an hour before the planned time for the first vBrownbag VCAP6-DCV Design Objectives series to pull together a presentation and take on the objective. Jason Grierson had partly put his hand up for the objective but was unable to complete his before last night but agreed to join me on the broadcast and it worked out a life saver.Unfortunately due to some very poor hotel Wi-Fi I had some issues getting my presentation to show on the broadcast and so Jason stepped in to go over the parts he had done for the objective and did an unbelievable job and then I presented mine afterwards so we managed to have two VCDX’s covering the one objective so hopefully it brings extra value. My presentation from the broadcast is below

The recording of the session is also below

 

Gregg


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VCAP6-CMA Design achievement unlocked

yeahbuddy

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.

Gregg