TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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EMEA #vBrownbag VCAP5 Presentation

Last night on the EMEA vBrownbag’s that I co-host I presented my London VMUG Presentation around the VCAP5 exams, the resources I used for them and my experiences. We had the largest turnout yet for it which is great and very promising for future sessions where hopefully the numbers will keep on growing. I have uploaded the recording to Vimeo and embedded it below. Also all the resources covered in the session and more are listed on my blog page here

EMEA vBrownbag with Gregg Robertson Covering VCAP5 Study Materials and Experiences from EMEA vBrownbag on Vimeo.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Chris Fendya

Name: Chris Fendya

Twitter Handle: @ChrisFendya

Current Employer: World Wide Technology www.wwt.com

VCDX #: 96

How did you get into using VMware?

I first started using VMware back in the GSX days when researching a way to save data center space for a global supplier to energy products I worked for. I remember hearing about this “vMotion” thing which pushed me to look into ESX. I built a small environment, staged the scenario, issued the vMotion command, and was hooked. I will never forget that moment and what followed by relaying the good news to our CIO. He promptly challenged me on what I just described to him. The demo date was set, I again built the scenario, and in a small conference room showed our CIO the power of vMotion. He just smiled and said “Continue forward and get this stuff in our data center!”. I haven’t stopped with VMware since that day and that was over eight years ago. It’s been an amazing adventure seeing VMware grow and watching the changes and impact it has made to all our lives and how we work.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I was challenged by an old boss to go after it a couple of years ago back when it was in its infancy. I began reading up on what all was required, the process, and reading others blog about their experience of the journey. Saying I was intimidated is an underestimate but the funny thing was I was inspired and challenged all at the same time.

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

My journey lasted a couple years. I did not pass my first defense. That first defense was an eye opening experience for me and drove me to go after it a second time. When I received notice I failed after my second defense, I had a range of emotions and for a long time decided the certification wasn’t for me. When VMware announced a final defense for VCDX4 at VMworld 2012, I had many within the community contact me and encourage me to give it another attempt. Had it not been for them, I don’t believe I would be writing this right now 😉

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

Take their time! It’s not a race to get the certification. Learn all you can about every aspect of an entire solution. Where the certification is obviously centered around VMware, it will challenge you on every aspect of a design and a total solution (Networking, Storage, Compute, Business impact, etc) and how each and every one of those relate to VMware and the end design. I found I was questioned on things I never thought of during my preparation and honestly, sometimes things I didn’t know. The panel isn’t there to make you look dumb or prove that they are smarter than you. They will help you through it as much as they can, so as much as it’s about challenging you on what you know, it’s also about your thought process and how you approach a problem and work through it.

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

I believe things happen for a reason so to say I would do it differently or have it happen differently…No. I obviously would’ve loved to pass on the first or even second try but not doing so had it’s own rewards 😉

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

I work for a pretty amazing company! Throughout the entire process they embraced my journey, encouraged me along the way, and in the end were extremely proud when I shared the good news. They wrote this blog article to celebrate the news which I was honored to have done.

I get the “Was it worth it” question a lot. Mostly from customers who have heard of the certification and want to know about it and my journey but also from others in the community. I always respond ABSOLUTELY! I learned an immense amount about designing solutions and myself as an individual. In addition and probably most important, I became a better Architect, Engineer, and Consultant. The people I met and interacted with throughout the entire process has been amazing… Many of those who I know will be a part of my career for a very long time!


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My VCAP5-DCA Experience

Yesterday the day finally came and I attempted the VCAP5-DCA exam. For anyone that doesn’t know what the exam entails then the below description for the VCAP5-DCA Blueprint should help:

The VDCA510 exam consists of approximately 26 live lab activities and a short pre-exam survey consisting of 9 questions. Live lab activities consist of multiple tasks, where each task is scored. The total number of activities provided is based on the total number of tasks. Because of this, the actual number of lab activities may vary slightly between exams.

As I am under NDA and because I want to maintain the high level of the exam I’m not going to go into specifics but more my experience of the exam, what I used to prepare, how it compared to the VCAP4-DCA and what I would recommend to someone looking to attempt the exam.

The Experience

I did the VCAP4-DCA twice so I knew what to expect a lot more but my experience of this exam was fairly different. I arrived at the testing centre far too early (an hour and a half before my exam), my slot was at 11am but I wanted to miss traffic and forgot it is Half Term for UK schools so I had a very easy drive in. I waited in the testing centres cafeteria, ran through a number of commands, and advanced settings in my head that I wanted to remember just in case I was asked to do them in the exam. I was called through and did the usual security clearances, photo’s, signing sheets and removing my watch etc. as Pearson are very strict now on what you can take in (no drinks,watches,phones,food,sweets). I then got setup on my testing station, said a little prayer and began the test.

This is my third attempt at a VCAP-DCA exam although my first VCAP5-DCA attempt but for my VCAP4 attempts I had loads of problems of the screens hanging when I tried to flick over, making a stupid mistake by not reading a question carefully and essentially ending my exam early and for the VCAP5-DCA beta I never even got to question 1 as the lab wouldn’t show up for me. This time however the exam worked really well, the resolutions were much better and therefore allowed me to work in multiple screens without having to move around things too much and I made sure I read the questions very carefully so to not make any mistakes. Personally, I thought the VCAP5-DCA was harder than the VCAP4-DCA as for the VCAP4 they seemed to hand hold you a bit more and almost tell you what you should do to complete the task whereas for the VCAP5 they expect you to know what solution would fulfill the requirement outlined in the question. There were much less low-end questions and quite a few high-end ones where I had to rely on experience to know how to do things that I would not have learnt from any of my study resources. Although it was harder I personally enjoyed it more, now that’s not to say the exam is enjoyable as it REALLY tests your skillset but I felt it was more focused on real world requirements of a VI Admin/Consultant rather than the skill of regurgitating information. I was on my last task when my time ran out which I’m pleased about as it meant my time planning was almost perfect and I got through enough tasks and hopefully did them correctly to give myself a good chance of passing this time. I did skip one or two that I felt I wouldn’t be able to do in the fast paced way the exam requires you to do tasks but this did give me more time to do the things I knew correctly (I hope)

What I used to prepare and what I would recommend using

The resources I used to prepare are listed on my VCAP5-DCA and DCD Study Resources Page already so I’m not going to go into too much detail there but I do have to give special thanks to Josh Coen, Jason Langer,David M Davis and all the US vBrownbag guys as all their resources were priceless in my studying for the exam and I would highly recommend watching the vSphere 4 VCAP resources David did around troubleshooting and Management especially as even though they are on vSphere 4 they are highly applicable and as ever of a very high level.

What wasn’t and is not listed on that page which I did mention a bit about above that I needed in the exam was real world experience with the solution and the technology. I am very fortunate that I work for an IT consultancy specialising in virtualisation and for the past year I have been designing and rolling out vSphere 5 at an enterprise level to customers, which meant I had to really learn what everything did to ensure what I recommended and built for the customer was the best. Now I know everyone can’t/hasn’t had that kind of experience but what I also did that I didn’t do enough of for my VCAP4 attempts was spend loads and loads of time in my home lab building, breaking and fixing every single piece mentioned in the exam blueprint. I worked out that For the last month whilst preparing for the VCAP5 I spent around 55-60 hours practicing in my lab which is a serious amount seeing as I was at VMworld Europe a few weeks back. I believe this piece is as important if not the most important part of preparing for the exam as this exam isn’t like the VCP or any other exam I’ve done before as it is 100% lab based and you are under extreme time pressure to get things completed and so you need to know how to do something like it is second nature and know how things are connected. Micro servers are really cheap, it is worth the investment in getting one or two, and some shared storage and spending the time practicing.

Summary

The exam was very challenging but I hope I have done enough and the amount I have learnt by preparing for this exam is only going to help me do my job better and feel more comfortable doing my job now with the knowledge and skills I have learnt but preparing for the exam. If you are thinking of trying the exam then I would highly recommend it, it is a challenge but it’s one that isn’t impossible and it will push you to that next level. The resources out there for preparing are amazing and are extensive. Make sure you don’t cut any corners and practice, practice and practice some more as I was able to do a few things only due to me forcing myself to practice every single method of doing things. Also, let your partner know you are aiming for the exam, I know this is a drop in the ocean compared to the time you need for something like the VCDX but to fully prepare for the exam you will need to study in the evenings after work and for all of your weekends.

Good luck to anyone attempting the exam and hopefully I will be able to update this posting stating I passed in three weeks’ time

Gregg

*UPDATE* I’m super pleased to say that I got my results back and I PASSED!!! Super pleased and now onto my VCAP5-DCD


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VCDX Spotlight: Randy Stanley

Name: Randy Stanley

Twitter Handle: @randystanley

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

Current Employer: IT Partners

VCDX #: 94

How did you get into using VMware?

In 2003 I was working for a small software development company managing their business applications and supporting their software development team. Initially we began utilizing VMware GSX Server for those simple use cases trying to consolidate and save on our hardware spend where ever we could. In support of the software development team we also deployed ESX in a lab environment for testing and development purposes only. A fairly common introduction and use case early on in the adoption of VMware solutions. Plus, vMotion was the coolest freakin’ thing I had ever seen.

It wasn’t until I re-entered the consulting field in 2007 that I really started to dive deep into the VMware products and they have been an integral part of every solution we sell and deploy. It was this exposure to the VMware technology that really allowed me to develop my abilities and deepen my experience. I also should say that a large draw for me was the large, friendly and helpful community that supported and shared knowledge around the VMware products; easily the best community with which to be associated.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

For me the decision was twofold, first because I’ve had the great fortune of working with one of the best consultants I know in Doug Baer, VCDX #19 and second for the shear challenge of obtaining the certification. A natural, underlying part of the equation has always been my love of the technology and interest in understanding how it works at its core. In my current line of work, utilizing the skills and knowledge measured by the VCDX certification is highly relevant and in many ways a validation of those abilities.

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

It’s hard to say exactly when the journey started, as I had wanted to go after it for the last couple of years, but it seemed so far off and I never really got going. In May 2011, I started and then stopped my journey with a failed attempt on the required VCAP-DCA exam which in combination with a heavy load of customer commitments limited my ability to focus on it. Since I wasn’t accustomed to failing an exam, the DCA failure caught me off guard and I needed to regroup. It was then about 6 months later over the 2011 Thanksgiving (US) holiday that I had a little heart-to-heart with myself and decided regardless of the time, effort or success, I was going to go after the VCDX4 before it was updated to version 5. I was leaving too many good designs on the table which I had worked on with vSphere 4 to not try to at least defend one of them. That’s when my real, 6-month journey toward VCDX began. This involved the DCD4 exam in December, the DCA4 exam in January, the VCP5 upgrade and the DCD5 beta in February, the VCDX4 Design and application in March and then the VCDX4 Defense in May. Approximately 6-months start to finish, but ultimately the journey never ends or at least I hope it doesn’t.

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

My advice to those interested in the VCDX would be to dedicate themselves to the investment of time and resources necessary in the effort. This may mean the setup of a home lab, the time to read product guides, the repetition of product implementation and design, and/or the review of countless blogs and knowledge base articles. But beyond having a sound technical and architectural knowledge it will also require comfort in the spotlight, an ability to present from a white board, a quickness to think on your feet, an ability to envision the big picture design, and an openness to feedback, critique and improvement. With all that said, bottom line for anyone seriously considering it, I would say go for it. You’ll never know what could have been if you don’t try. I believe many will be surprised by what they can accomplish when they focus on a goal like the VCDX.

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

I probably would have started it earlier. Overall I felt the execution was successful once I got going, but for me it was just the issue of starting and sticking with it. Beyond that I don’t think I would have changed much.

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

In my consulting position, the certifications are very much a part of the role and needed by the company to market, sell and deliver the solutions that we focus on. The certification definitely brought some recognition and accolades. It also provided some instant credibility amongst those in our community. For the most part, I do believe it was worth it mainly because of the challenge it provided to me and the opportunity to do what I love most which is work with the technology, understand the architecture of the products, solve the business problems of my customers, and participate in a community that is passionate about all these same things.


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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 4.2

Deploy and Test VMware FT

 

This is exactly the same as the VCAP4 Objective so this is all about reviewing and practice in the lab. I watched the Super High Availability with VMware Fault Tolerance (FT) topic in the the Trainsignal VMware vSphere 5 Training course, went through the stuff Ed listed .I have also watched the FT lesson from the Trainsignal VMware vSphere Pro Series Training Vol 2 as my refresher and enabled it, broke it and played around with it in my lab A very simple one once you have played around with it

Knowledge

  • Identify VMware FT hardware requirements
  • Identify VMware FT compatibility requirements

Skills and Abilities

  • Modify VM and ESXi host settings to allow for FT compatibility
  • Use VMware best practices to prepare a vSphere environment for FT
  • Configure FT logging
  • Prepare the infrastructure for FT compliance
  • Test FT failover, secondary restart, and application fault tolerance in a FT Virtual Machine

A very quick and easy one and seeing as Section 4.3 – Configure a vSphere environment to support MSCS Clustering and Section 4.4 – Deploy and maintain vCenter Heartbeat aren’t part of the VCAP5 blueprint so it means that’s Objective 4 completed Smile

Gregg


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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 4.1

Implement and Maintain Complex VMware HA Solutions

There isn’t much that is different for this over what was in the VCAP4-DCA Blueprint objective. I’ve been watching the HA videos from the Trainsignal VMware vSphere 5 Training course and the vSphere 5 Clustering Tech Deepdive book by Frank Denneman and Duncan Epping. Due to HA and DRS being revamped for vSphere 5 I think the book covers it all perfectly and more. Duncan also did a blog posting covering HA here: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/vmware-high-availability-deepdiv/ (it’s a serious deepdive)

Knowledge

  • Identify the three admission control policies for HA
  • Identify heartbeat options and dependencies

Skills and Abilities

  • Calculate host failure requirements
  • Configure customized isolation response settings
  • Configure HA redundancy

Management Network – Simply down to setting two management connections/vmkernel ports

Datastore Heartbeat – this is new to vSphere 5 and is therefore something new to this objective. I’ve learnt it via the clustering tech deepdive book and from this blog posting by Duncan http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2011/07/26/ha-architecture-series-datastore-heartbeating-35/ It is also covered in the trainsignal videos and is something you should know from your VCP5 studies

Network partitions – This is also new and is covered in the book and the deepdive posting. I also learnt how to fix it should a host alert that it is network partitioned as I think this could be a task and so I learnt this kb article http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2012649 it is also covered here

  • Configure HA related alarms and monitor an HA cluster
  • Create a custom slot size configuration
  • Understand interactions between DRS and HA
  • Analyze vSphere environment to determine appropriate HA admission control policy
  • Analyze performance metrics to calculate host failure requirements
  • Analyze Virtual Machine workload to determine optimum slot size
  • Analyze HA cluster capacity to determine optimum cluster size

Due to objective 3 having DRS as objective 3.3 and this objective being about HA it has worked in well that I have been re-reading the vSphere 5 Clustering Tech Deepdive book as it covers both of these 100%. All that you need to do now is practice doing it all in your lab

Gregg


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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 9.2

Install ESXi Hosts Using Auto Deploy

I know this isn’t following the flow but I wanted to get Auto Deploy tested in my lab early so I jumped to this so I could have all of my Auto Deployed Hosts done before doing all my other lab work.

For this objective I would do an install in your lab/on your laptop and learn it as I think this the only way to learn how it all goes together. Duncan Epping has done a great blog posting here: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2011/08/25/using-vsphere-5-auto-deploy-in-your-home-lab/

Also VMware have done a really great POC step by step that is a really great way of building it and is the one I’ve followed to learn it.  http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.vsphere.install.doc_50/GUID-A9FFEDEE-1A3D-4EFD-A130-F6E78C727380.html

  • Knowledge
    • Identify Auto Deploy requirements

For me this is about knowing what are all the prerequisites and parts that make up the Auto Deploy solution. There is a really great VMware article that covers this and is what I think they based this objective on as it seems to have links for all the parts of this objective here: http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2005131

  • Skills and Abilities
    • Install the Auto Deploy Server

This is really simple and if clicking next,next and finish is all they test you on I’ll be happy as the installation is really easy http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.vsphere.install.doc_50/GUID-A9FFEDEE-1A3D-4EFD-A130-F6E78C727380.html

I would also learn how to configure the auto deploy server as I think the installation steps above are surely too simple: http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.vsphere.install.doc_50/GUID-A9FFEDEE-1A3D-4EFD-A130-F6E78C727380.html

    • Utilize Auto Deploy cmdlets to deploy ESXi hosts

Covered here: http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2012/05/esxi-image-builder-and-auto-deploy-powercli-quick-reference.html

    • Configure Bulk Licensing

This is quite straight forward but is something that is also extremely important and therefore is something I think you need to make sure you really who how to do. The steps are detailed on pg75 and 76 of the vSphere Installation and Setup Guide.

    • Provision/Reprovision ESXi hosts using Auto Deploy

Provisioning is covered on pg 81 of the vSphere Installation and Setup Guide.

Reprovisioning is covered on pg 82 of the vSphere Installation and Setup Guide.

    • Configure an Auto Deploy reference host

This is covered on pg 84 vSphere Installation and Setup Guide.

I think this is something that may be asked as it incorporates host profiles and auto deploy and is something that can be easily tested in the lab. That’s my opinion though.

This objective was really quick and seeing as it is the last on the list I think a fair amount of people may speed through it but I think this is one of the most important as it’s a new feature and also is something any VMware Admin/Architect should be learning as it’s likely to be the way vSphere goes in the future

Gregg