VCAP7-CMA Exam Review

Recently I sat the VCAP Design exam for Cloud Management and Automation based on vRA7.2. Previously I had sat the version 6 exam and this was based on the traditional split of visio based canvas scenarios and drag and drop questions.  I learned that this version of exam has significant changes to it, and in fact there are no more canvas style questions. Indeed most questions are multiple choice with some drag and drop. The time allocation was also less than before, now only 130 minutes to answer 60 questions!

Study Mode

Going into study mode I felt confident having used vRA7.3 for some time now, however there are still slight differences between 7.2 and 7.3 that I had to brush up on. Additionally, due to the architecture of the product I work on, we don’t have a need to utilize all of what vRA can offer, so I also required a refresher on things like approval policies and the vRA portal.

So, where to start? I am lucky enough to have a lab in work where we develop, so I could use that for a “play around”. I created a new tenant and simply clicked everywhere and anywhere to get a feel for all vRA7 has to offer. I also completed some Hands on Labs from VMware. They are an excellent resource and cater for all levels. From here you can also click around – no need to follow the guide :).  I did focus, however, on the vRA/NSX integration labs. I much prefer these labs to reading but I also brushed up on the design qualities that are always part of these types of exams. Having sat a few based on the DCV track, I always refer to Paul McSharrys official guide and also the DCD 5.5 Study Pack from Jason Grierson which is an excellent reference. I also should point out that the official exam guide here contains some really important references. Continue reading

2018 Personal Objectives (a bit late)

It’s now 6 weeks into the year and i figure it’s finally time to do something that i’ve been meaning to do since late last year… And that’s to to publish my personal objectives for 2018. For me it should be two fold it means they’re publicly out there so i can judge (and be judged) how the year went for me. Secondly i’m sure a lot of my objectives cross over with others in this community so i’m hoping it may spark some conversations and debates as the year goes on.

Certifications:

  • VCAP-DCV – So as posted last year (actually oops, that’s still in draft!) well spoiler alert on the 2nd attempt i got my VCAP-DCD, so it’s high on my list to aim for the 2nd VCAP which would of course unlock VCIX for me. This has to be my #1 goal for the year
  • About a year ago, like so many others i decided to embark on some AWS certs. I started working through the training but then it totally stalled. As i had an expiring exam voucher i forced issue and its scheduled for 3 months time. I need to set aside sufficient time between now and then to give myself any chance. I’m going for AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

New Technologies:

  • Ansible and SaltStack . The scale of things at my new job compared to my old one is staggering. Everything is multiplied by 10x. Therefore it’s going to be essential for me to get much more familiar with configuration management
  • Continue reading

AWS SAA Exam Experience

Recently I wanted to learn more about AWS, mainly for career progression but also because of the noise made this year with VMware and AWS joining forces and the shift towards Hybrid Cloud.

As usual, for motivation, I decided to set the exam date as a focal point to aim for. But uncharacteristically I pushed and pushed this exam and lacked the motivation to study. It was something that was also on my work development plan and had to be achieved and I soon found myself in the start of December without achieving this. Thankfully I was able to successfully pass the exam and am now AWS-SAA.

In order to begin study for this, I started where it seems everyone does and purchased the “acloudguru” course. I bought this of udemy for around $10 around march 2017 – that shows you the levels of my procrastination (albeit I had a failed VCDX attempt this year as well to navigate) The course is a really good baseline for those who have never worked with AWS. The chapters are nice and short, around max 20mins and this is intentional to keep the attention of the listener. Beware you need to give a lot of time to get through this course. There are a lot of labs that you an follow but I found I had to repeat things a few times. Its also worth noting that although the official “acloudguru” site is now subscription based, you can still get good deals from udemy for the individual associate courses. Continue reading

VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale [V6] – On Demand Review

This has been cross posted from my own blog vGemba.net. Go check it out!

I recently was able to take the VMware vSphere: Optimize and Scale [V6] – On Demand course from VMware. Why On Demand and not in a Classroom format? Simple – travel time and costs. I was actually looking for the Design & Deploy Fast Track course but annoyingly it seem to be scheduled very infrequently and only in London. With family and work commitments taking a week out to attend was pretty impossible.

So I started looking at the On Demand option. I was scheduled to take the VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam so the O&S On Demand course seemed like a good fit. This was my first time trying an On Demand course instead of Instructor led in class training. The interface is based on the Hands on Labs so if you are familiar with that you will be comfortable using it. The modules covered were: Continue reading

VCAP-NV (3V0-643) Exam Experience

I have been working with NSX everyday for the last year or so and decided it was time to get the VCAP-NV (3V0-643 exam) out of the way, unfortunately I decided to put myself under a load of time pressure as I booked the exam for about 3 weeks after I started to study… hence the multiple blog posts every night!

I have already sat and passed the VCAP-DCA so had a reasonable idea what the format of this exam might be like i.e. too many questions and not enough time 🙂 The exam system is based on the familiar VMware Hands on Lab interface which is a huge improvement over the last setup in my opinion. There are a couple of tips that are called out at the start of the exam which are well worth doing (setting the manual to float, changing the screen resolution, maximising the screen real estate as much as possible etc.) as the exam kit, at least in the exam centre I was, is still a single tiny monitor! Not what I am used to!

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VCAP6-DCV – So good I thought I’d take it twice

I’d been thinking about taking the plunge on the VCAP for a while, truth be told, thinking about it was pretty much all i’d done. So at the start of August i booked my VMworld ticket and decided to add on a VCAP exam voucher. My thinking was follow the advice of so many before me, set the date and with the impending deadline that would be enough to get my ass into gear.

So i received my voucher, scheduled my exam date, then promptly quit my job….it all happened swiftly and I didn’t really see it coming. So rather than spending four weeks dedicating myself to my study i spent a frantic four weeks trying to tidy up a number of outstanding projects before beginning another chapter of my career. So as far as exam preparation goes it couldn’t have gone much worse.

I found time to watch some vBrownbag design sessions, i finished half of Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design, i read a number of blog articles about what to expect but only managed a fraction of the study that i’d have ideally done.

The day before the exam I spent most of the day trying some last minute cramming but truly felt by that point the damage had been done. I didn’t feel there was much more i could take in so late in the day and that night i was joking with people about how i was failing a VCAP exam the following day.

As i entered the exam i felt pretty lethargic, the prospect of 3.5 hours doing an exam that i didn’t think i had much chance of passing filled me with apathy but well i was there now with nothing better to do. First question was a drag and drop, and to be honest i felt completely at home i knew the topic and promptly rattle off an answer.

I read enough guides to know most people suggest a strategy, dependant on your strengths do all the questions first, leaving all the time for the designs etc. After question one, all my strategising went out the window, i started to answer the second Drag and Drop but it was more complicated and i thought this will take a bit more thought, so i flagged the answer and moved on.

I did this for the next 16 questions, answering any quick hitters and skim reading some of the designs. There was no rhyme and reason to my strategy i just wanted to know what i was up against. When i got to the end i went back through the questions in numerical order with a similar mindset, if it looked “easier” i’d tackle it otherwise i’d move on.

After a couple of passes i’d done 1/3 of the designs and most of the drag and drops. I was about 90 minutes into the allotted time and about two thirds of the way through the exam. Obviously i’d now picked off all the low hanging fruit and i was left with everything that looked either tough or terrifying. I worked my through the remaining Drag and Drops, some i found really ambiguous so was battling internally with the correct answers..

In fact this was probably my biggest issue with the exam as a whole, there were certain answers where i could quite clearly see two schools of argument. For some of them i really felt like i could argue the case for two correct answers, obviously the exam isn’t graded that way but that was what felt so tough. Two answers look right, which one is most right, or more importantly more right in VMware’s eyes?? A customer has enough physical 10GB interfaces for virtual interface requirements should they use physical or VLAN separation? It depends isn’t an acceptable answer

All that remained were the 3 most complicated designs. I battled through them as best i could. One design alone took me in excess of an hour, it was about a physical/vDS design, with port groups and a LAG. I found it incredibly tough, it was a complicated design and there was lots I wasn’t 100% about. Anyway it got to the point where i couldn’t look at it anymore and clicked submit. I submitted about the 3 hour mark so despite everyone’s warnings i didn’t really find time that much of a constraint. “Sorry you have not passed”.

Prior to the exam i was fully prepared to fail and was just expecting to take the experience as a learning opportunity, now despite my lack of prep, as i was about to press the submit button, i genuinely felt I’ve got a chance here.  And it turns out i had,  i was so close to passing that, rather than accepting the expected defeat i was absolutely gutted. 20 odd points, that may just have been 1-2 questions, as is typical with VMware exams all you’re left with is a pretty useless vague list of things to get better at before trying again.

I was pretty downbeat and went to the pub to meet up with some friends. This was when my luck changed, in the pub i bumped into Kyle Jenner (who has an outstanding VCAP study guide on his blog) who i’d only met for the first time the night before. He knew i was sitting the VCAP so we talked about it. Anyway it turned out a lot of my experience married his first attempt, we were able to talk through some of the designs and he helped me see where i’d made some of my mistakes.

By the end of the night i felt pretty good about it again, i took a shot with little prep and got bloody close. That meant i was on the right track, my actual real world experience had got me within touching distance of a pass. A bit more discipline, a bit more study (especially vSan as it came up a couple of times and i’ve never been hands on with it) and i’d be ready to take a second crack.

to be continued…