TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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Why do you want the #VCDX certification?

A recent twitter comment or should I say declaration by Craig Kilborn reminded me that I wanted to write a posting about doing the VCDX for the right reasons (Disclaimer: this is my opinion and if you disagree then that is perfectly fine). Also I am really looking forward to the posting Craig is going to put out as he was and still is one of the most prepped people I know for the VCDX defences yet sadly failed it.

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When people come up to me at conferences or VMUG’s and chat to me about my VCDX journey and my achieving the VCDX certification and state they are looking to start the journey towards getting a VCDX number I always ask them one initial question: Why do you want the VCDX certification? The VCDX and path has been an amazing experience and learning curve for me and I know many many others and I personally feel you should do it for the cliché reason of “for the journey and not the destination” as the amount you need to learn and the breadth of not just technical skills but also public speaking, white boarding skills, stress management skills and the biggest one I had – realising how little you actually know and still need to learn is the best reason to do it. I know I ruffled a few VCDX feathers on a Geek Whisperers podcast appearance I did where I stated that getting the VCDX won’t always mean you will get a top role at VMware or get that six figure salary or automatically get that promotion. But the skills you have learnt and perfected along the way to obtaining your VCDX might bring some of those. I still believe this and if you do it for those reasons you might be disappointed once you get your number.

I use certifications to force myself to learn new technologies and for me the VCDX track was something that was going to push me to learn VMware technologies to a level only a certain amount of people globally had “proven”  this level of knowledge. What I didn’t realise was that the VCDX was going to force me to not just know VMware technologies to an expert level but also all the supporting technologies around it and how the VCDX requires people to have a very strong holistic understanding of all the technologies in a solution and how differing decisions can/would have impacts on the success of the design/solution. So even though this might sound a level that is daunting to you (it was certainly for me and to be honest it still is a work in  progress due to the ever changing landscape of IT) the amount you learn about all the supporting technologies, from people also aiming for the certification as well as the community around it is priceless and for me has been the main “prize” of doing the VCDX.

Last year October I defended a vRealize Automation design I had done in my spare time for a real world customer along with the infamous Rene van den Bedem and Andrea Siviero to hopefully obtained my VCDX6-CMA. I was ultimately unsuccessful in this attempt but gained an untold amount of experience not just from building a VCDX level design for vRA along with the required supporting documentation but again realising where there were gaps in my knowledge that needed to be filled. One of these was NSX where I knew a certain working level but in hindsight I naively  should have realised the amount NSX played a part in our solution and even though the defence was about vRA the impacts on the decisions and design we had made for NSX was a direct influencer on if the solution succeeded or failed. From this I have been up skilling on NSX and last week Friday I passed the first step in this by obtaining my VCP6-NV. I will also most likely resubmit for my VCDX6-CMA in the future because 1. I seem to be a masochist and 2. I fully believe a quote from a video I used to watch in prep for my VCDX-DCV second defence of “Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day or even a year but it will subside, if you quit however the pain will last forever” and I can’t help myself but want to complete what I started or else I am accepting the failure. From needing to better my knowledge of NSX I have seen a direct impact and benefit to my role as a Solution Lead in Dell EMC’s Cloud Practice and the methods I learnt and used for my DCV and CMA submissions have proven untold benefit on the deliveries I have had to produce on projects I have worked on.

I’ve possibly been as clear as mud in this posting but my main personal thoughts and opinions about wanting to go for the VCDX are:

  1. Do it as it has been an amazing learning experience and continues to be for me.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail it as for me it has been the best way to truly show me where I need to be better.
  3. Do it to be a better architect and have a more well rounded knowledge as the IT landscape is forever changing and you never know when one of those supporting technology skills will maybe get your foot in the door to a new exciting opportunity
  4. The community around the VCDX is amazing and 98% of VCDX’s are more than willing to help you along your journey but you have to take the initiative as no one is going to carry you. As Rebecca Fitzhugh a relatively recent VCDX wrote about, a good mentor never coaches you but challenges, encourages and provides “wisdom” when needed.
  5. There is a fair likelihood that once you achieve the VCDX your company and/or boss will have no idea what it really means and most recruiters are more excited about someone being a vExpert than a VCDX but the skills you learnt in the journey towards VCDX will be what might get you that new role or promotion but don’t do the certification for those reasons as you might be disappointed that not much changes initially if possibly at all once you get a VCDX number. It’s actually one of the reasons I ask “ Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?” in my VCDX Spotlight postings as for most the change is minor and might only happen a fair time later.
  6. There is a substantial amount of personal time and effort that goes into the journey and if you don’t use it for all the lessons along the way then once you achieve it you might be saddened by what is behind the Wizard of VCDX’s curtain.

If you are realistically aiming for the VCDX(You have the VCAp’s/VCIX in your chosen track or are on the cusp of having them) then I run a VCDXPrepGroup slack channel where people also aiming for the VCDX can work together and where we have almost a dozen VCDX mentors covering all four of the tracks. Message me and I’ll add you to the group but be warned the group won’t give you anything that will break the NDA’s and you won’t be supplied people’s VCDX submissions so you will have to put in the work, the group just provides the platform to get some valuable feedback and link you to fellow VCDX Wannabe’s.

Lastly good luck to those that defended VCDX this week (a fair few from the slack group) and for those aiming for future defences good luck on the journey.

Gregg


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VCAP6-CMA Design achievement unlocked

yeahbuddy

This morning on my second attempt I passed the VCAP6-CMA Design exam. For those that aren’t sure what the exam is it is the VMware Certified Advance Professional –Cloud Management & Automation Design exam. The exam is a 3 hour exam where you have to answer 23 questions consisting of a variable number of drag and drop as well as Visio style question all around vRA 6.2 design.

I’m not going to break any NDA’s around the exam so please don’t ask. What I will do however is list here what resources I found helped me the best to pass the exam this time around and will add these resources if they are not there already to my VCAP6-CMA Design study resources page and also give advice keeping to the NDA that I feel would have possibly helped me pass the first time.

  • The VMware Cloud Automation: Design and Deploy Fast Track course is really great and certainly fills in any gaps in your knowledge that you might have. I was fortunate to be able to do it due to having access from my work white labelled as VMware PSO. The course is good but if you have been doing enterprise level vRA designs for a number of years like I have it can be very slow at points!!
  • The the vRealize Automation Reference Architecture from VMware was brilliant when i started learning vRA and it is still true. One word of advice is to not only spend time learning vRA components which are obviously important but also what supporting technologies are required for certain functions and capabilities to be possible (NSX, vRB, Endpoints, vSphere etc etc) .
  • Remember the exam is currently based on vRA 6.2 so all those fancy features you get in vRA 7.x aren’t possible during the exam so you need to know how it was done previous to those features if possible at all. A great resource I used to remind myself how it was done in vRA 6.2 was to  read the reference architecture i listed above.
  • This ones a biggie and i used two different resources for it, it is the various roles in vRA and what permissions each gives you. Sam McGeown’s mindmaps were the first I used as well as Grant Orchards mindmaps. Knowing what each role does and what permissions it gives is extremely important and maps directly to VCAP6-CMA objective 4.2. Remember a good design is all about giving the least privileges possible.
  • This one I didn’t expect to have to learn as much about and ties into point number two, I read the NSX Design Guide as design objective 3.5 mentions NSX but the amount of NSX knowledge needed for the exam was certainly much more than I expected so for my second attempt i made sure I was prepared.
  • This is part of the study resources for the exam but the amount of application services weightage amazed me so make sure you have read and fully understand all the capabilities and requirements of vRealize Application Services.
  • Last one that is weighted more than I expected is machine extensibility which ties in objective 8.2.

The exam is certainly worded strangely and one bit of advice that i stumbled across during my second exam is that if the text in the question seems to be a repeat of an earlier one and the options to build it don’t match then try click the wide option for the question text and it might bring up the correct text for the question. Good luck if you are planning to take the exam and for me it’s now onto prep for my VCDX6-CMA defence in just over a week.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Byron Schaller

Name: Byron Schaller

Twitter Handle: @byronschaller

Blog URL: vbyron.com

Current Employer: RoundTower Technologies

VCDX #: 231

How did you get into using VMware?

I started with VMware Workstation in 2000 when I was writing code for a living. I started working with ESX in 2005 with version 2.5.1. VMware products became my main focus with the release of VI3.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

This is complicated. Mostly the challenge and to prove I could. In seeking validation, I ended up gaining far more. I’m easily twice the architect now compared to when I started.

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

I completed my VCAP-DCD in February 2014. I guess I was passively preparing from that point until I began in earnest writing my design in May of this year (2016). I submitted in July and worked on my deck from the day I submitted until 2 days before I defended in September. In all I probably spent 200 hours this summer between writing, revising, and raw study.

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

Three points:

1. Get a mentor.

2. Get a study group of people you respect and trust. Mine was fantastic and I’m sure we will be friends post VCDX for a long, long time.

3. Understand your use case. What the workloads you are running on your clusters actually do for the business matters. Understanding the business impact of the applications leads to justifying design decisions. If you design an infrastructure for it’s own sake without taking this into account, I’m almost sure you will fail the defence.

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

I would have used a real use customer design. Mine was entirely fictional. The upside is I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only folks to pass on the first attempt with an entirely fictional design and without working with a partner(s).

The downside is that it made the process significantly harder. I had to make up all my performance and sizing data and make it feel real. That was very hard, and I still think I could have done a better job of it. If I had those numbers collected, because they were real, it would have saved me significant time.

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

My goals around learning include knocking out all 5 AWS certs by the end of the year and then starting on my VCDX-NV.

My company has been pretty great about everything, however with Rene (VCDX #133) as my boss I would expect no less.

In the end was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

The friends I gained and the skills I cultivated were well worth the effort. Without a doubt the VCDX journey changes you in ways few things can.

Byron


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New Horizons

Almost five years ago I wrote a posting titled The Next Chapter where I was blogging about my leaving the then named EMC Consulting to join Xtravirt as I wanted to spread my wings and test myself against being a consultant and with the dream of getting the experience to attempt the VCDX one day. Well I’m pleased and blessed to say that I went from a Technical Consultant to now a Lead Consultant and after my second defence attempt last October I am now VCDX #205.

So to the part that everyone is more interested in, as of October the 3rd I will be joining Dell EMC as a Global Cloud Architect . The role is far too good to not take and the technologies I’m going to be working with plus the exciting  future from the acquisition by Dell scratches my nerd itch. I am not leaving Xtravirt due to not having loved my time with the company and will be leaving many highly intelligent friends and a fellow VCDX (not that he isn’t intelligent as well 😀 ). Without the experience I have gained working for Xtravirt and the high end projects I have been very fortunate been part of as a white labelled VMware PSO consultant ,the ability to work alongside and learn from some of the smartest people in the industry  I don’t know if I would have had the experience and knowledge to gain my VCDX.

I’ll still be on twitter whenever I have the opportunity and will still try answer and help people on the VMware Communities , try attend the London VMUG’s + vBeers as well attend VMworld US and EU. I will also still be running the unofficial VCDX Study/Mock group and be a VCDX mentor as much as time allows.

Also don’t worry I won’t be posting comments on twitter around “My HCI solution is better than yours and your metrics are rubbish” so you don’t have to unfollow me 😀

Gregg


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#VMworld Day 2

My VMworld day 2 started with getting into the VMvillage so that I could write up my #VMworld Day 1 posting as well as make sure I was near the vBrownbag presentation area so that I could setup whilst the keynote was displayed over the screens in the VMvillage.

I am not going to go over over the keynote point by point as to be honest I was half setting up for vBrownbag and also only paid full attention when Kit Colbert was presenting around cloud native apps as that is the bits I am extremely interested in and with VMware supposedly stopping their licencing/agreement with SUSE and planning to “drink their own champagne” and use their own code moving forward.I strongly believe this is the next step in the journey of those who were server admins, then virtualisation admins and now holistic/full stack Virtualisation admins. If you want to watch the keynote then you can watch it here.

After setting up for the vBrownbag TechTalks I attended an invitation only vRealize Automation workshop in the Hands on Labs hosted by Jad El Zein which was amazing and has certainly shown me the amount of progress VMware has made and will be making with containers and reigning in the management and lifecycle of DevOps for their customers.

After the session I made my way back to the vBrownbag area where we ran sessions consistently for the rest of the day. you can watch all the recordings from Day1 and Day2 on the the YouTube channel here

I also wandered into the solutions exchange as I had heard a rumour that Anxcient had a VCDX gift of a poker set. The poker set gift rumour was true and it is certainly a great bit of swag and a good way of alerting a group of highly skilled people about your company

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I ended the day fairly low key after getting a wholesome meal at a restaurant nearby the conference and then made my way to the Bellagio fountains which was really awesome and is something I always wanted to see as I don’t know when or if i will be back into Las Vegas.

Today the vBrownbag TechTalks continue from 11am PST. You can watch the live stream here and as per usual they will be recorded and uploaded as quickly as we can upload them.

 

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight – Kiran Reid

Name: Kiran Reid

Twitter Handle: Apollokre1d

Current Employer: Bank Of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ LTD

VCDX #: 225

How did you get into using VMware?

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

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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VCDX Spotlight –Ron Wedel

Name: Ron Wedel

Twitter Handle: FD_Hauza

VCDX #: 227

How did you get into using VMware?

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

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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