TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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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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VCDX Spotlight- Andrea Mauro

Name: Andrea Mauro

Twitter Handle: @Andrea_Mauro

Blog URL: http://vinfrastructure.it

Current Employer : Assyrus Srl (Italian company)

VCDX #: 35

How did you get into using VMware?

As most people I’ve started of course with VMware Workstation and honestly not with the ESX 1.0 (I remember that was not possible, at least in my Country) to have an evaluation or trial version.

My first virtualization project (for academic purposes) was building a virtual honeynet with Linux UML (it was the end of 2001). My first virtualization project based for a production system virtualization solution was instead with VMware ESX 2.5.

After that I’ve follow a lot of virtualization projects and I’ve started also to give some contribution to the VMTN Community (my nick is AndreTheGiant). This probably has open new perspectives, outside the limits of my Country and my native language (that isn’t English). For example, I’ve tried to applied with success to the VCDX3 path and also to vExpert 2010, 2011 and 2012.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The first time that I hear about VCDX was in the middle of 2008, and I filled the VCDX Qualification Review on August 21, 2008, just for curiosity and as a challenge.

I was thinking (wrong) that there were some intermediate certifications for each step (now there are the VCAP certification, but only for the VCDX4 path), and I was very interested to prove myself knowledge on the Admin exam.

I also was thinking that the VCDX certification was only of VMware gurus and only for big enterprise environments… But I’ve reconsidering that also in a medium project you may have several aspects and consideration that could be similar in a big project. You have only to design something that could scale.

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

I filled the VCDX Qualification Review on August 21, 2008. But the entire VCDX path was not available yet.

On September 8th 2008 I receive this mail with the blueprint of the Admin exam:

“Thank you for you interest in the VMware Certified Design Expert Program. We have received your pre-registration survey and are working to schedule more Enterprise Administration Exams. As soon as we have more dates and locations scheduled, we will send you the appropriate information.”

On February 12th 2009 I receive another e-mail with the great opportunity to take the Admin exam at VMworld Europe in Cannes. I schedule the exam at February 23rd 2009. On March 19 I receive the report with the result… PASS!!!

At this point was clear for me, that the intermediate steps are not useful… So I tried the full path and start studying for the Design exam. Unfortunately I lose the opportunity to take the beta exam of the Design exam… So I had to wait until the official exam was available. So I take the exam on October 23rd 2009, and I pass at the first attempt.

Then I scheduled the Defense step at the Partner Exchange 2010 at Feb 10th 2010.

So is more than one year… but with several dead-time due to the non-availability on the exams or the date (without them 3-6 months could be reasonable). A disadvantage to be in the early phase!

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

VCDX is not a status… it is just a path where the journey is more important than the final result (and also if you fail it could be useful). And you have never finished… VCDX follows the vSphere products and you have to study and pass other exams to upgrade it.

It’s probably one of the hardest certifications, for the required time, for the type of steps (there are practical labs in the VCAP-DCA, questions and design in the VCAP-DCD, design project, presentation, discussions, … really a lot of capacities are tested in this certification), for the coverage of the arguments (not strictly only VMware related).

And it’s also a way to approach and think to your virtualization projects.

Maybe today you are not ready for this certification, but from VCDX4 there are intermediate certifications (the VCAP exams), so you can just start the journey and then reconsider your goals.

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

Good question! Probably the same.

But I have to admit that know is a “little” simpler (compared to the first years): lot of documentation, candidates experiences, hints, examples, workshops, … this could really help in the preparation. So you could be more focus on what you have to do, and not also on what you could expect.

Now there are also several other products that you can integrate in a VCDX design and discuss in the defense. Could be another interesting opportunity.

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

Basically my professional life has not changed at all, but this was my choice. After the certification I’ve received several interesting proposal, but I like my jobs and I’ve chosen (for this period) to remain in the “same boat”.

I work in a small company, but I’m the co-founder of this company so it is something that I feel is mine.


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VCDX Spotlight–Jason Boche

Name: Jason Boche

Twitter Handle: @jasonboche

Blog URL: http://boche.net/blog/

Current Employer : Dell Compellent

VCDX #: 34

How did you get into using VMware?

It was early in the year 2000 that my co-worker at the time, Paul Tisl (@PaulTisl), introduced me to VMware Workstation 2.x where we both worked for a large bank. I remember being paranoid at first that installing a Windows VM was going to hose the boot record of my physical workstation.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

Sometime around 2008 I first started hearing rumours about an advanced VMware certification with a design focus. By this point I already had a few VCPs under my belt. Collectively I had built a handful of virtualized environments and I was spending a lot of time on the VMware forums covering as much as I could including expert level topics with knowledge I had picked up from others in the community including some key ones such as (in no particular order) Scott Herold, Mike Laverick, Ron Oglesby, Ken Cline, Steve Beaver, Thomas Bryant, Jason Mills, Joel Lockbaum, and Brian Gallob. I was already a proponent of technical certifications so combined with my VMware focus and enthusiasm, it seemed pretty clear that VCDX should be next on the list of goals. Admittedly, at the time with no program details, I didn’t realize how difficult it would actually be. I assumed it would just be a few more advanced exams at the local testing center. I was partially right.

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

That’s an interesting question and the answer really depends on what a person considers the starting point of the journey. If I focus only on the program questionnaire, the 3 written exams, the design submission, and the defense, then I’ll tell you it took a little less than a year. I went through the process fairly early so you have to factor in at the time the program moved somewhat slowly from step to step where candidates were invited to the next phase at some point after completing the previous phase and there were significant gaps of time between each phase before the next invitation would come from VMware. I began the written exams in July of 2009, submitted my design and defense application in December, and passed the defense in February 2010 at Partner Exchange in Las Vegas. However, I would argue “the journey” doesn’t start with written exams. Much of what’s tested on comes from experience in the datacenter and that doesn’t solely equate to VMware experience. The required skillset extends well beyond the boundaries of a hypervisor. Storage, networking, security, operations, documentation, presentation, design, troubleshooting, all of these skills are required at one point or another during the written exams and then finally are all tied together for the design submission and defense. To summarize, my certification track took roughly 9 months but the journey is measured in years.

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

Understand that it takes commitment in terms of family/work/life balance so make sure the time is right for you and your family. The process takes time. There are no shortcuts. Take it slow and absorb what you pick up along the way because you’ll need to summon everything you’ve learned at the very end. Should the hard work pay off with a passing result, you’ll want to retain these skills anyway as you move forward with your career and give your best to each of your valued clients.

Also understand that VCDX certification is not meant for any stage of every person’s career path. There are many VCDX resources and accounts available for reading on blogs. Read through several of them to get a clear understanding of what’s required and then perform an honest assessment of yourself. Ask for an honest assessment from credible peers. Make sure you’re ready and you’re cut out for it. Merely having the financial backing to get through the process is not a substitute for the skillset required to achieve success and there is absolutely no shame in waiting. Rushing prematurely will more than likely yield frustration in the process.

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

Considering I was lucky enough to achieve a successful result on my first attempt, I’d be a fool to change anything. Ok, I would change one thing: I would have submitted a complete set of design documentation the first time around instead of forgetting one key document. Fortunately VMware allowed me a few extra days to come up with the missing document while still securing my defense slot.

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

When I went through the VCDX process, I was in a VMware customer role and had worked in a customer/end user roles in large enterprise environments for 13 years. I was not working as a consultant or architect for a partner or a vendor. Upon passing, I received a few personal congratulations but the VCDX goal was my own personal goal and not a goal established or valued greatly by my employer. I am grateful that my employer funded my expenses but if required I would have paid for them myself since I had the momentum and the desire. A year later, in order to put my skills to better use, I moved to a VMware partner. Was it worth it? Absolutely. No question about it.