TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCDX Spotlight: Tom Ralph

Name: Tom Ralph

Twitter Handle: @tomralph

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

Current Employer: VMware, Inc

VCDX #: 51

How did you get into using VMware?

I first started by purchasing an IBM xSeries 1U rack mount server off eBay to try out this new product from VMware. I fired up the server in my home office, installed ESX 2.53, and started to learn about virtualization. After the first 20 minutes, I could see that VMware and server virtualization was the future.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

As soon as I learned of the VCDX certification, I made it a goal to achieve the VCDX certification and a number under 100.

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

I had already had my VCP from 2007, I first took my VMware Design Exam in March of 2010, with the Administration shortly after that. I then defended my design in August of 2010. I then paced around VMworld awaiting my results, which finally came 2 weeks after the show ended.

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

If you want it, go for it! I learned more about technology, enterprise architecture, and process than I ever thought I would have. During your defence know when to say ‘I do not know’, it is a hard skill to master but a critical one. Know the smallest details of your design and know them through and through.

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

When I first attempted the VCDX certification, I was newly married to a wonderful woman that allowed me to focus 100% on the process. Now we have a 1-year-old child, I am not able to devote the time needed. I would take more time to thoroughly understand and complete my design.

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

My previous company did not know what to make of the certification or what it really meant. It wasn’t soon after I got the VCDX certification that I made the choice to leave that company and move to VMware. From there, my career has blossomed and continues to do so.


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VCDX Spotlight: Mike Brown

Name: Mike Brown

Twitter Handle: @vMikeBrown

Blog URL: www.mabrown.net

Current Employer : VMware

VCDX #: 71

 

How did you get into using VMware?

It was in 2007 and I just started working for an oil company in Houston TX. They had all of test/dev in ESX 2.x. The one guy who managed it all showed me vMotion and I was hooked. I managed to get on the “team” as Virtual Infrastructure 3 was being rolled out to production and the company adopted a Virtualization first policy. From there I got my VCP 3 and just read all I could find online and basically decided this technology is where I wanted to focus.

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

To be honest, it started as an ego thing. I thought I knew it all and that I would breeze right through the process. When I got to my first defense in November of 2010 I was handed a serious reality check. After that failure I re-evaluated what I was trying to achieve by obtaining VCDX certification. To me VCDX means you’re in the top of the field for architecting virtualization solutions, you know the platform like the back of your hand and why you would chose to do something one way instead of another, this is what I was missing.

 

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

From the time I took the VCDX 3 pre tests, enterprise administration and datacenter design (there were no VCAP’s then) till the time I obtained VCDX was close to 2 years. I ended up defending four times before I was successful. I really struggled in the defenses, my designs were good or I wouldn’t have been invited to defend so many times but I struggled with the justification of why I chose one way over the other and once I figured that out and really concentrated on explaining the pros and cons of each way and why it worked for this particular design I was successful.

 

 

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

Be prepared for the commitment and sacrifice that goes into a certification like this. This is hands down the hardest thing I’ve done in my 14 year IT career.

After you’ve passed the VCAP’s and are gearing up to start the VCDX application and design, get the blueprint and read it a few times. Just like with other VMware certifications the information you need to be successful is in there. Remember the journey whether you pass or fail is a great learning experience. And lastly don’t get discouraged, this is a hard certification to obtain and you may not be successful your first time through but remember the experience and improve upon what you just went through and you’ll be that much closer next time.

 

 

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

Nothing. Even though I spent close to 2 years trying to obtain this certification, flying across the world for defenses, the experience and knowledge I obtained was worth all the time I invested.

 

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

Shortly after I obtained my VCDX I took a hard look at the career path I was going down where I was currently working. I was a Senior Virtualization Consultant for a VMware Partner but most of the projects I was working on and saw coming down the pipeline weren’t VMware or even Virtualization focused, they were Cisco UCS/Nexus and NetApp focused. While I love those technologies I really wanted to focus solely on VMware products. In April of 2012 I joined VMware’s Professional Services Organization as a Senior Consultant on the Cloud Infrastructure and Management team. My first official job was to go to Toronto to be a VCDX panelist which was awesome and a relief to be sitting on the other side of the table. I love my job and while I could have joined this team without a VCDX, it certainly helped having it so yes it was definitely worth it.


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VCDX Spotlight: Brian Smith

Name: Brian Smith

Twitter Handle: @bsmith9999

Blog URL: bsmith9999.com

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 91

How did you get into using VMware?

I started using workstation in 2001, but the real work began in 2006 with GSX (now called VMware Server) and ESX. We had a lab full of software development and testing servers, out of Power, Space, & Cooling. We needed consolidation and test automation that included full OS re-installs multiple times daily, virtualization was the only solution. At the time I worked for a Microsoft gold partner we were pressured to use their solutions, but they were weak. VMware’s platform was/is robust and solid, we made the obvious decision. A year later we added Lab Manager to assist with the automation, now we use vCloud Director for the same functionality.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I have spent a lot of time creating and implementing vSphere designs the past 7 years, this certification seemed like a worthy challenge. I began blogging about my IT experiences in 2008. I created a couple of popular posts, one of them about VMware Lab Manager best practices that gained a lot of traction in the community. I hoped VCDX certification would add to my credibility.

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

I have had a current VCP since 2008. I really started considering VCDX and passed my VCAP4 exams in Sept & October of 2011. I then passed on my first paper/defence attempt in May of 2012 gaining VCDX4 certification. After passing the VCAP5-DCD exam I now have VCDX5 certification as well.

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

It’s a very positive life changing experience, it will vault you into an impressive peer group that I doubt I will ever feel worthy of. Be sure to allocate plenty of time for preparation, know your design and be ready to explain why you made every decision you did and why you didn’t make the other choices.

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

One thing I never read anywhere else is not only that you should do practice defence of your paper, but also do some mock design problems. I posted some thoughts about the defence before I got my results http://bsmith9999.blogspot.com/2012/05/vcdx-thoughts.html

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

I have already been given more opportunities to work on bigger and more visible projects. I now enter any situation with more confidence and my ideas are worth a lot more than just another suggestion in the room. Meeting other VCDX candidates was a great experience; I have a few new friends and a lot of new career networking options. It was definitely worth it. The only change I would make is to have pursued it earlier.


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VCDX Spotlight–Nathan Raper

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

Name: Nathan Raper

Twitter Handle: @nateraper

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

Current Employer: Catholic Health Initiatives

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

How did you get into using VMware?

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

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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New VMware Exams Released

 

Just a very quick posting as so many of the top bloggers out there have covered it so well that VMware have released their new Exam set the VMware Certified Advanced Professional – VCAP.

Simon Long has posted a blog all about the VCAP side and what will be required for the administrator and design exams here

Duncan Epping has posted all about the VCDX 4 (VCDX4-DCD) side of things here and details the steps now to become a VCDX4-DCD. Quite disappointed they had to add the DCD part personally as all it’s doing is adding to the long winded acronyms some of us carry at the end of our mail signatures/business cards.

Eric Sloof also posted all about the VCDX4-DCD here and gives a brilliantly detailed break down of the VCAP here. I’ve already signed up to receive an email alert when registration opens (yes I’m seemingly that sad)

I plan to update this blog in the coming days/weeks as more information becomes available. Hopefully to the person who came across my blog a week back by searching “I’m a vcp4. Now what” has an answer 🙂

Gregg Robertson

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The names of the new VMware exams have been released

Just a quick posting about the recent news detailing the now released names of the new VMware exams to bridge the gap between the VCP and the VCDX as well as the VCDX4 official announcement.

Scott Vessey’s (@vmtraining) blog details the names of the exams and the criteria for them and what he feels are good courses to prepare you for the exams. I won’t take anything away from his blog posting about it so read it here.

I’m keeping a very keen eye on these as the gap between the VCP and the VCDX is a very large one and for someone like me who hasn’t gained the experience and expertise required to be able to defend my designs just yet it will enable me to grow my knowledge and also hopefully set me apart from the other 53,000 VCPs, of which over 15,000 are VCP4s and this was a figure from early February.

Gregg Robertson