TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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VCAP5-DCA is now GA

A very quick posting for those people out there who are looking to either test out their skills over and above the VCP5 accreditation or those like myself you are hoping to try for the VCDX5 accreditation. The official posting went out earlier today as did the blueprint which hasn’t changed since the beta.

If you feel you are willing to take the challenge of the VCAP5-DCA then you can register for the exam here. Due to my being part of the VCAP5-DCA beta I have already started listing all the resources I’m going to use for the exam on my VCAP5-DCA and DCD Study Resource Page and I’ve also almost finished covering all the VCAP5-DCA blueprint objectives.

Good luck to everyone looking to do the exam and if you know of any other resources I’m missing from my resources page please leave a comment so I can add it to the list

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight-Josh Odgers

Name: Josh Odgers

Twitter Handle: @josh_odgers

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

Current Employer: IBM Australia

VCDX #: 90

How did you get into using VMware?

I had been a Post/Pre Sales engineer for a number of years, specialising in Storage / Servers / Wintel type technologies, the company I was working for at the time put me on the VMware Virtual Infrastructure – Install and Configure Course and wanted me to get VCP as soon as possible as a requirement of the VMware partner program. The course really inspired me, and I quickly focused my attention and career path on virtualisation and shared storage. I gained my first VCP (VCP3) in mid 2007.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

A good friend of mine (and former Colleague) James Wirth, better known as VCDX#83 and I decided to challenge ourselves and each other. It started out as a bit of a challenge or contest, but quickly turned into an excellent learning experience. In the back of my mind I also wanted see how my skills compared to the elite virtualisation architects (the VCDXs).

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

As always, I tend to put myself under pressure, which I did in this case. James and I agreed we would like to defend in Germany and take a run down the autobahns in a Porsche 911 Turbo, but we quickly realised time was not on our side as applications were due in December, so we agreed on Toronto.

I sat the VCP4 in November 2011 (after already sitting VCP5 thinking that would qualify me for the VCAP4 exams, big mistake!), then VCAP4-DCD in early December, VCAP4-DCA in mid December, then prepared my application in January & Feb (while also Sitting VCAP5-DCD Beta exam).

I completed the VCDX4 Defence in Toronto May 2012.

So all up, including study it was only October 2011 to May 2012, a total of 8 months.

I would however not recommend anyone try to go through the VCDX “Journey” in 8 months as I studied day and night, and had minimal personal life during this time. I was lucky to have had a solid 6 years working with VMware products, so the experience was essential, without the experience, I wouldn’t have had a chance.

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

The VCDX journey should be looked at as a huge learning experience, rather than just aiming for a certification.

Assuming you have several years (I’d suggest 5+) of solid VMware experience with significant and varied design experience, I’d give yourself 6 months per VCAP exam, and 6 months to prepare your VCDX application. So 18 months, total.

I would suggest

1. Do whiteboard design scenario sessions with other skilled VMware architects and consider the pro’s and con’s of every architectural decision, and when you use one setting over another, and vice versa. This is very handy, not just for VCDX defence where you will be asked these type of questions, but for a VMware architects day to day job.

2. Read, read, and read some more. Books like Duncan and Frank’s vSphere 4.1 HA/DRS & vSphere 5 Clustering books are excellent. Blogs, VMware Best practice documents etc are great resources.

3. Setup a home lab (if you don’t have a lab at the office). Test things, try as many different scenarios as possible and run through all the tasks in the VCAP4-DCA blueprint several times, as the DCA exam requires you complete alot of tasks in a short period of time, so you don’t want to have to refer to the manuals at all if possible.

4. Know the VCAP and VCDX blueprints back to front!

5. Repeat items 1 through 4

6. Refer to item 5

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

Take more time, a lot more! I still feel there is a lot I can learn, and I feel I would have enjoyed the journey more, as I wouldn’t have been under such tight time pressures. I would also have done more design scenario sessions with friends and colleagues, as these are great ways to learn as well as help prepare for the VCDX panel.

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

Was it worth it?? 100% Yes. It was definitely worth it. I learned a huge amount, and improved as a VMware architect. I now think my architectural decisions through much more and consider a wider range of options.

Life after VCDX for me is much like the VCDX journey, keep learning as much as possible, including improving my skills in complimentary technologies, such as Storage & networking.

I am planning on knocking off the desktop certifications VCA4-DT, VCP4-DT and VCP5-DT in the next couple of months, and when released, the VCPVCD511 (VCP-IaaS).

Hope I can get a healthy pay rise too! (Hope the boss reads this, wink wink, nudge nudge)


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VCAP5-DCA Beta

As a VMware vExpert working for Xtravirt Limited and a keen contributor to the VCAP communities on the VMware communities ,I received an email from Randy Becraft from VMware confirming my inclusion on the VCAP5-DCA beta exam along with the Blueprint for the exam which should be starting in the coming weeks. Obviously I am under NDA so I can’t divulge too much but Randy has kindly given me permission to blog about the blueprint and what will be required once the exam becomes available to the public.

The Differences

The exam is 60-70% the same as the VCAP4 but the main differences are:

  • The exam consists of approximately 26 live lab activities and consists of multiple tasks, where each task is scored. This is down from the 36 there was in the VCAP4-DCA which I think is much better as I blazed through the VCAP4-DCA to try finish enough of the questions in time and made a few mistakes along the way due to this.
  • There are a number of sections and products which are thankfully not part of the exam any more. This is great as these were very uncommon products that were very hard to practice seeing as 98% of people have never used them (although they are gaining prominence recently).The ones that aren’t a part of the exam anymore are:
    • vCenter Server Linked Mode
    • Orchestrator
    • vShield Zones
    • vCenter Heartbeat
  • The exam is obviously based on vSphere 5 and so as you would imagine there are a number of the new features that have been introduced in vSphere 5 that are part of the blueprint like Storage DRS and the new Auto Deploy features to name but two.
  • The recommended courses are also different as with VCAP4-DCA there were four recommended courses aka:

But with the VCAP5-DCA there are only two recommended courses:

I do think it’s a shame there aren’t the kinds of courses there were for the VCAP4 as I learnt an unbelievable amount from the courses and will be using Trainsignal videos and the official course notes I received from doing two of the recommended courses to help me prepare for the VCAP5-DCA beta

The Similarities

The following things are the same as the VCAP4-DCA:

  • The passing score is still 300 and is scaled. Scaled scores are calculated using a mathematical formula that considers a variety of factors, including the number and type of exam questions included in a specific version of the exam
  • The exam time is still 210 minutes for English speaking countries. Extra time is given for non-English speaking countries the same as they do for the VCP exams.
  • Having your VCP (in this case the VCP5) is a pre-requisite for the exam and you will still need to put in an authorisation request like you did for the VCAP4 before being able to book the exam. If you are a VCAP4-DCA but do not have your VCP5 and pass the VCAP5-DCA exam within the first three months from release of the live exam you will also be awarded your VCP5 credential.
  • You can book the exam via Pearson VUE’s website at http://www.pearsonvue.com/vmware. The exam will be in the usual Pearson VUE testing centres that offer VCAP-level exams and there may not be a centre near you offering the exam.
  • The security for the exam is still the enhanced method where they won’t let you take in anything to the exam room even your watch and you will be required to have a photo taken and do a digital signature over and above the normal exam sign in procedures.
  • So as to not repeat what has been done so well, Ed Grigson also got permission from Randy to blog about his inclusion in the beta and has done a brilliant breakdown of the similarities and differences between the blueprints of the VCAP4-DCA and the VCAP5-DCA in his blog posting here

There has been information about the infrastructure you will be expected to use during the VCAP5 exam, which will be two ESXi hosts and a vCenter server. This is very much like the VCAP4 exam environment but a subtle difference which VCAP4-DCA takers will fully recognise.

I will be linking to all the resources I’m using for both the VCAP exams on my VCAP5-DCA and DCD resources page and plan to give an NDA limited review of my thoughts of the beta exam and if it was harder/easier or the same as the VCAP4-DCA.

Good luck to all those people selected to do the beta exam and keep an eye out for my home lab postings in my preparation for the exam.

Gregg


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All Things Virtual 27

 

Yep I’ve decided to start trying to build up my All Things Virtual postings so as to try help myself keep up to date on the latest news happening in the virtualisation arena and also help people like myself who don’t have the time during the day/work week to keep up to date on the latest blog postings,news and articles. I’ve only listed the past few week’s worth of blog postings that have caught my interest and for future All Things Virtual I’m planning on doing it fortnightly/monthly.

First on my list is a reminder to all that the “applications” for the VMware vExpert title are still open. there are now three paths for the title which I blogged about in my VMware vExpert 2012 nominations and applications are open blog posting. You can find the application form and all the information also on the vExpert communities page here

Next was the results of Eric Sieberts yearly Top Virtualisation Blog poll. I was very honoured to be included in the voting this year for the first time and came in at 103rd which I’m really pleased about Smile. A massively congratulations to all the top 10 and top 25 blogs and it’s amazing to see that 1 in 10 of the blogs in the votes were from the London VMware User Group #LonVMUG crew.

The mad rush for the VCP5 upgrade before the end of February cut off date is in full swing. Almost all my colleagues at Xtravirt have done theirs in the past week and almost every day loads and loads of the people I follow on twitter are posting about their passing of the exam. For those that have decided to bypass the cut off date due to possibly already having done the what’s new course or are happy to do the what’s new course there is a massive amount of top resources out there for you to use. I’ve tried to list them all on my VCP5 page. Cody Bunch’s VCP5 Brownbag series is now in full swing with videos of all the objectives listed by Cody in his VCP5 Brownbag Playlist posting.

Talking of certifications there were four new VCDX’s announced, so a massive and envious congratulations to Tom Arentsen @tomarentsen,Mike Brown @vmikebrown, Matthew Meyer @mattdmeyer and Hugo Phan @hugophan. Hugo did a very helpful blog posting all about his 5 simple steps to the VCDX certification . His steps do seem very manageable and are great for those people out there feeling up for the challenge. One of the people who has already thrown his hat in the ring is fellow vExpert and top blogger Christian Mohn who announced his intent in his blog posting here . Good luck Christian, maybe now that my new role with Xtravirt is gaining me some serious design exposure and experience I may join you in attempting the VCDX if i can find the time to do what I couldn’t do for VCAP4 and gain both my VCAP5-DCA and DCD. I’ll keep you all posted on my decision Smile

Next is a posting by Gabrie van Zanten all about the Auto Deploy GUI VMware fling. Gabrie does a great walkthrough of how to use the tool and how it makes your life much easier. I’m currently planning to use the tool in my testing of Auto Deploy in my home lab and hopefully it’s as good as he describes

As I’ve mentioned loads of times in my VCAP4,VCP5 and VCAP5 study resources pages, the trainsignal videos are an amazing learning resource in my opinion and are as good if not better than attending the respective courses. TrainSignal have recently released the VMware View 5 Essentials Training videos. The videos are described by Trainsignal as  “Virtualisation experts Brian Knudtson and Lane Leverett guide you from VDI basics, through app virtualization and more. Learn how to get your View environment up and running and reduce costs for your end-user desktops”. I’m currently started to use these videos in my attempt to strengthen my VDI skills and hopefully if all goes to plan try obtain my VCP5-DT.

Talking about VMware View and the VCP5-DT, the VMware View 5 Install Configure and Manage course was released in early January and Eric Sloof posted all about it in his posting here. The course looks really good and maybe if I am given the opportunity i may be able to attend it and give a good overview for anyone thinking about attending the course.

Lastly, a massive thanks to John Troyer and Alex Maier for the vExpert gift and Certificate. I’ve already started using my bag as my main bag and geekingly added my vExpert and blogger badges from the past two VMworld’s also (yep I’m sad)

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Gregg


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January 2012 London VMware User Group

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to not only attend the London VMware user Group but actually presentclip_image002. The day started pretty early and due to traffic I arrived half an hour late to the welcome and introduction from Alaric Davies so snuck into the back to not disturb and t allow me to have one or two last read through’s of my session at the end of the day.

The first session was from Symantec all about their ApplicationHA offering and then a live demo of bringing down a SQL instance on a virtual machine and how Application HA would automatically restart the service. They next demoed the product by deleting the database and showed how ApplicationHA would utilise Backup Exec to restore the database back and get it working again. A very cool product and one I’m hoping to test out in my home lab although sadly I wasn’t able to get myself an NFR licence that they were offering from their stand so hopefully I can find it and play with it.(UPDATE: Symantec saw this posting and have got in contact with me and have given me an NFR licence =0) ) Below is a video of what was shown to us on Thursday

ApplicationHA and Backup Exec Auto Recovery Demo

Next was Chris Kranz and Alex Smith presenting a session titled “would you like fries with your VM?” the session was a really great one as the guys spoke about how the landscape for IT professionals is constantly changing and how a normal server administrator was replaced quite largely by virtualisation and advancements in automation and with every release of the vSphere suite of products more and more work is being taken away from storage admins and network admins and now with cloud picking up the virtualisation admins are having to adapt or lose their roles. A very chilling reminder that if you don’t adapt in IT sooner or later you’ll be out of a job.

There was then a break where I got to meet a soon to start recruitment for Xtravirt Sean Duffy and chat about South Africa a bit with him being a Saffa too clip_image004I also talked shop with Alan Renouf, Steve Chambers, Simon Davies, Ed Grigson, Jeremy Bowman and Harry Potter look alike Jonathan Medd.

The next session I attended was the VMware View session titled “End User Computing: Today & Tomorrow” by Clive Wenman from VMware. Sadly due to connection speeds he wasn’t able to do the demo he wanted but instead gave us a good overview of the new features in VMware View 5 and ThinApp 5. We then got talking about Horizon Manager and got a nice impromptu demo of the product and how it works which was highly interesting to me and looks to be a very good product once it’s released outside the US.

After lunch I attended the NimbleStorage presentation all about their offerings and the savings their products can bring you and how it all works. for me personally there was tiny bit too much comparison to competitors products but the product does look very interesting and I might actually be getting my hands on the product in my current role so hopefully I can write up and posting or two on my thought on the product once I’ve had a good play with it clip_image006

Next was Dave Hill and Aidan Dalgleish presenting largely what Dave and Chris Collotti presented at the VMworld last year titled “Private vCloud Architecture Deep Dive”. I found this highly interesting as it was something I had hoped to attend at VMworld Europe but unfortunately due to the times they did them I was unable to attend. The session was highly interesting and gave loads of reference architectures and all the varying network pool methods and what each will enable you to do. I think the main recommendation from Dave that I think everyone needs to remember is that you need to build your vSphere environment correctly or else you vCloud environment won’t work like it should.

Now was the time of reckoning, my session was due and a number of people I chat to on twitter had made sure they were in the front row to heckle me and ask me loads of questions too. I was due to co-host the session with Scott Vessey from Global knowledge and of vmwaretraining.blogspot.com fame. My presentation was half around my VCP5 study resources page and all the resources mentioned on there that I used in my preparations for the VCP5 exam and how they helped me pass the exam and then a whole bunch of sample questions from Global Knowledge’s VCP5 Exam Preparation Workshop. Even though I started off quite nervous I think it went well and once we got to the sample questions at the end there were loads of discussions around the answers with some of the questions getting people calling out all the answers as correct even though there was actually only one correct answer. Quite few people said they enjoyed it and I think I put the fear into a large portion of the people in the audience after the sample questions and those knowing that have 31 days until the waiver period for VCP4 holders not needing to do the What’s New course to pass expires.

Afterwards we made our way to vBeers where I got to talk to loads of people (including fellow Xtravirt new starter Darren Woollard)and got some very helpful pointers on how to improve my presentation skills in my aim to hopefully present at VMworld this year. The day was a huge success in my opinion and it was great that over half the attendees were first time attendees! Thanks to the VMUG panel for setting it all up and hopefully I can attend the next one on the 17th of May (work permitting of course)

Gregg


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January 2012 London VMware Users Group (LONVMUG) and I’m presenting

Just a very quick posting to remind anyone around the south of England or who is willing to come to the south of England for it that the next London VMware User Group (LonVMUG) and the first one of 2012 is happening on Thursday the 26th of January. Also I’ll be presenting at it, the first time I’ve ever done a session at a VMUG. Mine will be around my VCP 5 Study Resources, my exam experiences and a few surprises Smile

If you haven’t registered I would highly recommend you do so ASAP as these are more often than not fully booked a week or two before the event. You can register for the event here and hopefully I’ll get to meet you there.

After the VMUG the standard vBeers will take place. If you’ve somehow never heard of vBeers before the below is just for you Smile.

vBeers

Is an informal get together of virtualisation enthusiasts and professionals to meet and discuss all things IT. It’s a great opportunity to network, learn and meet like minded people.

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The following is part quoted from Simon Seagrave’s Website :

Enjoy Talking Virtualization? Come & Socialise at vBeers!

vBeers[7]Fancy meeting up every month with other IT virtualization enthusiasts to socialise and chat over a cold beer, wine or soft-drink? If so, then vBeers is for you! This is a great opportunity to meet with other virtualization enthusiasts and professionals and enjoy discussing all things virtualization, and in fact anything else that comes up in conversation…

vBeers is open to everyone so whether you are a VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer user/fan or none of the above it really doesn’t matter as “it’s all about the virtualization”.

The London vBeers meet-up is held at the Pavilion End Pub . Details and directions below:

When & Where

The London vBeers are held on the first Thursday of every month or after a VMUG meeting starting at 6pm in the ‘pavilion end pub

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Location: The ‘pavilion end pub’, London

Address: 23 Watling Street Moorgate EC4M 9BR

Date: First Thursday of every month and after VMUG meetings

Time: 6:00pm

Map:

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Gregg


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VCP 5 Exam Experience.

This morning I sat my VCP 5 after around two and half weeks of studying. As I’m sure, you know I’m under NDA so I can’t mention too much but what I can I will in the hope that maybe it will help someone prepare better and thereby pass the exam.

I utilised a large amount of resources although due to my time constraints I did have to pick and choose which ones I felt would help me most. All the resources I used in my preparations are listed on my VCP 5 page here: https://thesaffageek.co.uk/vcp5/ .The ones i personally used from my list were:

  • The vSphere 5 Trainsignal videos by David M Davis and Elias Khnaser. I watched all the videos as i wanted to make sure i didn’t miss a low level setting that might come up in the exam and had a feeling the VCP 5 would require you to know each features inside out (which they do)
  • I know not helpful for people who haven’t attempted it but the preparations for my VCAP4-DCA really helped me as it gave me a really good base knowledge and loads of experience installing configuring and managing loads of the less utilised features. Off of this i would recommend getting loads of hands on lab time and make sure you install all the features and know how they work as the exam is based much more on experience rather than picking the new feature in vSphere 5 from a list. As mentioned in the BrownBag webinar I did last week with Damian Karlson you can create a lab from a few desktop computers or even use VMware workstation on your laptop and build a small lab that way.
  • The vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive by Frank Denneman and Duncan Epping helped me loads! the exam doesn’t expect you to know the deepest configurations but i read the whole book anyway and it really did help me better understand how it all works and even if you don’t want to read the whole thing then get the book and read the first few chapters of each of the sections so you know how it all works and what the new features are all about.
  • Andrea Mauro’s study guides were amazing and really helped me systematically make my way through the blueprint and flagged up points i possibly wasn’t very strong in so I could go research and learn more about it. All his guides are on his blog here: http://vinfrastructure.it/certifications-on-virtualization/vcp/vcp5/. They really are great
  • One of the resources I used to do the further research of features I wasn’t that strong in was Scott Lowe’s Mastering VMware vSphere 5 book. The book is great and gives amazing examples and explanations for all the features. Due to time constraints, i wasn’t able to read the whole book but it was really helpful for further studies and if I had more time I would have liked to have read the book.
  • The practice exams by Simon Long and the VMware mock exam were highly beneficial as they gave me a really good idea of the style of questions and helped flag up parts I was weak in and thereby needed to spend more time studying. As mentioned in the BrownBag, if you get 100% for the VMware mock exam you can’t retake it, which is insane but something to keep in mind.
  • I did mention it above but I feel it’s so important I want to mention it again. Get yourself a lab/build a lab on your laptop/desktop and practice everything as the exam is based on experience so the only way you are going to get a really good understanding of how everything works and all the features and settings is to get a number of practice hours in.

Well that’s all the things I used for the exam and I’m pleased to say I passed the examclip_image001. The score was a lot closer than I had hoped but seeing as the exam was so difficult I’m very pleased with my pass. Good luck to anyone sitting the exam soon.

Gregg