TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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Safe and Legit Storage Design Completed

Below is my thoughts, additional questions I felt needed to be asked/things to be clarified and the Design decisions,justifications and impacts due to these decisions for the Safe and Legit Storage design. If you missed the posting where I detailed the mock scenario you can read it here 

 

Note: This is a learning exercise for me so if you feel I’ve missed something or made a wrong decision then please write it in the comments and I’m more than happy (it was one of the main reasons I’m looking to do this series of postings) to discuss and I’ll amend the design accordingly if it makes sense and hopefully I along with other people reading these postings will learn from it and become better.

 

Additional Questions

As I said there probably would be and which is something I feel is really important when doing real world designs is trying to think of as many questions around a customer requirements so that you can ensure you have their requirements recorded correctly and that they aren’t vague.The additional questions and the answers to them are listed below:

 

Q: Is there any capability of utilising the existing storage in the privately owned UK DC?

 

A: Due to the consolidation and migration of  the other UK DC’s and the current workloads in the privately owned DC a new SAN is a better option due to the SAN being 3 years old now and so it is more cost effective to purchase a new one. Also due to the probable need for auto-tiered storage to meet the customers requirements a new SAN with these capabilities is needed

 

Q: Is there no way a minimal planned outage/downtime can be organised for the migration of the workloads due to the likely higher cost of equipment to ensure this near-zero downtime?

 

A: The customer would prefer to try keep to the near-zero downtime and so it is agreed that after the conceptual design of the storage and the remaining components in the whole design further meetings can be held to discuss a balance between cost and the desire for near-zero downtime

 

Q: With the leasing out of the private level 4 suites in the future will there be a requirement to manage/host other companies processes and data within this infrastructure being designed?

 

A: No there is currently no plan to do this due to security concerns and the number of compliancy regulations Safe and Legit need to maintain and fulfil. There is however a possibility of internal consumption and charging for usage of the DC’s resources to other departments.

 

Q: What other questions do you feel should be asked?

Additional Functional Requirements

-5K 3rd party users will need to be able to gain access into the environment without any impact during the migration and consolidation

-Rented DC’s kit needs to be fully migrated to the privately owned datacenter before Q1 2015 to ensure the contracts don’t need to be renewed

Constraints

Below are the constraints I felt were detailed in the scenario. These will possibly change as I go further through all the other sections but so far these are the ones I felt were applicable:

– Usage of EMC kit

– Usage of Cisco kit

– Usage of the privately owned DC’s physical infrastructure for the consolidation of all three UK DC’s.

Assumptions

Below are the assumptions I felt had to be made. These will possibly change as I go further through all the other sections and normally I try to keep these as minimal as possible but for a project of this size it would be extremely difficult to not have any as you do have to trust certain things are in place:

– There is sufficient bandwidth between the UK DC’s to allow migration of the existing workloads with as little of an impact to the workloads as possible

All required upstream dependencies will be present during the implementation phase.

– There is sufficient bandwidth into and out of the privately owned DC to support the bandwidth requirements of all three DC’s workloads

– All VLANs and subnets required will be configured before implementation.

Storage will be provisioned and presented to the VMware ESX™ hosts
accordingly.

– Power and cooling in the privately owned DC is able to manage the addition of the required physical infrastructure of the Virtual Infrastructure whilst for a certain amount of time having older physical machines still running alongside

– Safe and Legit have the existing internal skillset to support the physical and virtual infrastructure being deployed.

– There are adequate licences for required OS and applications required for the build

 

Risks

– The ability of ensuring near-zero downtime during the migration of workloads to the privately owned DC may be at risk due to budget constraints impacting the procurement of the required infrastructure to ensure zero downtime

Storage Array

Design Choice EMC FC SAN with two x8GB SP
   
Justification -EMC due to constraint of having to use EMC storage due to previous usage
-EMC VNX 5700 with Auto-Tiering enabled
– 8GB to ensure high transmission speeds to the storage,12GB is too high and expensive for this design
   
Design Impacts -Switches will need to be capable of 8GB connectivity
– FC Cabling needs to be capable of transmitting 8GB speeds
-HBA’s on ESXi hosts need to be capable of 8GB speeds
   

Number of LUNs and LUN sizes

Design Choice 400 x 1TB LUNs will be used
   
Justification -Each VM will be provisioned with 50GB average of disk
-So with around 15 vm’s per lun + 20% for swap and snapshots, 15x 50GB / .8 = 937.5
– So 6000 total VM’s / 15 VMs per LUN = 400 LUNs
   
Design Impacts -Tiered storage will be used with auto tiering enabled to balance storage costs with VM performance requirements
   

Storage load balancing and availability

Design Choice -EMC PowerPath/VE multipathing plug-in (MPP) will be used.
   
Justification

-EMC PowerPath/VE leverages the vSphere Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA), providing performance and load-balancing benefits over the VMware native multipathing plug-in (NMP).

   
Design Impacts -Requires additional cost for PowerPath licenses.
   

VMware vSphere VMFS or RDM

Design Choice -VMFS will be used as the standard unless there is a specific need for raw device mapping . This will be done on a case by case basis
   
Justification

-VMFS is a clustered file system specifically engineered for storing virtual machines.

   
Design Impacts -Usage of the VMware vSphere Client to create the datastores must be done to ensure correct disk alignment
   

Host Zoning

Design Choice

-Single-initiator zoning will be used. Each host will have two paths to the storage ports across separate fabrics.

   
Justification -This is keeping to EMC best practices and ensures no single point of failure with multiple paths to targets across multiple fabrics
   
Design Impacts -Zones will need to be created for each portion by the storage team
   

LUN Presentation

Design Choice

-LUNs will be masked consistently across all hosts in a cluster.

   
Justification -This allows for virtual machines to be run on any host in the cluster and ensures both HA and DRS optimisation
   
Design Impacts -The storage team will need to control and deploy this due to the masking being done on the storage array
   

Thick or Thin disks

Design Choice -This provisioning will be used as the standard unless there is a specific need for thick provisioned disks . This will be done on a case by case basis
   
Justification

-The rate of change for a system volume is low, while data volumes tend to have
a variable rate of change.

   
Design Impacts -Alarms will need to be configured to ensure that if disks reach an out of space condition there is ample time to provision more storage
   

Virtual Machine I/O Priority

Design Choice -Storage I/O Control will not be used
   
Justification -This is due to the storage utilising Auto-Tiering/FAST which works at the block level to balance and is therefore a better way of balancing
– Due to the likelihood that VMware SRM is going to be used then SDRS and SIOC is not supported
   
Design Impacts – FAST/Auto-Tiering will need to be configured correctly by the storage vendor
   

Storage Profiles

Design Choice -Storage Profiles will not be configured
   
Justification -Storage will be managed by the storage team
   
Design Impacts -Storage team will need to configure storage as the virtual infrastructure requires
   

Describe and diagram the logical design

Attribute Specification
Storage Type Fibre Channel
Number of Storage Processors 2 to ensure redundancy
Number of Fibre Channel Switches (if any) 2 to ensure redundancy
Number of ports per host per switch 1
Total number of LUNs 400 (as mentioned above)
LUN Sizes 1TB (as mentioned above)
VMFS datastores per LUN 1

image

Describe and diagram the physical design

Array vendor and model EMC VNX 5700
Type of array Active-Active
VMware ESXi host multipathing policy PowerPath/VE MPP
Min/Max speed rating of storage switch ports 2GB/8GB

I’m looking for the correct EMC diagrams to create the physical design diagram  so will update this postings this week with the diagram promise Smile

Well that’s my attempt at the storage design portion of Safe and Legit. Hopefully people will agree with most of the decisions I’ve made if not all of them and I have to admit it took me most of my Sunday just to do this piece and think of all the impacts and as stated there may be additional constraints and risks further down the line.

 

Gregg

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Safe and Legit Storage Design

In my previous posting I created a fictitious company who requires you as the VMware Architect to design them a vSphere 5.0 environment to meet all their requirements whilst keeping within their constraints and mitigating risks. Now I didn’t list the constraints or the risks as I felt this was something that is very important to learn how to define in preparation for the VCAP5-DCD and vSphere designs in real life practice.

The first portion of the design I’m hoping to create (and get everyone’s opinions,participation and comments on ) is the storage design. So below are the portions I will be trying to fill out for the Safe and Legit scenario and hopefully people also wanting to learn and participate will fill out each of the sections with their own design decisions and then we can compare and hopefully learn together/off each other.

Storage Array

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Number of LUNs and LUN sizes

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Storage load balancing and availability

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

VMware vSphere VMFS or RDM

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Host zoning

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

LUN Presentation

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Thick or Thin disks

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Virtual Machine I/O Priority

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Storage Profiles

Design Choice
Justification
Design Impacts

Describe and diagram the logical design

Attribute Specification
Storage Type
Number of Storage Processors
Number of Fibre Channel Switches (if any)
Number of ports per host per switch
Total number of LUNs
LUN Sizes
VMFS datastores per LUN

Describe and diagram the physical design

Array vendor and model
Type of array
VMware ESXi host multipathing policy
Min/Max speed rating of storage switch ports

Loads of bits to decide and design. I’m hoping to have my storage design decisions and what I thought were the constraints and risks for the design up by the end of the week and if not then by the latest next week Monday in my next posting. Happy designing Winking smile

Gregg


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VCAP5-DCD Design Practice

As some people may know I am currently preparing to re-take my VCAP5-DCD and I have reached the point in my preparations now where I am doing mock designs and also going through the labs from the VMware Design Workshop and so I thought I would follow the same idea and start creating a mock customer design scenario and also put down the same vein of questions I am being asked from the design workshop labs and hopefully if people are interested they can use it, write down what design choices,the justifications for these  choices and the impacts these choices create on the rest of the design and hopefully everyone will learn from this. Below is a company profile that I made up and I also used some ideas from a scenario Matt Mould one of my Xtravirt colleagues sent me as few months back:

Company Profile
•    Safe & Legit, are a global trading company – they specialise in ground defence equipment
•    13,000 physical servers across 9 sites.
o    6k  UK (3 sites)
o    2k  CN (3 sites)
o    5k  US (3 sites)
•    There are two level 4 DC’s per country (for info on DC levels see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_center
•    DC’s are linked by an MPLS cloud from BT, Verizon, Colt and NTT (contracts end Q1 2015)
•    One DC per country is privately owned and Safe & Legit want to retain the real estate, but make room to lease out sought after level 4 private suites, thus providing a new revenue stream, and hopefully make their own DC’s cost neutral in doing so. Therefore they are looking to virtualise as much of their physical estate as possible into vSphere 5.0
•    The remaining DC’s are rented from BT, Verizon and NTT (contracts end Q1 2015) . The CFO has voiced his desire to cut the cost of these rentals and would ideally like to not have to renew the contracts if possible.
•    ERP is centralised in the UK
•    Each country has locally hosted Print, Domain, UC & Messaging
•    Collaboration is centralised, again in the UK
•    Typical/normal file sharing is not permitted, all ‘matter’ is recorded and audited in Safe & Legit’s collaboration system
•    With the exception of ERP, all systems must move to a shared or distributed model. This is following a series of natural disasters in the US and China, that could have been avoided by having a DR and BC plan in place.
•    All communication end points are encrypted, but new legislation is relaxing where encryption is required. This is achievable following an ERP upgrade that separates out sensitive and non-sensitive data.
•    There are up to 5,000 3rd party users, that own a license to trade under Safe& Legit LLC, licensees are dropping as the competition develop newer, faster and cheaper ways to deliver access to their trading systems. Safe & Legit still require you to purchase expense fixed private comms to deliver their trading apps. They do not want these 3rd party users to be impacted at all during the migrations and for there to be a near zero RTO and RPO

•   The UK site has been chosen as the first site to be migrated but due to Safe and Legit’s work on ground defence equipment they have not authorised the running of a capacity planner collection as they don’t want their data to leave the premises but have calculated that for each site to be virtualised the environment must be able to meet the following values:

-The 6k physical servers in the UK are comprised of  2000 Linux servers and 4000 Windows servers

-On average each windows server is provisioned with 20GB boot disk (average used is 15GB) and a 50GB data disk (average used is 30GB)

– Each Linux server is configured with 60GB total storage (average used is 30GB)

– Safe and Legit expect a 10 percent annual server growth over the next three years

-Safe and Legit have a long standing vendor relationship with EMC and Cisco and so have requested the usage of their equipment due to this relationship and in house knowledge of the administration of these vendor products

-They have created the following two tables from internal analysis and monitoring:

CPU Resource Requirement
Metric Amount
Avg # of CPUs per physical server 4
Avg CPU MHz 3,400 MHz
Avg normalised CPU MHz 1,240
Avg CPU utilisation per physical system 5% (170 MHz)
Avg Peak utilisation per physical system 8% (272 MHz)
Total CPU resources req for 1k vm’s at peak 272,000 MHz
RAM Resource Requirement
Metric Amount
Avg amount of RAM per physical system 4096MB
Avg memory utilisation 30% (1228.8MB)
Avg Peak Memory Utilisation 80% ( 3276.8MB)
Total RAM required for 1k VMs at peak before memory sharing 3,276,800MB
Anticipated memory sharing benefit when virtualised 50%
Total RAM req for 1k VMs at peak with memory sharing 1,638.400MB

Business Requirements

From workshops and SME meetings the following requirements were collected

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
R011 Any others you think I have missed from the scenario

Additional Functional Requirements (From Storage Design posting)

-5K 3rd party users will need to be able to gain access into the environment without any impact during the migration and consolidation

-Rented DC’s kit needs to be fully migrated to the privately owned datacenter before Q1 2015 to ensure the contracts don’t need to be renewed

Constraints and Risks

You tell me in the comments Smile

Constraints from Storage Design posting:

– Usage of EMC kit

– Usage of Cisco kit

– Usage of the privately owned DC’s physical infrastructure for the consolidation of all three UK DC’s.

Risks from Storage Design posting:

– The ability of ensuring near-zero downtime during the migration of workloads to the privately owned DC may be at risk due to budget constraints impacting the procurement of the required infrastructure to ensure zero downtime

Additional Questions (from Storage Design posting)

This is something I feel is really important when doing real world designs is trying to think of as many questions around a customer requirements so that you can ensure you have their requirements recorded correctly and that they aren’t vague.The additional questions and the answers to them are listed below:

Q: Is there any capability of utilising the existing storage in the privately owned UK DC?

A: Due to the consolidation and migration of  the other UK DC’s and the current workloads in the privately owned DC a new SAN is a better option due to the SAN being 3 years old now and so it is more cost effective to purchase a new one. Also due to the probable need for auto-tiered storage to meet the customers requirements a new SAN with these capabilities is needed

Q: Is there no way a minimal planned outage/downtime can be organised for the migration of the workloads due to the likely higher cost of equipment to ensure this near-zero downtime?

A: The customer would prefer to try keep to the near-zero downtime and so it is agreed that after the conceptual design of the storage and the remaining components in the whole design further meetings can be held to discuss a balance between cost and the desire for near-zero downtime

Q: With the leasing out of the private level 4 suites in the future will there be a requirement to manage/host other companies processes and data within this infrastructure being designed?

A: No there is currently no plan to do this due to security concerns and the number of compliancy regulations Safe and Legit need to maintain and fulfil. There is however a possibility of internal consumption and charging for usage of the DC’s resources to other departments.

Summary

So that is the company profile and my idea around it. I obviously created 90% of the above from my head so there will be additional questions around it but I think this gives a really solid amount of information for people to start thinking. I’m going to do the first posting around Storage Design for Safe and Legit quite soon and will put up what questions and component you normally have to think of but if people want to think of what they would choose prior then hopefully we can get a good discussion going around it.

As I add each section to the design I am hoping to keep updating this posting and then once complete making it all linked on a single page on my blog

Gregg


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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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VCAP5-DCD : My Experiences

I thought I would put out a posting around my experiences of the VCAP5-DCD exam I sat yesterday and what I felt helped me in my preparations and what I plan to use to better my knowledge for my resitting.

Yep I am going to need to re-sit the exam as unfortunately I just failed the exam but I do feel that what I studied was extremely helpful as without having done it I wouldn’t have been close so that is very positive and now i have a great idea of what I need to do in preparation before my retry.

 

The Resources I used this time

The resources I used for yesterdays attempt of the exam were quite extensive to say the least but I am learning design from the ground up almost as I have only been doing enterprise level designs for the past year having previously been a VMware Administrator. The resources I used are on my page here but I wanted to list out the exact ones and what i felt they helped me with and why I think they are essential for the exam:

I know this is going to be a strange one but it did really help me in my preparations and that is having studied for my VCAP5-DCA prior to doing this exam as it helped me learn the new technologies, how to physically create them and the level logical and physical designs have to be to allow the VMware administrator (if this is a different person) to build the solution

The VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V5.0] was extremely beneficial and really gives you a great idea of what doing designs for a living is like but also how there are many different options for each solution. Unfortunately for the VCAP5-DCD exam there is only one way of doing something and that is the VMware recommended way and this is my first BIG piece of advice before doing the exam. Make sure you learn the VMware way of doing design as in the exam the way you think it should be done or have done it in the past may not be the VMware recommended way of doing it and it is therefore incorrect. Also the course is only three days so I would HIGHLY recommend trying to do all the lab work from the course at home and then make sure you go to your transcript under VMware learning, click next steps under the course name and then download the completed design scenarios that you followed during the course so you can learn how VMware would have built it.

Next piece of material I used was the VMware vSphere Design book from Scott Lowe,Forbes Guthrie and Maish Saidel-Keesing. The book was amazing and I would recommend it to no end to anyone doing the exam and anyone doing VMware designs in general as they cover everything and it is extensive to say the least. I did read the version 4 version as the version 5 is meant to be out within the next few months and it gave a really great covering of all the components as 85% of vSphere 5 is the same as vSphere 4 and most of the concepts are exactly the same

The vSphere 5 Clustering Tech Deepdive book by Frank Denneman and Duncan Epping was amazing in giving me a deep understanding of the vSphere 5 cluster, it’s components and technologies and the advanced settings you can create and use for certain scenarios. This book is an absolute must for the exam and covers parts I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else. My recommendation on this book is read and understand and be able to apply EVERYTHING in this book prior to your exam.

As I mentioned I did my VCAP5-DCA prior to attempting this exam and therefore I used resources for that exam like the VMware vSphere 5 Training trainsignal videos by Elias Khnaser and David Davis and all the VMware vSphere 4 VCAP Training Package videos David did for the VCAP4-DCA exam.  These helped me build a solid understanding prior to the DCD exam as I believe how can you design something if you don’t know how it works and how each part integrates.

Talking of Trainsignal videos a MASSIVE resource I used for the DCD was Scott Lowe’s Designing VMware Infrastructure Trainsignal set of videos. These were amazing and Scott gives some brilliant descriptions and examples of what Risk,Assumption,Requirements and Constraints are and how to apply them. I personally battled with differentiating between Functional and Non-Functional requirements and Scott’s videos helped with this as did an article that Victor Forde sent me when I asked if anyone could try help me clear up the definitive differences and Bas Raayman did a great posting asking these questions here . The videos don’t just cover the terminology but cover every facet of designing a virtual infrastructure and how they are are holistically interconnected. I plan to re-watch a few of these videos and also the second last one where Scott brings all the pieces together to create a final design as I think this is very important for the exam and  real world designing

The APAC vBrownbags were another resource I used extensively and is something that helped loads in my preparations and understanding of certain things. The content covered in a number of the sessions were amazing and I took down loads of notes during them and made sure I watched them whenever I could including the gym

 

The DRBC Design – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Fundamentals course was another online course I did in my prep to fully understand DR and BC concepts but also how certain decisions impact how things are done. The course is free so I would highly recommend it.

The resources I will be using and re-using next time

The above resources were really great and all the notes I created from all of them will be used extensively again to try get everything into my mind.

The official VMware book Building a Virtual Datacenter will be a book I am planning to read in my aim of trying to get myself into the VMware mind-set of designing and what are the recommendations for every component. The book was given to me a while back so I am planning to start reading through it very soon

Harley Stagner and Sean Crookston’s VMware press book Managing and Optimizing VMware vSphere Deployments is another book I am planning to read prior to my re-take as they have covered how to take your existing knowledge of all the components and apply it to a design as well as having done a mock design which I’m hoping I will learn loads from.

As I mentioned above I attended the design workshop VMware course and so I am planning on going through all the course notes and the lab work and actually trying to create every portion as I don’t think there was near enough time in the workshop to be able to complete all the lab work. Also as I highlighted in red I was fortunate to notice (no one tells you these are available if you did the course) that the completed designs from the lab work have been done for you by VMware and therefore you can use these to see how VMware recommend doing them and thereby hopefully I will learn the VMware way of designing every portion.

Doing some mock designs of my own and then trying to apply VMware recommendations (notice I never say best practices as supposedly there are none but for the exam there has to be as only one answer is correct) and hopefully learn how to apply these for the Visio like questions

Talking of the Visio like questions, I am planning on trying to create my own mock questions while using these kinds of ideas so that i know how to create all portions super fast as the time frames in the exam are very tight.

Conclusion

I felt the exam is passable which is fairly comforting for me, the exam reminded me a lot of the Microsoft Design exams I did for my MCSE’s but on steroids. As for when I am going to re-try the exam that is still something I need to work out as I was hoping to also get my VCP5-IaaS and thereby my VCP5-Cloud before the VCP5-Cloud exam is released and the upgrade path is gone. A lot of people said if you have been doing design for years then don’t really bother studying and just go do the exam but I disagree massively on this as if you have been doing designs for years you know there are many many ways of building a solution but in the exam there is only the VMware way and so experience may work against you as maybe that isn’t the VMware recommended way of doing it. Good luck to anyone doing the exam, I hope my thoughts above haven’t stressed you out and maybe help you study places I missed or didn’t know would need to and thereby you pass the exam

 

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Frank Denneman

Name: Frank Denneman

Twitter Handle: @frankdenneman

Blog URL: frankdenneman.com

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 29

How did you get into using VMware?

During our VCDX sessions in Copenhagen we spoke about things in your life you would always remember. My reply was ; Seeing  Return of the Jedi in the cinema, the falling of the Berlin wall, 9/11 and witnessing vMotion in action for the first time.

I clearly remember my colleague screaming through the wall that separated our office. “Frank do you really want to see something cool?” As an MS exchange admin/architect responsible for a global spanning exchange infrastructure nothing really could impress me those days but  giving him the benefit of the doubt I walked over. Peter sitting there grinning like a madman, offered me a seat, because he thought it was better to sit down. He opened a dos prompt, triggered a continuous ping and showed the virtual infrastructure explaining the current location of the virtual machine. As he started to migrate the virtual machine he instructed me to keep tracking the continuous ping, after the one ping loss he explained the virtual machine was up and running on the other host and to prove me, he powered-down the ESX host. I just leaped out of my seat, said some words I cannot repeat online and was basically sold. I think we migrated the virtual machine all day long, inviting anyone who passed by our office to see the best show on earth. No explanation needed of course, but from that point I was hooked on virtualization and the rest is history.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The VCDX certification is the highest echelon of certification. That by itself fuelled my drive to get it. The way VCDX is structured by presenting to a panel and defending your decisions was very appealing to me, how crazy as it might sound. Being part of the first group of VCDX’es in the world outweighed the fact that I was going to be grilled by a panel containing Industry leading individuals.

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

It took me something like 6 months. I completed the VCDX enterprise and design exam in 2009 unfortunately I received the results of my VCDX design exam 2 days to late. That meant I couldn’t submit my session for the panels in Frankfurt in 2009 and defended my design 3 months later in Las Vegas in January 2010.

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

The way I perceive VCDX is that it’s a validation of your skill-set as an architect. Through the years 2010 and 2011 I participated as a Panel member and seen many candidates. Usually the candidates that passed the exam were comfortable in having a dialog with the panel members. Being able to listen and respond to the question in such a way that the reply contained not only the answer but also explored the train of thought of the question itself. This usually is a product of having gone through multiple customer-facing projects as an architect. Helping the customer to understand how the product works and how certain features support with their business requirements or leverage or align with existing constraints. One often heard tip is to know your design. And this is really key! It doesn’t matter if your design you submitted is something you did 6 months ago, but you really need to know the details of the designs. The best advice I can give is know why you chosen for a specific setting but most of all understand why the other options of that particular setting did not align with your design. For example, understand why you selected port id load balancing on your vSwitch, but be ready to explain to the panel why IP-hash wasn’t a viable option for this particular design. Leaving out or disabling features to avoid discussing that technology does not work, for example if the requirements listed the customer was seeking for a high consolidation ratio \ high return of investment, then you better bring your A-game if your design list DRS as disabled. Another key is to know when you should leverage the whiteboard while explaining a certain configuration. Practice at home or at work drawing your diagrams such as storage layout or a vSwitch design, find a type of diagram that conveys the architecture and allows you to feel comfortable explaining it while drawing. I’ve seen many candidates trying to think about how to draw the architecture. This by itself should not decrease your score, but it cost a lot of time and believe me that is something you do not have when defending your design!

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

To be honest, no. I took a design I worked on for many years, I know my design choices inside out. The presentation deck I prepared had all the key diagrams in the main part and contained every possible diagram as a backup slides. I dressed the part, fully suited up just as I did with customers, giving me the correct frame of mind and just enjoyed the journey. One last piece of advice I can give. Enjoy it, enjoy being there in front of the panel. Before you know you are out the door again and if you prepared well you never have to do it again.

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

I’m currently not pursuing any level of certification as it is not a requirement of my current role. Earning VCDX opened many doors for me and I even prioritized it over finalizing my thesis for my bachelor’s degree. Though it’s not the primary basis of my the evolvement of my career it certainly contributed to it.