TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCAP-CID Objective 1.1 – Create a Conceptual Design Based on Business Requirements

Due to an imminent customer engagement I am due to be working on I have been refining my vCloud skills and dusty away the cobwebs. One of these tasks was to book the VCP5-IaaS and sit it so that it forced me to learn the basics again and be sure I had a solid base knowledge with no gaps. My experience of the exam and the resources I used for it are mentioned in my VCP5-IaaS Exam Experience blog posting. I have now been using the VCAP-CID blueprint as a structure for perfecting my vCloud design skills and so I thought I would slowly post up each objective for my own benefit but also hopefully help other people looking to take the VCAP-CID. I will be consolidating all the objectives on my blog page here

Skills and Abilities

  • Distinguish between virtualization, automation and cloud computing.

    • This could be defined in a number of ways (I’m more than happy to be corrected here) but the way I piece it all together is:
      • Virtualization is what VMware has been doing for years with vSphere and its complementing technologies. This is nothing new to anyone preparing for this exam and if it is then I hate to tell you this but this exam isn’t for you.
      • Automation ties perfectly into the NIST definition of on-demand self-service which is :  Unilaterally provision computing, as needed, automatically without requiring human interaction
        • This can be done through multiple technologies and mechanisms like VMware’s vCenter Orchestrator, vCAC,vFabric Application Director and third party tools like Puppet, Razor and IBM’s Virtualization Automation solution. Without true automation you can’t have a Cloud.
      • Cloud computing is perfectly defined by the industry recognised NIST cloud requirements which are:
        • On-demand self-service: Unilaterally provision computing, as needed, automatically without requiring human interaction
        • Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms
        • Resource pooling: The provider’s computing resources are pooled with virtual resources dynamically assigned and re-assigned according to consumer demand.
        • Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases automatically, to quickly scale out and be rapidly released to quickly scale in.
        • Measured service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability. Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing transparency of the utilized service.
      • For VMware’s IaaS definition from which they define the VMware vCloud blueprint is:
        • A cloud must be built on a pooled, virtual infrastructure. Pools include not only CPU and memory resources but also storage, networking, and associated services.
        • The cloud should provide application mobility between clouds, allowing the consumer to enter and leave the cloud easily with existing workloads. The ability to use existing consumer tools to migrate workloads to or from the cloud is highly desirable. Mobility of workloads between clouds requires cross-cloud resource management.
        • The cloud should be open and interoperable, allowing the consumption of cloud resources over open, Internet-standard protocols. Access to cloud resources does not require any other specific network protocols or clients.
        • Cloud consumers should pay only for resources they consume or commit to consuming.
        • The cloud should be a secure, trusted location for running cloud consumer workloads.
        • Cloud consumers should have the option and the ability to protect their cloud-based workloads from data loss.
        • Cloud consumers are not responsible for the maintenance of any part of the shared infrastructure and do not need to interact with the cloud provider to maintain the infrastructure. They are not responsible for storage and network maintenance, ongoing cloud infrastructure patches, or business continuity activities. The cloud should be available to run high-availability workloads, and any faults occurring in the cloud infrastructure should be transparent to cloud consumers as a result of built-in availability, scalability, security, and performance guarantees.
  • Distinguish between private, public, hybrid and community cloud computing.

    • These are defined perfectly in the vCAT 3.1 introduction document as:
      • Private cloud: A private vCloud (also known as an internal vCloud.) operates on private networks, where resources are accessible behind the firewall by a single company. In many cases, all the tenants share one legal entity. For example, a university might offer IaaS to its medical and business schools, or a company might do the same for various groups or business units. The private vCloud can be managed by the enterprise and hosted on premise or operated on a dedicated infrastructure provided by a vCloud service provider or systems integrator. In any case, a private vCloud must conform to the organizational security constraints.
      • Public cloud: A public vCloud offers IT resources as a service through external service providers and is shared across multiple organizations or the Internet. This can be viewed as a vCloud infrastructure that is operated by one organization for use by multiple, legally separated organizations. A public vCloud is provisioned for open access and might be owned, managed, and operated by one or more entities. A public vCloud provider might also support a private, community, or hybrid vCloud.
      • Hybrid cloud: A hybrid vCloud combines the benefits of the private and the public vCloud, with flexibility and choice of deployment methods. A hybrid vCloud consists of multiple, linked vCloud infrastructures. These distinct vCloud infrastructures can be private, community, or public, they but must meet a set of requirements defined by the providers and agreed to by the consumers. Connecting these vCloud instances requires data and application mobility as well as management. When load-balancing between vCloud instances (cloud bursting), use a consistent monitoring and management approach when migrating an application or data workload.
      • Community cloud: A Community vCloud is a specific public vCloud use case where the cloud is shared, and typically owned, by a group of organizations with a common set of requirements. In many cases, the organizations also include some level of legal separation. Community vCloud resources are shared, with some parts under central control and other parts with defined autonomy. A vCloud built for government, education, or healthcare might be an example of a community vCloud. A community vCloud can be offered by a traditional service provider, by a member of the community, or by a third-party vendor and hosted on one or more sites. It can be placed on-premise at one or more of the organizations’ sites, off-premise at a vCloud provider site, or both on- and off-premise.

 

  • Analyze a customer use case to determine how cloud computing can satisfy customer requirements.

    • For this I would recommend you read the Service Definitions document from the vCAT as this covers all the definitions and how they map to customer requirements and fulfil these requirements. Also the VMware vCloud Implementation Examples document also from the vCAT shows you how varying implementations can benefit businesses in differing ways

 

  • Given a customer use case, determine the appropriate cloud computing model.

    • This is one I feel you can only do once you have a firm understanding of the capabilities of all the different Cloud offerings and how each of them meet varying requirements and also have differing constraints/disadvantages.


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VCDX Spotlight: James Charter

Name: James Charter

Twitter Handle: @DavesRant

Current Employer: Long View Systems

VCDX #: 106

 

 

How did you get into using VMware?

I first saw VMware Workstation 4 and was really impressed with what you could do with it. When we first adopted ESX 2.5 at my workplace I was totally hooked, and within a couple years was working as a consultant in the virtualization team at my current employer.

 

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

A friend I have a lot of respect for was pursuing it and I thought it was an interesting challenge. I applied to the VCDX3 program and completed the enterprise admin and enterprise design exams, and started refining an existing design I had completed for a client.

 

 

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

A couple of years. I was planning to apply for a VCDX3 defense, but with a young family I was finding it very challenging to make the deadline, and put it on hold. Some friends asked why I hadn’t picked it back up, so at VMworld 2012 I took a deep breath and said I would submit an application to defend at Partner Exchange.

 

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

Support is really important, and your family needs to be behind you, it’s a lot of work and time away from them. Employer and peer support is incredibly important and makes a huge difference. I was fortunate on all three counts.

 

 

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

I would have followed a more structured preparation plan and started earlier. I can’t stress that one enough, have a structured plan with contingency and follow it – life gets busy.

 

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

My company has been extremely supportive and believes in the value of investing in advanced certifications and training. It was definitely worth it, and has helped me advance my design and consulting skills. For our consulting practice it has changed the way we approach designs and solutioning


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VCAP5-DCD Retake

This Monday I re-sat my VCAP5-DCD exam after having marginally failed it the first time in January this year. I wrote a fairly extensive blog posting about my opinions about the exam and the additional resources I planned to use. I would recommend people read that posting first if you haven’t as I still maintain 95% of the pieces I said and mentioned in there are true about the exam. This time I thankfully passed the exam and with not a bad score of 333 also.

 

Resources used:

 

For this attempt i did use a fair portion more resources and actually think I studied more this time than I did for my first attempt. I thought I would list the resources I used or re-used for this attempt and am planning on adding the resources mentioned here on my VCAP5-DCA & DCD Study Resources page if they aren’t mentioned on there already:

 

– I read the official VMware book Building a Virtual Datacenter to try help me get the holistic view and mentality you have to maintain during the build of a virtual datacenter and how every decision can have an impact on another portion of your environment and design. The book was really good and I would recommend it but I have to admit I did skip certain portions as I had covered them in books that had them covered much better and in more depth.

 

-I bought the kindle version of the new VMware vSphere Design book from Forbes Guthrie and Scott Lowe. I bought the kindle version as the paperback version wasn’t out in Europe for a while and my timeframes for studying were very tight. The book is utterly brilliant and covers both vSphere 5 and 5.1 and I would HIGHLY recommend it for the exam and anyone who works with VMware.

 

-As I stated I would, I read the  VMware press book Managing and Optimizing VMware vSphere Deployments by Harley Stagner and Sean Crookston which helped me gain more knowledge around all the portions of a design and the link each component in the design has. The main piece from this book that i really liked was the operational portions as you can’t do a design without having the end goal and plan of it being able to run for a long time after you have left (if you are a consultant like I am).

 

-The main thing I really focused on was going through the whole vSphere Design workshop course notes, lab guides and answers to the lab guides and made sure I understood every single portion and why certain decisions were made by VMware in the completed designs of the labs. If you haven’t been on the course I would beg management to put you on it as it covers every portion you need to know for the exam and gives some great tips for the exam (no I cant tell you what these are)

 

Exam experience:

I was more nervous for this attempt than my first attempt as I really wanted to pass it this time as with having a five week old little one my studying schedule took a knock and I actually postponed the exam for two week later from it’s initial date due to not getting through portions I wanted before the attempt.

 

Once I got into the exam and started making my way through the questions with each question I felt I had got correct or very close to correct i became more and more confident. I also think i managed my time a bit better this time and wasn’t as overwhelmed by what they were asking of me. Before the exam starts they tell you how many visio style questions you are going to get so I wrote down the numbers (1-6 for me) and marked them out after each one so that I knew how my time management was going. I did have two drag and drop questions in my last three questions which used up my time and meant i only had around 8 minutes left by the time I completed the last question. The result came up and very quickly and I was in shock that it stated congratulations and actually started feeling dizzy after not having been able to eat much before the exam due to feeling sick from nerves and not having drank much as I knew I couldn’t afford toilet breaks.

 

Tips:

 

For this attempt i came across and learnt a few tips for the exam which helped me with the visio style questions and allowed me to be sure portions were connected correctly.

 

-There is a scissors icon beside the bin in the right hand bottom corner that allows you to cut a connector/connection you have made in error without moving loads of portions across the page by trying to move the connection to the bin. I did this drag and drop mistake a few times in my first attempt and it really hurt me as it moved portions off the screen and so meant I had to redo pieces.

-Make sure connections have stuck to boxes by carefully trying to move the box and seeing if the connector follows. This is related to the piece above and is a good tip to make sure you have connected the boxes correctly. Also make sure you connect the correct portions together as I noticed once or twice I didn’t click the correct piece and so the pieces I meant to have connected were actually not connected so be careful where you click.

-Do practice designs at home on paint or visio or even word to allow yourself to visualise how you would do different visio style designs scenarios so that when you are in the exam and maybe see one of them you know what your final designs should look like.

 

Conclusion/what’s next:

 

So now that I have both my VCAP5-DCA and DCD I can start designing my VCDX infrastructure and submit the design for defence for the VCDX5 accreditation. I still need to do some soul searching and decide when I want to submit as it’s a serious amount of work to complete all the required documents and my planned design is only about 60% where I want it to be before submitting it so I’m estimating around 40 hours of work to get it all ready which isn’t easy to find with a 5 week old, a full time job as a consultant and my sanity maintained. I will most likely slowly start building my design and documents and submit for PEX early next year although I may be drawn to do it sooner or later.

 

For those looking to do either of the exams I would recommend starting right away and also booking a date for it so that you are pushed to get through everything, the exams are very challenging but there are amazing resources out there which will help you gain the knowledge to pass the exam and with loads of lab time and practicing you can pass them. Good luck to all those who are preparing or looking to do the exams and hopefully my resources page and this blog help you.

 

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Matt Vandenbeld

Name: Matt Vandenbeld

Twitter Handle: @vcloudmatt

Blog URL: www.cloudmatt.com

Current Employer : Long View Systems

VCDX #: 107

How did you get into using VMware?

I was a young systems administrator working for an enterprise customer. I began to hear about this new-fangled VMware ESX thing. I started doing some research into ESX and loved the concept of it. We had access to a lab and I installed ESX 2 and began to play with it. Thankfully the company I worked for also saw the value of the product and we were able to move it from the lab to running some staging machines – this was ESX 2.5. From then on my primary job was designing, configuring and installing VMware environments. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I’ve always been the type to take on a challenge and there is no greater challenge in the virtualization industry. The more I learned about the certification, the process and the community the more I wanted to be one.

 

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

9 months from start of design to successful defence, that’s duration. I don’t really want to count how many hours I spent – probably 600+.

 

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

Start early, give yourself a LOT of time and work with a group. The more time and discussion you have about your design prior to submission the better. That being said it’s a fantastic learning opportunity – I highly recommend attempting it.

 

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

Give myself more time, not rush attempts.

 

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

The interesting thing about the VCDX certification is the journey is the part that improves you most. My work had acknowledged this and noted my improvements as an architect prior to obtaining the cert. They also supported my pursuit of the designation without wavering. I have moved to a new role within the organization and all-around it has been extremely positive. Having employer support is a very good thing.

I’m still pretty fresh to being a VCDX; the response in the community has been fantastic. This has been the best experience of my career and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.


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VCDX Spotlight: Chris Fendya

Name: Chris Fendya

Twitter Handle: @ChrisFendya

Current Employer: World Wide Technology www.wwt.com

VCDX #: 96

How did you get into using VMware?

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

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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VCDX Spotlight: Joep Piscaer

Name Joep Piscaer

Twitter Handle http://www.twitter.com/jpiscaer

Blog URL http://www.virtuallifestyle.nl

Current Employer OGD ict-diensten

VCDX # 101

How did you get into using VMware?

I started using VMware in 2006 while I was a sysadmin at a large community college. They were just upgrading their Novell NetWare servers to Novell SLES and were testing VMware virtualization for both SLES and NetWare. I used VMware Workstation for my Novell CNE certification virtualizing NetWare and SLES to practice for the exams. Later that year, I switched to a different college, where they already had VMware infrastructure based on version 2.5 and 3.0, some blade chassis and other pretty advanced stuff, I thought. I became more interested and took on more and more responsibility of the VMware infrastructure. I quickly convinced my boss to send me to the VI ICM training course and attained VCP3.

That was the start of my VMware certification journey. I have collected all versions of VCP since v3, VCAP4- and VCAP5-DCA and –DCD, and even VCA310 and VCD310, the predecessors of VCAP (which I needed to drive 380 km for; the VCA and VCD exams were only available in Frankfurt).

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I wanted the personal challenge. It was simply a matter of seeing if I could actually do it. On a more subtle level it was about proving to myself that the route I took towards VCDX-level experience and knowledge could pay off.
I had attended the vSphere Design Workshop, and was really interested in following the VMware way in designing an infrastructure and learning from that experience. In essence, I wanted to accelerate the process of learning a fundamentally different way of doing designs, since I had built up my own set of processes and tools over the years. I found the experience of VCDX immensely useful from that perspective, and am still working on integrating all the lessons-learned into my day-to-day work.

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

I’ve been considering going for VCDX since the VI3 days; but even reading through the blueprint was something I dreaded for a very long time. Seriously, I had that file on my desktop in multiple versions for over two years. So obviously, I thought I wasn’t ready yet.

From the moment I decided to actually, really, really, really go for it, it took me about a year and a half.

Somewhere in the spring of 2011, I attended a VMware PEX on Tour in the Netherlands. During the reception, I had a discussion with a couple of peers about VCDX. During the next couple of months, a VCDX study group was formed. Besides myself, Duco Jaspars, Arjan Timmerman and Marco Broeken took seat in this study group. During a preliminary meeting, we discussed methods of preparation, exchanged some study materials and drafted a rough planning. We agreed to meet every month or two to monitor progress and motivate each other.

I was given one day a week by my employer to work on VCDX and worked evenings and weekends for months.

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

The best tip I have for anyone thinking about the VCDX certification: attend a VCDX Boot Camp.

Make sure you don’t go through the process on your own. You need your peers for review. Everyone takes a different approach and has a different angle, and you’ll need that fresh lookout on your design. Secondly, make sure you plan very conservatively. You might run into a writers-block or otherwise. The peer pressure of the study group might make the difference.

Make sure your partner and employer are on board. You’ll need their support during the whole process! Thankfully, my employer agreed to free up some time (about one day a week in the last month-and-a-half) to focus on VCDX.

You know how people tell you you need to know your design by hard? That’s true. Very, very true. I have some references to a Microsoft Exchange Server Database Availability Group (DAG), and got asked more about Exchange than I’d expected. Just so you know: your panel might not stop asking questions outside of the VMware-box. Know your design in-and-out, out-and-in. Let peers review your design and have them write-up a list

of weak points or otherwise point out parts of your design that grabs their attention. You’ll want to dedicate extra time to those areas.

I had a blackout during one of the tougher questions on recovering from a split brain scenario and VMware HA. I just couldn’t explain the how and why, although I did know the answer and had dedicated a whole section of the testing plan to this specific area. I could only say “I don’t know, but I know I have documented this specific part in such and such document”. Tip: if you don’t know, say so. Don’t fool yourself, be honest and concentrate your effort on the next question.

I did make sure I had some fun stuff planned to take my mind off the waiting. Since the hard work was behind me, I felt I deserved some time off to horse around. I have completely re-built the home media centers (Raspberry Pi’s with XBMC with a central MySQL library database), the central media server (Microserver with Windows Server 2012), re-organized the eBook collection using Calibre (since I won a Kindle at VMworld Barcelona!) and spent lots of time with family and friends, whom I had neglected in the months prior. Tip: make sure you plan a cooling down period with lots of fun activities with friends, family and hobbies.

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

I have combined two real world designs into a single fictitious design. I wouldn’t take this path again.

I would have started either source projects or any future project with VCDX in mind. Having all the required documents alongside when you’re actually designing an environment makes all the difference. Taking each step with the VCDX blueprint in mind gives you the chance to actually align with all the requirements of the application, and is way easier than having to accommodate those application requirements post facto. I effectively did a post-mortem on two designs while integrating the two.

I felt I didn’t whiteboard enough. I had a whole list of diagrams in my head that I wanted to whiteboard, but I simply blacked out: I had a hard time coming up with that list once I stood there. I decided not to worry, and to just wing it. I should have practiced diagramming out various specific parts of the design more. I believe a study group is of immense value here: whiteboarding out parts of your design for the study group trains your muscle memory to be ready for the real deal. Tip: practice whiteboarding specific diagrams in a mock defense session.

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

Professionally, things haven’t changed a lot. I did get an insane amount of congratulations, as I made sure people knew what VCDX was all about before defending. Otherwise, I am still working on integrating everything I have learned in the VCDX process in my day-to-day work, which means adopting a couple of new ways of doing design documentation, working with the Zachman framework more often, and most of all: making sure my lessons-learned are passed on to other consultants for their benefit.

Concluding: I’m still waiting for the surprise party I’m sure my boss is going to throw me Smile.


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VCDX Spotlight: Wade Holmes

Name: Wade Holmes

Twitter Handle: @wholmes

Blog URL: www.vwade.com

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 15

How did you get into using VMware?

The year was 2004. I was an IT Specialist working in the IBM’s Business Continuity and Resiliency Services, and became aware of customers utilizing VMware for backup and recovery of their datacetners. I went to my manager at the time and told him about this trend, and that I was interested in becoming a VMware SME for IBM BCRS. I started working with ESX 2.0 and VirtualCenter 1.0, attended VMware training, and in 2005 became a VMware Certified Professional. During this time I spearheaded the creation and rollout of IBM BCRS’s first VMware based warm-site disaster recovery offering across the US, reducing the RTO of numerous fortune 500 clients. And so began the journey towards VMware excellence!

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It was early 2008, and the VCDX certification was announced. The rigor of the requirements immediately attracted me to pursuing the certification. I knew this was a certification that could help further my career as an IT professional.

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

I completed the VCDX the summer of 2009, after taking the beta exam and defending during the first publically available defense. Below was the path I took before defending.

VCP on VI3
Enterprise Exam (beta)
Design Exam (beta)

I had no idea what to expect when coming to defend, and was extremely nervous. I spent countless hours preparing, reviewing my design, making sure I knew the in’s and out, and could justify every granular detail I documented. Luckily, that was exactly the approach necessary for me to be successful. I can’t describe how happy I was when I got a phone call that I passed and was a VCDX! (yes, back then I was actually contacted by phone to be informed I passed). In becoming VCDX #15, I was the first non-VMware employee worldwide to achieve the certification (as I worked for a partner at the time).

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation? Dive in hear first to master your craft. Understand not just the what, but more importantly the why of architecture and design. Use the plethora of resources available to you online to become familiar with the format. Sign up for a VCDX Bootcamp to help prepare.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently? Nothing except more sleep the night before the defense (if you can sleep).

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

I believe I have a unique perspective on the VCDX program, having completed the VCDX program in 2009 as the first non-VMware VCDX worldwide, and then joining VMware and participating in the ongoing development of the program as a panelist. As an outsider looking in, the VCDX program was a goal that drove me to work on my craft, and become a better architect.

Since joining VMware, my participation in the VCDX program has only helped to hone my skills as a virtualization and cloud architect. It has forced me to sharpen my understanding of enterprise architecture principals, principals that aid me greatly in my day-to-day role dealing with virtualization and cloud solutions. I will be forever grateful to the VCDX program in providing a vehicle that forced me to push myself, and aiding me to take my career to another level.


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VCDX Spotlight: Randy Stanley

Name: Randy Stanley

Twitter Handle: @randystanley

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

Current Employer: IT Partners

VCDX #: 94

How did you get into using VMware?

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

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

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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VCDX Spotlight: Michael Webster

Name: Michael Webster

Twitter Handle: @vcdxnz001

Blog URL: https://longwhiteclouds.com

Current Employer : I own IT Solutions 2000 Ltd

VCDX #: 66

 

How did you get into using VMware?

In 1998 I started with the first early versions of VMware workstation on Linux while I was working at a large ISP. This allowed me some great options for supporting customers on multiple OS’s without having multiple machines. I started using ESX in 2002, and even with the very early versions could see the potential.

 

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I wanted to achieve VCDX as a competitive differentiator from other consultants and consulting businesses and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be one of the best in the world at what I do. I also wanted to prove to VMware that I was a serious partner.

 

 

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

At least 10 years, if you include the work experience that leads up to it. I think the previous work experience I had was one of the factors that helped me be successful the first time through. If you’re just interested in the certificate path it took about 12 months in total from the time I passed VCP4, VCAP4-DCD, VCAP4-DCA and VCDX defence. Most of the time was spent waiting for the exams to become available.

 

 

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

Read the blueprints and application documents very carefully and do exactly what they say. Re-read them multiple times and make sure you cover everything. Make sure you know your design inside and out like the back of your hand. Be prepared to answer any questions on any aspect of it. Make sure you know where you made mistakes and can point them out and make sure you know where you deviated from best practices and why. Read all of the blog posts from the other VCDX’s about their journey and the tips that they give. Everything you need to know to be successful in VCDX is already publically available if you’re ready. Be prepared to invest hundreds of hours and a significant amount of money (yours or your companies). Do a mock defence with people that can ask pointed questions as a customer would so you have to explain and justify everything. Make sure you are comfortable presenting and can think and design and troubleshoot on your feet.

 

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

I don’t think I’d change anything.

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

 

Regardless of how my company and customers responded the process was definitely worth it. I loved the process and I learned a lot from it. Even if I wasn’t successful at the defence it would still have been worth it, just for the learning experience alone.

It has opened a lot more doors since I achieved VCDX and I have had the opportunity to work on a few more exciting projects that I may not have had otherwise. Some customers are specifying a requirement for VCDX in their RFP’s. So being one of such a small group really is worth it.

I get the opportunity to contact and work with quite a few other VCDX’s and this is very valuable, as everyone has different experience and there is always opportunities to learn more.

One thing that I constantly have running through my mind is “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think with having achieved VCDX people pay a lot more attention to what I say and do and I have to be a good role model. The number of followers and connections I have has certainly increased a lot. So there can be a lot greater consequences for what I say in public and I try to be mindful of that. But it’s not going to stop me speaking my mind. But I do consider the impact a lot more before I take a position on something.

But everybody is human, even VCDX’s. We can’t know everything, but we do try and know what we don’t know, and if we don’t know something say so. Integrity is of the utmost importance.

This is always nice also:

IMG_3437


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VCDX Spotlight: Chris Colotti

Name: Chris Colotti

Twitter Handle: @CColotti

Blog URL: http://www.chriscolotti.us

Current Employer: VMware, Inc.

VCDX #: 37

How did you get into using VMware?

This is actually a long story, but I will try to keep it brief. Back in late 2003, I began playing with ESX 1.5 in a home lab for my own personal education. At the time I was a business analyst working for the office of the Executive Vice President at PC Connection in NH, helping create a new custom application for the sales team. However, I really wanted to work in the IT department. I started to learn as much about VMware and virtualization as I could as part of the project. Once the project needed to move into implementation I saw my opening to pitch the use of VMware. I also knew that nobody in IT at the time even heard or it, so I ended up being the VMware expert and was moved into IT to run the implementation of the systems. I deployed PC Connection’s first groups of clusters on IBM hardware and storage with good success. At the time we were one of very few companies using VMware 2.x in Production at the time and we were a great story for IBM and VMware.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I’d like to say it was for career advancement, or recognition, but really the main reason was personal growth. As a VMware PSO employee at the time it was harder to find the time and the support from some managers back then to take the tests, let alone the defence. Like many things I do in my life, I do them just to see if I can and to help myself grow to a new personal level. It’s a challenge to myself to learn new things and VCDX was one I wanted to see if I could get. I simply wanted to be one of the first people in VMware PSO to achieve the certification and my mission was accomplished.

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

This for me took almost 2 years. I started the process by taking the original tests once they were released. Getting support from managers as a PSO person on delivery engagements was always a challenge, but there was also delays in the early stages of the tests and defences. Once I passed the tests, there were not many defences available to get into at first. I think I recall there only being ones at PEX and VMworld at that time. If memory serves there was not any outside of corporate events like the big two. I also think the limited spots were being given to VMware employees at fist in order to get the word out on the program for non VMware people. Travel budgets and other restrictions got lifted and finally made it possible at Partner Exchange in Las Vegas.

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

I think the best advice I can give is like any challenge, do it for you. Not for you’re company, your boss, the hope of a raise, or jumping ship with a shiny new certification to get you a new job. If you go into it with goals that are not for personal growth, it’s not going to be fun or rewarding. You should WANT to get your VCDX, you should not feel like you HAVE to get it. The other things may or may not come, but nothing is ever guaranteed except personal satisfaction. Prepare for the defence properly. It’s a conversation between you and the panel. It’s not a grilling session of you by them, or a 90 minute PowerPoint by you. Have fun with it and I say these days, enjoy the journey. I think the best part for me was the defence itself, and that is where most people freak out. I actually had fun talking about the solution and admitting where things were not really great in the design. Those areas gave me talking points for the panel. No design is perfect, you should admit where you made mistakes, and why they may have been bad decisions. Lastly, too many people worry about the names of the panellists and who they will get. Don’t worry about it, frankly it does not matter who you get on your panel.

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

 I’m not sure really. I passed the defence on the first attempt, so I really have nothing to look back on and change. Personally the written exams are tough for me. If I could change anything it would be to study for those more. Even today I have trouble with the exams to maintain my upgrade status. I cannot even say I’d want a different group of panel members as a joke. I liked having both Frank and Duncan in the room for my defence. We have all three been friends really ever since and found mutually newfound respect for one another. My journey led to many projects with both of them. I can’t say I’d personally change anything, I’d do it the same a second time around.

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

Trick question since I work for VMware. At the time it was so new and not well known so there was not much response to be honest. I think now as people pass it there is more visibility to it, so there may be more recognition internally. For me being #37 and the fact it was so new made it hard for people to understand what it meant. Life is the same as it was before for the most part. I’d say it was worth it for my personal growth like anything else I do, but for me it has not change anything in what I do or how I do it. Back then I wish it had more recognition, but as they say, it is what it is.