TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCDX Spotlight: Matt Vandenbeld

Name: Matt Vandenbeld

Twitter Handle: @vcloudmatt

Blog URL: www.cloudmatt.com

Current Employer : Long View Systems

VCDX #: 107

How did you get into using VMware?

I was a young systems administrator working for an enterprise customer. I began to hear about this new-fangled VMware ESX thing. I started doing some research into ESX and loved the concept of it. We had access to a lab and I installed ESX 2 and began to play with it. Thankfully the company I worked for also saw the value of the product and we were able to move it from the lab to running some staging machines – this was ESX 2.5. From then on my primary job was designing, configuring and installing VMware environments. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I’ve always been the type to take on a challenge and there is no greater challenge in the virtualization industry. The more I learned about the certification, the process and the community the more I wanted to be one.

 

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

9 months from start of design to successful defence, that’s duration. I don’t really want to count how many hours I spent – probably 600+.

 

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

Start early, give yourself a LOT of time and work with a group. The more time and discussion you have about your design prior to submission the better. That being said it’s a fantastic learning opportunity – I highly recommend attempting it.

 

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

Give myself more time, not rush attempts.

 

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

The interesting thing about the VCDX certification is the journey is the part that improves you most. My work had acknowledged this and noted my improvements as an architect prior to obtaining the cert. They also supported my pursuit of the designation without wavering. I have moved to a new role within the organization and all-around it has been extremely positive. Having employer support is a very good thing.

I’m still pretty fresh to being a VCDX; the response in the community has been fantastic. This has been the best experience of my career and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.

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VCDX Spotlight: Lane Leverett

Name: Lane Leverett

Twitter Handle: @wolfbrthr

Current Employer: Enterprise Networking Solutions Inc.

VCDX #: 53

 

How did you get into using VMware?

I first started using VMware Workstation and ESX in 2005 while working at JTS Communities as a Network Administrator. As I worked with ESX and saw the isolation/encapsulation capabilities I could see just how disruptive virtualization would be for the technology industry and that it would enable and usher in so many new capabilities that were either very difficult and/or costly to implement and manage. I also liked the fact that in order to do virtualization well it would require me to be well rounded in Server Operating Systems, Networking, and Storage as well as virtualization itself. I liked that challenge and saw this as the career path I wanted to target. So I then looked for employers where I could design and implement virtualization solutions or where I could manage and administer large and complex virtual environments.

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

I started in November of 2009 taking the VMware Administrator and VMware Design exams (now the VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD exams). VMware was still working out kinks in the communication process for how you were enrolled for those exams, and then getting back to you on when you could schedule the next step. I then took the first VCDX Boot Camp at Partner Exchange in Vegas in 2010. I sat in the back of the room and started to soak in the information. I ended up sitting next to Frank Denneman (VCDX#29) and he was giving his VCDX defense the very next day. He was SO gracious and helpful pointing me in the right direction giving me a heads up that I would need to spend a good deal of time and attention on the application and design documentation. I then ended up filling out the application and augmenting and providing the necessary required documentation from my real world design in May and submitted all of that information right before the deadline (Like I think I maybe had an hour to spare). That was really the most gut wrenching part of the entire process, and in my opinion the most difficult. I got the thumbs up that my application and documents had been accepted and that I would be defending my design the Thursday before VMworld. I then spent the remaining time till then reviewing my design and based on the advice from the VCDX boot camp, going over not only why I had made certain design decisions, but also why I chose not to make different design decisions. Was it because of a constraint, a customer requirement, or perhaps even preference towards a certain hardware vendor on the customers end. For me, the defense, while nerve wracking, was not actually the most difficult portion of the entire process. I am pretty good at thinking on my feet, I have excellent communication and soft skills, and I’ve had plenty of experience delivering designs and doing presales sessions in front of customers. Doing the defense was really no different. I just had a VERY well educated and technical astute customer. Smile It was nice to be done with the defense and enjoy VMworld, but it wasn’t till almost a month later that I got the e-mail with the good news.

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

First off, the VCDX isn’t for everyone. It really is for those that are currently VMware design architects or that aspire to that kind of position. This certification is really geared for folks that understand how to take a customer’s business requirements and can turn that into a technical solution given all the potential risks, requirements, and constraints for that particular customer.

If you do feel this is the right path for you then I first of all recommend that you use a real customer design. Even though a fictitious customer is acceptable, it will drive you crazy having to create from scratch a whole customer scenario (this would be analogous to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien coming up with the entire history of Middle Earth, legends, the Elvish language, etc. – you don’t want to really do that unless you’re a glutton for punishment).

Another item of advice is to make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to put together the application and documents. Don’t put it off or procrastinate. You’ll be sorry if you do.

Also, keep your design simple. Your design doesn’t have to be a 500 page multi-site international design complete with VDI, every hardware vendor under the sun, etc. The cleaner and simpler you can make your design, the better off you’ll be. Don’t hand in a five page design doc – that would also be hurtful to your chances of passing. But remember, you’re gonna need to know this design like the back of your hand when you give your defense, so do yourself (and the VCDX application review board) a favour and keep it short, but also complete (DO NOT leave out anything that they ask you in the application to have included in your documentation).

And finally get peer support. Get advice from folks on twitter or the community forums. Have people review your design and folks you respect watch your mock defense sessions.

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

Have given myself more time on the application and design documentation.

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

Life is good. I feel truly honoured (and still quite shocked) to be in the company of some truly amazing people. I actually ended up changing jobs weeks before I found out if I had gotten the VCDX. But that was really just a chance for me to move back home from Kansas to Northern California. That in itself has been a true joy. I’m working at a small integrator out of Sacramento, CA and I have the privilege to work alongside some truly fantastic peers. I know I could have my pick of several great opportunities out there, but for now, the ability to stay close to home with almost no travel allows me to spend quality and quantity time with my son and daughter.


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VCDX Spotlight: Scott Lowe

Name: Scott Lowe

Twitter Handle: @scott_lowe

Blog URL: http://blog.scottlowe.org

Current Employer: EMC Corporation

VCDX #: 39

 

How did you get into using VMware?

I first started using VMware in the 2003-2004 timeframe, beginning with VMware GSX Server. I loved the idea of running multiple OS instances on a physical server in order to provide more fine-grained resource utilization and workload isolation. It wasn’t long before I transitioned to VMware ESX just after the release of ESX 2.5, and I achieved my first VCP on ESX 2.5. (I guess that makes me a VCP2/3/4/5.) Moving to ESX Server was, for me, fabulous; the ability to migrate virtual machines between physical systems (what we call vMotion) was revolutionary. It’s kind of funny now how we almost take it for granted. At the same time, I was also exploring the use of VMware on the desktop, using VMware Workstation and—immediately upon its very earliest “Friends and Family” release at VMworld 2006—I switched to VMware Fusion on a MacBook Pro.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

When the VCDX was first announced, I immediately decided to go for it. For years, I had considered pursuing CCIE, but not being a full-time networking specialist that was (and still is) very difficult. Here, though, was a CCIE-type achievement targeted at virtualization, something I was doing all day every day. For me, it was a no-brainer. I simply had to do it.

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

I completed the Enterprise Administration exam (now referred to as VCAP-DCA) in March of 2009, and was anticipating taking the Design Exam almost immediately afterward. For whatever reason, though, I was unable to get into the Design exam beta. Those that did get into the beta were eligible to participate in the first VCDX defences at VMworld 2009. I had to wait until early November of 2009 to take and pass the Design Exam (now known as VCAP-DCD). I submitted my defence design in late December 2009, and defended at VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) 2010 in Las Vegas. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

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

Go for it! Among the other things that pursuing VCDX taught me, one of them was that pursuing a goal such as VCDX is a worthwhile endeavour. If you’re already working with VMware virtualization every day, why would you not pursue it? Having a goal like VCDX helps shape your learning, helps drive you to a deeper understanding of the technologies and concepts, and sharpens your ability to tie that technical knowledge back to the business. All of those things, in my mind, are beneficial apart from the certification. As for tips or tricks, I can only say that you need to go both deep and wide. You need to be deeply proficient in the products, but you also need to be able to take a wide view of how all the products and technologies fit together and relate to each other.

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

That’s a tough question. Life was really crazy at that time—I was in the midst of writing Mastering VMware vSphere 4 (which was released at VMworld 2009) and VMware vSphere 4 Administration Instant Reference. I was doing that while studying for ESX 3.x exams (the Enterprise Administration and Design exams were, at that time, still based on VI3). That was a challenge for me. I think if I had it to do over again, I probably would have focused more on the certification instead of having several major projects going on at the same time. Of course, life doesn’t always give you that luxury!

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

Was it worth it? Absolutely, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. For me, the value in VCDX was in the achievement of a personal goal, the achievement of excellence in a technology that I enjoyed using. I achieved VCDX shortly after joining EMC (I joined EMC in January 2010, and I achieved VCDX in February 2010), and EMC didn’t really respond differently to me afterward. That’s OK, though, because I wasn’t really doing it for any reason other than to satisfy my own drive for achievement.


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VCDX Spotlight–Nathan Raper

About two years ago I came up with the idea of the vExpert Spotlight to help people looking to get into IT,virtualisation and possibly gain the same kinds of roles a number of the vExperts are in. I’m pleased to say the idea gained loads of interest and is now being published three times a week on the VMTN blog. At present I’m looking to start my journey on becoming a VCDX5 and came up with the idea of using the same kind of format as the vExpert Spotlights but getting the current VCDX’s to answer a few questions so that VCDXWannabe’s like myself can find out more about each of them and why they decided to start the journey in becoming a VCDX. I asked a few of the VCDX’s I know who follow me on twitter if they would be willing to answer the questions and as is the case in the VMware community, everyone was more than happy to do it and liked the idea. So I would like to introduce the first in hopefully almost 100(the current number of VCDX’s worldwide) VCDX Spotlights and one from a good friend of mine who obtained his VCDX only a few months ago:

Name: Nathan Raper

Twitter Handle: @nateraper

Blog URL: nateraper.wordpress.com – I swear I’ll blog soon!

Current Employer: Catholic Health Initiatives

VCDX #: 85 – that’s “ochocinco” for the US folks 😉

How did you get into using VMware?

I worked for a small Citrix and Microsoft reseller in the late 1990s (Hensmann Technology in Castle Rock, CO for anyone who remembers them) that was focused on delivering solutions to small healthcare providers. The owner was a forward-thinker and saw VMware as a game changer. We started using ESX 1.5 internally and went to the 5-day certification class so that we could attain VCP certification and become an authorized reseller for VMware. I was hooked…

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I love a challenge! VCDX was a motivation for me, a goal that would help me take my virtualization and datacenter skills deeper. I also saw it as career insurance – a way to differentiate myself in the job market.

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

I think it was some time in mid-2010 that I started exploring the idea of pursuing VCDX. In late 2010 I made up my mind and I started studying in earnest for the DCA exam and took that in early 2011. That’s probably the most difficult exam I’ve ever taken (although VCP2 was no walk in the park either). DCD came later that summer. I stalled a bit at that point because I knew that there was a lot of work that needed to go in to my design and there was uncertainty from VMware whether or not they would hold another VCDX 4 defense. I also had taken a lot of time off from pursuing my Master’s degree and needed to take some classes toward that. When VMware announced that Toronto would be the final shot at VCDX 4, I got busy! So I guess around 18 months, but I certainly didn’t hurry.

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

Do it! I learned a tremendous amount through the process and took myself beyond limits that I thought that I had. Don’t look at the VCDX as a purely technical certification – it’s not. VCDX requires both technical and business skills, so seek peer review of both your submission and your presentation skills. Plan to do several mock defenses with both technical gurus and business leaders – the business leaders may ask more difficult questions and ones that you wouldn’t otherwise prepare for! Study the blueprint, VMware publishes it for a reason. And get support from your family and friends – find a cheerleader to keep you motivated when it’s late at night and you want to give up. VCDX is a long journey and I could not have achieved this without the support of my wife!

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

I would definitely work more on my soft skills and mentally preparing myself. I’m in a position right now that doesn’t require me to be in front of people very often, so my presentation skills had dried up a bit from my consulting days. Above all I would learn to control my nerves better and calm down – I was a nervous wreck during my defense!

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

Well it’s only been a couple of weeks since the results went out…not a lot of time for change, but it has certainly opened up some exciting doors for me. Several folks at my company congratulated me and my boss took me to dinner but I don’t think that many understand the significance of the certification. My reps and contacts at EMC and VMware were all excited and happy for me. Was it worth it? Absolutely!