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.


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VCDX Spotlight – Kiran Reid

Name: Kiran Reid

Twitter Handle: Apollokre1d

Current Employer: Bank Of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ LTD

VCDX #: 225

How did you get into using VMware?

I started back in 2009 when my previous employer started a large datacentre consolidation project. I quickly did my VCP to ensure I was the main resource on the project.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I really wanted to further my knowledge after doing the VCAPs. What I liked about the VCDX program is it makes you stronger in so many different technology areas.

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

About 13 months once I had passed the VCAP’s.

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

Try and enjoy the whole experience, especially the defence. When you stand in front of that panel it is an amazing feeling thinking about where you were when you started the journey and where you are now.

We always find excuses not to do things, for instance, my current employer has strict polices preventing us from emailing stuff out of the bank which meant I had to recreate all of the design documentation at home as well as fund the entire process myself, but this was important so I did not let any of that get in the way.

If your excuse is “you’re too busy” consider this… my mentor has three children all under the age of 6 but still woke up at 5am twice a week (due to the time difference) once my defence was accepted to help get me ready. He did all this while working on his own second VCDX certification and working full-time for VMware… If he found the time we all can🙂

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

For someone not from a consulting background I should’ve practiced the design scenarios a little earlier on in the process.

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

This has been one of the best experiences in my career and I am really grateful to the VCDX program and community. After a short break I am very much looking forward to completing the VCDX-NV track and helping others achieve their numbers.

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VCDX Spotlight –Ron Wedel

Name: Ron Wedel

Twitter Handle: FD_Hauza

VCDX #: 227

How did you get into using VMware?

The company I was employed with in 2007/2008 wanted to implement ESXi. We only had two four node clusters with shared storage. That company sent me to the vSphere 3.5 ICM class. My instructor in that class John Krueger was so passionate about the technology that it rubbed off on me.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

My current director pushes his staff to stay current with advanced certificates. After I passed my DCA & DCD it seemed like a natural progression. I also enjoy the challenge of something like this.

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

I wrote my first outline for my design in April 2015, so about 15 months total. This includes my three defences, I failed the first two.

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

Read the blueprint, find a mentor, find a study group and read the blueprint. This journey can be accomplished alone depending on your knowledge and job roles, but with an ever growing community why risk it? Be prepared to sacrifice a fair amount of your personal time. I wrote the bulk of my design during the summer, and was unable to attend many things. Also, make sure your family is prepared to support you. My kids didn’t really understand why I had to disappear into my office for 2 hours at random points during the day for mocks with my study group.

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

I probably wouldn’t have submitted for the October 2015 defences. I was very unprepared. Also increasing my T-Skills, I was a bit short on storage and that showed very much in my first defence.

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

It’s feels amazing to get this weight off my shoulders after 15 months. I honestly did not realize how much it stressed me out until it was over. My company was extremely supportive of the whole process and was excited for my success. I would say yes, it was worth it. I learned more about the entire infrastructure stack than I ever thought. In addition, I’ve made some good friends via study groups.

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VCAP6-CMA Design Objective 2.4 – Build Manageability Requirements into the Logical Design


Evaluate which management services can be used with a given vRealize Automation Solution.

Management of vRealize Automation is achieved via various methods and solutions. You have management of the underlying vSphere infrastructure via the vSphere client and web client, management and monitoring of both vSphere and vRA via vRealize Operations with management packs for vRA, logging via vRealize LogInsight, change management via third part CMDB tools as well as VMware tools such as vRealize Configuration Manager and Hyperic.

There is also the standard vRA management via the vRA portal and the VAMI portals for management of the vRealize Appliances. I haven’t done the exam but based on previous exam experience I would make sure you know what tabs and options there are for all the vRA VAMI portals.

Differentiate infrastructure qualities related to management.

I partly covered this in the previous 2.3 posting, what they are likely to do from previous experience ( I have not done the exam nor the beta) is to give you a whole bunch of infrastructure qualities and you have to match them up. Manageability is all about ease of management and having the most optimal amount of manageability without impacting other infrastructure qualities or any of the requirements.

Build interfaces into the logical design for existing operations practices.

My take on what they are looking for here is that the customer you are doing the design for has existing operations practices and solutions and you need to take these into account and then design the solution to meet these. So for example if the customer has a CMDB and every time a machine is requested, built, edited and destroyed CI’s need to be passed to the CMDB to track these changes. Another example is syslogging and setting up syslog’s to go to a customer existing logging solution. Reading through the reference architecture and getting an understanding of what kinds of external solutions and services you might need to plug in to is great prep for this. Also adding the vRA management to AD,NTP,SNMP and DNS is very applicable and is required for all deployments (maybe not SNMP for every one)

Address operational readiness deficiencies.

This is where either the customers IT team who are going to look after the solution when you leave aren’t skilled up enough or they don’t have anyone to manage it at all (I’ve seen both in my experience). To fix this knowledge transfer workshops are required, or to link to the manageability infrastructure quality you simplify management as much as possible and try use their existing management mechanisms if they fit so allow easier management of the solution building on existing knowledge. You can also put it as a constraint the lack of existing knowledge to manage the solution and the risk mitigation is training of the team via formal training or learning from yourself and/or the person deploying the solution. You should also read the recommended Operational Readiness Assessment document from VMware.

Define Event, Incident and Problem Management practices.

These are where the logging of the solution and the management of the solution by tools such as vROps, LogInsight, vSphere alarms and event management via 3rd party tools such as Arcsight. The use of LogInsight and vROps is a great combination as they integrate brilliantly together and with the use of the management packs for vRA and LogInsight give amazing manageability of events, incident and problems with intelligent alarms. These can also be tracked by tools such as Service Now which is a fairly popular option for large enterprises in my experience and VMware have even written blogs about the integration

Design a log management solution.

As mentioned above log management can be done via VMware solutions or 3rd part solutions. LogInsight is most likely the one they are going to reference in the exam seeing as it is VMware’s solution and you can get a vRA management pack for it to allow it to alert on vRA specific alerts .

Determine request fulfilment and release management processes.

Request fulfilment I am taking as the fulfilment of all the required parameters to provision as service from the vRA catalogue. You would do this via the service design that you have done for each service where you have defined what parameters need to be fed in and that incorrect values aren’t inserted to ensure service requests are successful. In regards to ASD this is where you make sure the request form is using optimal selection boxes to make sure letters aren’t used where only number should be inserted and drop down lists are used so that only applicable options can be selected.

Release management would also be done in the service design document although it might be the same across all the service offerings or might differ per service offering based on the lifecycles. This would be the definition of when new blueprints are published, where they are published, who they are published to and version control.

Define change management processes based on business requirements.

Change management can be done via logging to ensure if any changes are made they are tracked, this can also be done via the Service Now method I mentioned earlier as well as change management via vRealize Configuration Manager. During design workshops you should ascertain what change management processes they need to follow and then make sure those are met via usage of API’s to the CMDB solution or logging to LogInsight or Arcsight for example.

Based on customer requirements, identify required reporting assets and processes.

Very much like above the customer will define what kind of reporting they are looking for or what you think they should be getting and then producing these reports via tools such as vROps or LogInsight. For the exam I think they are going to have certain reporting requirements given to you such as the Infrastructure manager wants to get a daily report around any alerts that were found in vRA for the past day or sent an email if an alarm is triggered in vRA.


If you think I have something wrong then please let me know as I don’t claim to know everything by any stretch.


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VCAP6-CMA Design Study Resources

A very quick posting around the creation of my new VCAP6-CMA Design study resources page now that the beta exam has been released. As I have done in the past for the VCP5 and VCAP5-DCV exams, I have started building a list of resources I will be using for the beta and if I don’t make the mark then the GA exam for the VCAP6-CMA design. If you feel I’ve missed any resources please do let me know as these pages seem to be very popular and so everyone can benefit with top class resources.

For those signed up for the beta, good luck!



VCAP6 Design Beta Exams Released

A very quick posting around the release of the VCAP6 design beta exams. I know the internal VMware round was happening this week and now they have opened the design beta exams for the DTM,CMA and DCV . make sure you register for the one you want most first as the validation can take a bit of time and you can only do one authorisation at a time it seems. Here’s hoping the VCAP6 beta exams go better that the VCP6 beta exams did.



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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.