TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCAP-CID Objective 1.2 – Identify and Categorize Business Requirements

Knowledge

 Identify discovery questions for a conceptual design (number of users, number of VMs, capacity, etc.)

  • These questions are ones you are going to ask during the design workshop for the design/project. For the workshop you need to make sure you have the applicable project participants/stakeholders who can join the workshops (depends if you want one big one where people come and go at certain points or multiple ones where you speak to each business unit/ team). For the stakeholder meetings/design workshops I personally like to try bring in the following people, this does vary depending on the project and what has been chosen but 9/10 times these are the people you want to speak to:
      • Virtualisation administrators (if applicable. If not already present then future administrators of the solution)
      • Server Hardware Administrators
      • Backup Administrators
      • Storage Administrators
      • Desktop/OS Administrators
      • Network Administrators
      • Application Administrators (these are very important as their applications may have very specific requirements)
      • Security Officer
      • Project Sponsors
      • End users/ Help desk personnel (this I find is helpful to find out what are the current support desk tickets/problems the company are facing and if these will impact the project in any way. Also these discussions are easy to have in the hallway/over a coffee but have alerted me to unknown risks that would have severely impacted the design and delivery)

vcap

Identify the effect of product architecture, capabilities, and constraints on a conceptual design.

  • I may be looking at this the wrong way but I think this is actually around how specific products architecture, capabilities and constraints isn’t applicable in a conceptual design as for a conceptual design you are only creating a “napkin” design diagram of how the whole environment is going to be delivered.

Skills and Abilities

Relate business and technical requirements to a conceptual design.

  • From one of the VMware service delivery kits available to VMware partners they give a great breakdown of what requirements are and what business and technical requirements are:
    • Requirement – Documented statement that depicts the requisite attributes, characteristics, or qualities of the system
    • Business requirements – Describes what must be achieved for the system to provide value
      • System must provide self-service capability
      • System must provide x% availability
      • System must provide optimal scalability and elasticity
    • Technical requirements – Describes the properties of a system which allow it to fulfill the business requirements
      • System requires a Web portal where users can log in securely and deploy virtual machines based on defined policies
      • System must have fully redundant components throughout entire stack (host, network, storage)
      • System leverages virtualization technology and associated features
  • As mentioned these requirements will be gleamed from the Design Workshops/Stakeholder meetings and then put into the conceptual design. This is where you would work out if the customer requires a private, hybrid, public or even community cloud deployment. For example if the customer requires certain data to remain in a country for regulatory reasons then in the conceptual design you know compute resources, networking and connectivity between that country and the primary site need to be available. The speeds, number of hosts, make of hosts and amount of memory and vCPU are not in the conceptual design as this is the “napkin” design just covering the concept of how it will all work out and may actually change once you get to the logical and physical designs.
Number Requirement
R001 Virtualise the existing 6000 UK servers as virtual machines, with no degradation in performance when compared to current physical workloads
R002 To provide an infrastructure that can provide 99.7% availability or better
R003 The overall anticipated cost of ownership should be reduced after deployment
R004 Users to experience as close to zero performance impact when migrating from the physical infrastructure to the virtual infrastructure
R005 Design must maintain simplicity where possible to allow existing operations teams to manage the new environments
R006 Granular access control rights must be implemented throughout the infrastructure to ensure the highest levels of security
R007 Design should be resilient and provide the highest levels of availability where possible whilst keeping costs to a minimum
R008 The design must incorporate DR and BC practices to ensure no loss of data is achieved
R009 Management components must secured with the highest level of security
R010 Design must take into account VMware best practices for all components in the design as well as vendor best practices where applicable
  • For Technical Requirements a great way of doing it is to break them down into sections like:
    • Virtual Datacentre Requirements – eg: Allocation model Virtual Datacenters reserves 75% of CPU and memory
    • Availability Requirements – eg: VMware vCloud Director (clustering, load balancing)
    • Network Requirements – eg: Organizations have the ability to provision vApp networks
    • Storage Requirements – eg: Different tiers of storage resources must be available to the customer (Tier 1 = Gold, Tier 2 = Silver, Tier 3 = Bronze)
    • Catalogue Requirements – eg: Catalog items are stored on a dedicated virtual datacenter and dedicated storage
    • SLA Requirements – eg: SLA Requirement #1 – Networking 100%
    • Security Requirements – eg: Organizations are isolated from each other
    • Management Requirements – eg: Only technical staff uses remote console access
    • Metering Requirements – eg: Metering solution must monitor vApp power states for PAYG
    • Compliance Requirements– eg: Solution must comply with PCI standards
    • Tenant Requirements – eg: Customer requires the ability to fence off vApp deployments
  • To make sure you are doing the design in a VCDX-like manner which should push you to do it at a very high level, don’t forget to refine the customer-specific technical requirements and validate that they are specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and testable (SMART).

Gather customer inventory data.

  • This is what is going to be on the new vCloud system whether it is existing workloads or new workloads. A good way of getting this if the customer allows it is to run a VMware Capacity Planner collection on the existing workloads that are going to be migrated in so you know sizes, I/O and current state analysis values. The Capacity Planner can only be run by VMware partners so if this isn’t possible for you then manual collection and recording is going to be required. Another method is via the VMware vCloud Planner which is another tool only available to VMware Partners so maybe getting a VMware partner in to do this for you prior to the project running would be a good idea
  • Also knowing what the customer already has can help you understand possible future constraints for example that all their current servers are IBM and so this is likely to be the server platform for this design.
  • There may also be a requirement to use existing legacy physical kit already present in the datacentre which needs to be recorded and fully understood so that the risks and constraints of using this infrastructure are fully understood. For example if you are using legacy network switches which can’t do stretched VLANs this will impact your design substantially if you have two sites and a requirement for the Management cluster to be failed over/migrated in the event of a disaster.

Determine customer business goals.

  • This is plainly what is the customer looking to gain from the deployment of this solution? At the end of the project what do they hope to achieve? These are sometimes not as clear as you may hope as people have different ideas of what they want the solution to achieve so as the architect you will need to take all these business requirements, set expectations if they are unrealistic due to varying reasons like cost or pre-selected hardware and then define them and get sign off from the customer that they agree to these before any additional work is done. This is very important as if these aren’t defined and agreed to by the customer then scope creep can happen which could cause the project to fail.

Identify requirements, constraints, risks, and assumptions.

  • I’m not going to go into great depth here as I think the definitions of each will give you a good idea of what each is. During the design workshops/stakeholder meetings these are worked out, recorded and agreed to by the customer. Always remember that for any design you need to collect all of these and then look at it in a holistic manner and understand the impacts of each decision.
    • Requirements – Documented statement that depicts the requisite attributes, characteristics, or qualities of the system. See above portions around Business and Technical requirements plus the examples.
    • Constraints – Requirements that restrict the amount of freedom in developing the design
      • Hardware which already exists and must be used (for example,host or storage array)
      • Physical limitations (distance between sites, datacenter space)
      • Cost $$$
    • Risks – Potential issues that may negatively impact the reliability of the design
      • Lack of redundancy for specific hardware component
      • Support staff has not had any training
    • Assumptions – Suppositions made during the design process regarding the expected usage and implementation of a system
      • Provides a sounding board for design decisions which must be validated
      • Hardware required is installed before vCloud implementation
      • Network bandwidth is not a limiting factor for external end users
      • Appropriate training is provided to existing technical staff
    • For assumptions and risks I like to get these highlighted to the customer right away as you normally don’t want any assumptions if possible and for the assumptions you record in your design you want these to be realistically clarified already so that the assumptions are only there to ensure that if what they promised would be there isn’t you can refer them to the assumptions they signed off.

Given customer requirements and product capabilities, determine the impact to a conceptual design.

  • This I think is covered above in places but is also something you can only really learn from actually doing a design and understanding how requirements shape a design and what impacts each of them have. On a conceptual design it isn’t as much of an impact as in a logical and physical design but limitations like keeping workloads in specific geographies and the capability of vCloud stretched clusters between the two locations for example are something that will impact the conceptual design. I would also read the Service definitions listed below in the recommended tools from the blueprint and the implementation examples from the vCAT.

Tools

If you feel I have missed something or am wrong on something then please do comment as I don’t proclaim to be the best and am always learning and welcome constructive criticism and feedback

Gregg

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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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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 6

Objective 6 is what I believe is the core basis of the DCA exam as being able to effectively troubleshoot anything in your environment means you know all the varying methods to do things and how things are tied together and that is real administration. For this section I’ve been doing loads and loads of lab time from just building my lab and coming across certain problems or failures along the way which I’ve been trying to fix via the vMA, the command line and even the DCUI and purposely breaking things/causing problems just so I can practice fixing them . I think the best way of really learning these skills is putting in a solid amount of time in your lab as I believe the reason I failed my VCAP4-DCA the first time was down to not enough lab hours. When you’re under the time and nerve constraints that are part of the VCAP-DCA you make mistakes you wouldn’t normally do. I have also re-watched the Trainsignal VMware vSphere Troubleshooting Training videos as David does a brilliant job covering it all.

There aren’t many differences between the VCAP4-DCA Objective 6 and the VCAP5-DCA Objective six but the differences between the two (thanks to Ed Grigson’s breakdown) are:

  • Use esxcli system syslog to configure centralized logging on ESXi hosts

This is different as with the vMA 5 the syslog feature has been deprecated due to the new VMware Syslog Collector now being available. The steps to do it now via esxcli are covered perfectly on pg10&11 in this VMware PDF. http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/topic/com.vmware.ICbase/PDF/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-50-command-line-management-for-service-console-users.pdf

  • Install and configure VMware Syslog Collector and ESXi Dump Collector

This is really simple and is something you can learn to do very quickly in your lab. I tested this part during the building of my Auto Deploy testing. All the steps for the syslog collector are detailed here: http://blogs.vmware.com/esxi/2011/07/setting-up-the-esxi-syslog-collector.html and the steps for the dump collector are here: http://blogs.vmware.com/esxi/2011/07/setting-up-the-esxi-50-dump-collector.html

  • Configure and administer Port Mirroring

A new distributed vSwitch feature. Eric Sloof has done a brilliant video detailing how to do it here: http://www.ntpro.nl/blog/archives/1825-Video-How-to-setup-a-vSphere-5-Port-Mirror.html . Pretty simple to set up

  • Utilize Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) and ESXi Shell to troubleshoot, configure, and monitor ESXi networking

This is pretty straight forward I think as you need to know what kinds of things related to networking connectivity you can do via the DCUI (like restoring a standard switch) and how you can use the ESXi shell to change configurations/fix problems. I think this is all about lab playing and learning

  • Use esxcli to troubleshoot multipathing and PSA-related issues

The main difference here is now it is just esxcli so it’s all about being able to do things via esxcli. This part in particular was covered in objective 1.3

  • Use esxcli to troubleshoot VMkernel storage module configurations

Yet again this is down to your knowledge of how to troubleshoot the storage modules via esxcli. How to do this via esxcli is covered in the VMware documentation library here: http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.vcli.getstart.doc_50/cli_about.html

  • Use esxcli to troubleshoot iSCSI related issues

Another one where you will need to practice and learn how to do it via esxcli. All the commands and some great examples are all listed in the VMware documentation library here: http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/topic/com.vmware.vcli.examples.doc_50/cli_manage_iscsi_storage.7.5.html

  • Utilize Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) and ESXi Shell to troubleshoot, configure, and monitor an environment

This is down to playing around in your lab with it and knowing what kinds of troubleshooting you can do via the DCUI and the ESXi shell. This is VCP5 stuff so you should know this already

I’ve spent 70% of my lab time on this section as while building and trying out things in my lab I end up breaking things or things don’t work the first time and so I’ve been able to just mess around with all the tools and get it working again. As i said at the beginning, i think spending a large amount of time learning and trying out everything in this section is extremely important for the DCA exam.

Gregg


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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 5.2

Deploy and Manage Complex Update Manager Environments

This is another quick one and for most of it, I just did the Update Manager PowerCLI part as the rest is almost exactly the same as the VCAP4 objective. I think this is all about playing around in your lab again, breaking things, upgrading hosts, patching hosts and using the PowerCLI commands.

Knowledge

  • Identify firewall access rules for Update Manager

Skills and Abilities

  • Install and configure Update Manager Download Service
  • Configure a shared repository
  • Configure smart rebooting
  • Manually download updates to a repository
  • Perform orchestrated vSphere upgrades
  • Create and modify baseline groups
  • Troubleshoot Update Manager problem areas and issues
  • Generate database reports using MS Excel or MS SQL
  • Upgrade vApps using Update Manager
  • Utilize Update Manager PowerCLI to export baselines for testing <- Covered perfectly here: http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/topic/com.vmware.ICbase/PDF/vsphere-update-manager-powercli-50-inst-admg.pdf
  • Utilize the Update Manager Utility to reconfigure VUM settings

Now on to my favourite objective and the one I think is the number one thing the DCA is based on, Troubleshooting.

Gregg


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VCAP5-DCA: Objective 5.1

Objective 5.1 – Implement and Maintain Host Profiles

*NOTE: If this is the first time you have hit these objectives, I am only covering the new things in vSphere 5 and the VCAP5-DCA blueprint over and above what was already covered so well by Sean Cookston’s,Ed Grigson’s and Kendrick Coleman’s Blueprint Breaksdowns for the VCAP4.

 

Host profiles are extremely important in vSphere 5 environments and are a requirement for Auto Deploy. This is another objective I think you need to practice in your lab and do all the things listed below. If you don’t know about Host Profiles in vSphere 5 (which you should from your VCP5 studies) then there is a really good KB pdf by VMware that covers it all here. The guys from the vBrownbags have covered the whole of Objective 5 very recently here and Damian gives a great overview of it and some top tips.

Skills and Abilities

Loads of lab practice necessary for this objective which burnt a fair amount of my time. A fair amount of it is the same but due to it now being linked to Auto Deploy I wanted to really get my head around it all and how the answer files tie in.

Gregg


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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