VCAP-DCV Design exam notes

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As the VCAP-DCV Design 2020 certification is going to be released (but the 3V0-624 exam is not scheduled to be retired yet) on Jan 1, 2020.

Recently I made another post about my experience with this exam where I failed, check it here.

For your information, at the moment the 3V0-624 is the current exam code for the VCAP-DCV 6.5 Design certification (Also named VCAP-DCV Design 2019), always check the code for the exam no matter which is the certification name.

I decided to share with you some notes for this kind of exams no matter which version.

This information will be more helpful for people that have never taken this exam rather than those who are experienced in these advanced exams.

Audience

The Design exams (VCAP-XXX Design) are mainly for IT Architects (sounds cool?) but, why for architects? Well, if you check the blueprint, you will see a couple of sections and not many objectives. The truth is hidden inside each section, which is huge and covers many aspects.

Could you pass this exam without being an IT architect? Of course!

trust_me_architect

Many did it (not in my case yet) by studying and having a lot of design experience, or also helped doing designs with other peers for example. Also, you can gain all the knowledge of all areas and study your main gaps.

The goal is to design VMware solutions to meet specific goals and requirements, ideally, you should have advanced knowledge of storage, network, compute, end-user computing environments and other components.

You will have to develop a conceptual design given a set of customer requirements, determining which requirements needed to create a logical design and after that creating a physical design with these items.

Technical background

As you are aiming for a VMware certification, you must think in all solutions, features, and elements from vSphere.

Here is a list of the solutions that appear in the Blueprint and are related to VMware of course:

  • vSphere
  • vSAN
  • SRM
  • vROps
  • VVOLs
  • vCenter Converter

Inside each solution, you should know at least the most of the features, functionalities that they offer, dependencies between them and test them (if you can).

Apart from knowing about these technologies related to VMware, there are obviously the core areas that compose a general IT infrastructure: Storage, networking and compute.

So, be prepared to dig on each area and know about dependencies between each other and with other solutions.

Advanced knowledge is desirable (and you will be tested) on each area would deserve more than post so, I am not going to explain anything right now about it 🙂

Aiming for the exam

Your main guide must be the blueprint, no matter what other unofficial guides say (although they are very helpful). In the blueprint you will have all the sections and objectives that will be qualified.

This exam requires to read a lot (more if your daily job isn’t designing solutions) and not just books to gather information about how to gather requirements from the customer and match them to terminologies like RAMPS or RRAC (I will explain a bit of those later), also all the technical papers that the blueprint mention (+50).

Conceptual, Logical and Physical Design, you will see this a lot and once you understand it, you will see why.

You must check all the references (documents) that the blueprint mentions because most of them will appear in the exam.

Some key points from all the features, elements or products I think will be:

  • Dependencies: Know the dependencies between solutions. What do you need to enable vSAN, apart from at least 1 SSD/Flash and 1 SAS/SATA disk? It also requires vCenter and DNS.
  • Advantages and disadvantages: Does SRM perform replication? Is HA better to ensure availability than FT? Which solution can achieve a 5-minute RPO? vSAN
  • Maximums and limitations: vSphere 6.5U1 supports a maximum of 4 PSCs per site, behind a LB. Also a maximum of 10 PSCs per vSphere Domain.
  • Upgrade paths: How would you upgrade a vSphere 6.0 environment to 6.5 with external PSC?
  • Determine RCAR: Differentiate between requirements, constraints, assumptions, and risks.
  • RAMPS: Build recoverability, availability, manageability, performance, and security into a vSphere Logical Design.
  • Gather and analyze business and application requirements from customer interview data, determine customer priorities for defined objectives and categorize those requirements by infrastructure qualities.

In the post, I mentioned to you at the beginning there are some resources which are quite helpful in order to learn and improve your non-tech skills.

Summary

There is so much information to digest if you don’t have a certain level of knowledge in vSphere and the “art” of designing solutions, which could lead you to study a lot of products, methodologies, and features in probably, a great amount of time.

But don’t be impatient, it will take you time but, review each section and check the concepts, products or features that you’re not familiar with.

Check videos and other unofficial guides that probably will make other fellows from the community.

This exam is about theory so, you will be tested as an architect who designs solutions based on customer or application requirements and how to match them to a VMware design.

It is difficult to generalize all the things that can appear in past, present, and future VCAP-DCV Design certifications but I tried to give you as much information as I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VCAP6.5-DCV Design failed exam experience

fail-better
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Recently I took the 3V0-624 exam (a.k.a. VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design Exam) and I failed (266/500).

fail-better

I took it on September, 4th (a month and a half ago) and as I was on holiday and now preparing things for VMworld Europe I won’t be able to study after the event.

I recognize, I study a bit in a rush. In just one month for someone who is daily tasks aren’t about architecture, it can be hard (or not). In my case, this rush was influenced due to leaving on vacation for more than 2 weeks. Then, I decided to give it a try before leaving but, the outcome wasn’t what someone would like!

Let me share my experience in the exam, some thoughts, resources, and notes that maybe can help you.

Know yourself

What I want to say in this section is knowing your limitations and experience against the exam. I am not going to do a comparison against the blueprint right now but, check the blueprint and be honest to yourself.

This exam is called “Design” and that means having a broad knowledge on many areas (like networking, storage, computing, hardware, etc.), a different mindset than an engineer (the famous “holistic” view that architects have).

So, basically, check all the sections in the blueprint and match them against your knowledge. Are there too many gaps? Then, you probably need more experience and a lot of time to study (or both) but definitely, the experience becomes very handy for this exam.

(I recommend you to check the blueprint from the VCAP6-DCV Design which is quite better than the 6.5 version (in fact, it has the resources split into sections instead of giving you a list of 50+ resources like in the 6.5 version).

I am not an architect but I did some projects from the scratch (small ones) and participated in others that were normal (I don’t want to say big because it is subjective) as a technical reference so, I had some of the knowledge regarding how to approach a project

Expect to gather the requirements, find “RRAC” (Requirements, Risks, Assumptions and Constraints) and also I had knowledge in DC architecture, vSphere (obviously) and other products from VMware (this is a VMware exam so don’t expect another thing!).

Study Resources

There are many resources that you can find on the internet:

Blog posts:

 

The books I read:

  • VCAP5-DCD guide
  • IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design: A Practical Guide for IT Architects
  • VMware vSphere Design 2nd Edition

Obviously I reviewed all the technical papers from the blueprint and you should too (at least check if you understand the main concept).

The exam

As the official webpage states, there are 60 questions and you have 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes) to complete the exam. This is plenty of time for anyone I think.

I read other experiences and almost anyone had a lot of time left in the clock before finishing the exam. When I took it, I reviewed the questions and there were almost 30 minutes.

Questions can be large so, maybe you want to read it a couple of times or even when you’re answering it.

The format of the exam is multiple-choice, matching and drag and drop. That means that all questions won’t have a single choice solution.

Even I had time to finish the exam without looking at the clock too much, I failed with a score of 266 (passing score is 300 like many other VMware exams). That means that I need to review which were my weakest points, resolve my doubts and catch up with all I studied a couple of months ago.

Notes

As far as I know, this exam goes until ESXi 6.5 U1 (which is the latest release before the blueprint came out).

Review dependencies between all products and features within vSphere (especially the ones related to the RAMPS concept).

The conceptual, logical and physical design concepts must be mastered.

Review limitations on each feature (HA, DRS, FT, etc.) or product (vSAN, SRM, etc.).

The vBrownbag videos and books like the “VCAP5-DCD guide” can be very helpful even though are “older”. About books. the “vSphere Design 2nd edition” along with the “IT Architect series: Foundation in the art of infrastructure design” will give you a general vision of all concepts that an architect must know.

Check the blueprint from the VCAP6-DCV Design as the objectives are the same as the 6.5 version but better explained and with references on each section.

 

So, that’s all I wanted to say and I hope that even I didn’t pass in this first attempt, it can help other people willing to take it in the future.

Sometimes you have to fail better before succeed.

Exam 70-743, Upgrading MCSA Windows Server 2016 experience

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I will explain quickly my experience regarding the Exam 70-743, Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA: Windows Server 2016 exam from Microsoft I took last April.

It’s been a while since I took an exam from Microsoft (the latest was in 2013 I think) where you probably know that these kind of exams are multiple-choice or single-choice.

Through my career, I saw a lot of people cheating with these exams by memorizing the questions you can find on the internet and finishing it in just 20 minutes.

Despite I envied these persons because they weren’t putting the same effort as I did, in the end, this was translated in almost no knowledge about what they practiced nor familiar with all the features that Windows Server offers.

So, I encourage you to study the materials and practice in order to learn and bring value to yourself if you want to use these technologies from Microsoft.

The blueprint and webpage for this exam is the following one: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-743.aspx

 

About the exam

In my case, although I am experienced with Windows Server this kind of upgrade exams, which consists in a 3 in 1 exam, can be scary for someone who’s new or hasn’t touched many roles that Windows Server has.

Even I installed almost all roles from Windows Server 2016 there are some of them that aren’t so common and you should practice it in a homelab (best way to stick in your mind).

There are around 60 questions (the quantity may differ) chosen from the following exams:

Regarding the questions there is a mix of Drag and Drop, Radio buttons, Checkboxes, …you know, the usual ones in this kind of exams.

Important: Be aware that the feature “Nano Server” was removed/deprecated in Windows Server 2016 time ago, here is the official post from Microsoft: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/get-started/deprecated-features

Also read the changes that this exam suffered, in the official change document that Microsoft provides (is in the blueprint): https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE2IoQP

So, even if you see a lot of information about Nano Server in guides or courses in my case I didn’t find any question in the exam related to it (as it was deprecated years ago).

 

Resources and suggestions

As a resource, I mainly used this course from Pluralsight (not free): https://app.pluralsight.com/paths/certificate/upgrading-your-skills-to-mcsa-windows-server-2016-70-743

There are a lot of videos there, I checked the ones I felt more insecure and practiced in the lab. Also, I do recommend that you use Powershell to install and configure everything you can and in this way, you will get used to it.

As this is a 3 in 1 exam, the range of features and roles to know is huge, knowing a bit of everything will help you to pass but, without practice, you won’t get anywhere…

Having experience helps a lot but if it’s not your case, focus on the roles and features you never used or are not used to use (ADFS, NPS, RRAS, Hyper-V, etc.).

 

So…

To conclude, I can say it’s a fair exam and a bit challenging maybe but if you practice a lot with all the roles that Windows Server 2016 offers and know the differences from Windows Server 2012 R2.

Also, the most important I think…practice with Powershell. It won’t only help you with the exam also, in your future!

 

 

 

 

 

Experience at a local VMUG – Barcelona VMUG

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I am going to talk about my experience at a local VMUG, in my case the VMUG from Barcelona (BCN). It was my first time at a local VMUG event and this is why I decided to share my thoughts about it.

VMUG – What is?

As you probably know VMUG stands for VMware User Group. Basically, you will find an international community of people where they share their experiences and discuss things related to VMware and other technologies.

At your local VMUG, you will find VMUG members that you can meet online or in person, sponsors. There you can find many passionate people about VMware and connect with them, so I highly recommend to attend to the VMUG events as it is a great experience to learn concepts or technologies and connect with a lot of people.

There are many communities around the world if you want to find your local VMUG go and register at https://www.vmug.com/

vmug_booth

VMUG – Why attend?

Because you won’t regret it!

I didn’t imagine that the environment and people were so good, everyone is passioned about technology, mainly VMware things, and you can hear their stories and share experiences that both probably lived in your life.

Hence, it doesn’t matter if you’re presenting or attending your local VMUG, the thing is to go there, meet people and learn about the sessions! You will find that a lot of people share some passion for VMware and technology so, don’t be shy to say hello and try to meet them.

Presenting at a local VMUG

I’ve been involved in this local VMUG for a year approximately but, I never had the chance to attend any event. Since VMworld I didn’t hear anything about a new event so, I spoke with the VMUG forum about when would be a new event and finally, it ended with myself presenting my session.

In my case, I presented a session (in Spanish) about Clones in vSphere (I’ll do a post about presenting in the near future) on March, 15th.vmug_present_aboutme

You didn’t expect something like my case, I was lucky to present at my first time in this event but, usually, it’s better to go there and meet the people before presenting and not in the other way.

Final thoughts

I am glad that I finally was able to attend and meet a lot of VMUG members, you can learn a lot from people through their sessions and also make connections that will be valuable in the future.

I would highly recommend attending and experience the passion of VMUG members and the knowledge that you can gather from them.

Also, I would like to acknowledge the VMUG leaders from the BCN VMUG for letting me present and the sponsors that make it possible.

I hope to see everyone in the next event!

IT skills: Which gap to fill?

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Regarding this nice article, I read while ago from Eric Shanks: https://theithollow.com/2018/03/26/fill-skills-tank/.

I decided to write about it as it’s always in my mind since he published it. In particular, I will talk about what we should learn in order to fill a gap for a position/job in any technology and my experience.

Which path to choose?

I started learning Microsoft (MS) products and then I learned other technologies like Virtualization, Cloud, Storage, etc. In any case, you don’t have to worry about which would be your first technology because you can move later if you realize it doesn’t fit you.

For example, you can start learning Linux  (I hope I had taken that path!) instead of Windows and then move to Windows or learning about Storage, any path would be correct as long as you continue to learn the same technology or a new one.

When you start learning, you have an idea of what do you want to learn: Network, Cloud, Storage, etc. and then try to master that technology or move on to another one. Hence, you must start somewhere in order to grow your knowledge and then, you will decide which technology or technologies do you want to focus on.

As soon as you start you will notice if you like or not, but choose one!

Knowledge lost as a tank with a leak.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Eric Shanks mentioned in his blog https://theithollow.com/2018/03/26/fill-skills-tank/ , is like filling a tank (which drains as time passes by) with your knowledge:

When you learn a new topic it stays in your mind (won’t drain) as long as you keep using it, hence you will gain different levels of knowledge within the topic, in some years maybe you will achieve an advance and then maybe an expert level or maybe not, as not everyone has the ease to learn things. Also, remember that to maintain a certain level you must update your wisdom (due to the topic is always acquiring new updates or features) about the topic and therefore more effort and time to put on.

You can try to learn other things and try to earn the same level of knowledge in each one but, it can be tough to do…You must spend a lot of time updating the different topics and to maintain it. So, we should try to fill our tank with the knowledge we really want or desire (by testing, reading, writing, etc.), in this way, we could maintain a great level of wisdom but, nothing is more useful than practising!

In my personal experience, when you are learning something new (by reading or watching videos) at the end, there is nothing more useful than practising it in a lab, even if you know the steps.

It’s really a way to ingrain in your mind those steps and if you fail when deploying a new product or feature it’s even better 🙂

Filling the gap, but which?

This is what I really wanted to talk.

Sometimes, it can be really hard to achieve a new position because you notice that there are some gaps between your skills and the desired position/job.

About dream jobs…

For example, if your dream position is to be a Technical Architect, you must be good enough in a lot of topics (networking, storage, virtualization, soft skills, etc.) but, can be very difficult to earn expertise on each area(without mentioning the soft skills needed).

As you know, each matter has sub-matters, for example,  if you want to learn VMware, you can learn the Server virtualization platform (vSphere) but, there are other areas like Storage virtualization platform (vSAN) and Network virtualization and Security platform (NSX) for example.

So, here we see that you can be an expert on vSphere but, a lot of positions will demand that you know about vSAN or NSX for example, and you spent a lot of time and effort on being a great expert on vSphere.Then,  do you really need to gain an advanced level before applying to a position that requires it?

Well, it depends, you should figure it out with the Recruiter but at least earn an entry level in the skills that the job requests.

We can conclude that to achieve that position, you must do an approach to each technology so, it usually takes a lot of years of experience and learning

About filling the gap

Another example, if you are a Windows Administrator and now you want to learn about Azure, well, it’s related to Microsoft but it’s different than learning about an another OS. In this case, you should gain knowledge in areas like Storage, Networking and maybe some coding skills.

Hence, we can conclude that you should try to learn at least a bit of every technology (related to your main knowledge) and trying to maintain/update your knowledge in those areas.

Also, bear in mind that the more you learn about different topics, the more you “lose” in other ones, so, my personal advice is to stay close of what do you want to learn and don’t be shy to learn about what you don’t.

 

 

 

 

VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam experience

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hi! I am going to talk about my VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam experience.

I thought about making a huge post about the VCAP6-DCV experience (resources, notes, etc.) but, I don’t want to overwhelm you know. Hence, I am going to make another post for that, hence this post will be shorter and more readable.

1st attempt (Java error at the beginning)

At September, 21st I sat down to take my first attempt in a VCAP exam. I was confident because I was studying the previous 10 weeks approximately and I covered all the objectives.

Well, my exam was scheduled at 10:00 AM, I sat down and my exam starts. The interface is exactly the same as the HOLs, so, if you familiarized with it, you will gain a lot of time!

The lab was deploying and the manual on the right side showed some information but as soon as the lab finishes to deploy…bum!

A Java error appeared: Java error: Unhandled Exception, then I pressed OK and my exam finishes itself!

I contacted the TA and she told me that my exam was finished, and I was like “What? In 2 minutes?”. After spending some hours with Pearson VUE, the TA (Test Administrator) opened a case with Pearson VUE and I left the Test Center.

I left with a feeling that this test center has serious issues, the TA didn’t know how to speak in English (I was taking it in Barcelona, Spain) and finally, I ended talking my self with Pearson VUE and explaining the problem. They couldn’t do anything as my exam was finished (it wasn’t my fault obviously)

A week later I received a voucher code for my crashed exam.

2nd attempt (Manual stuck in loading)

This second attempt was scheduled at October, 5th. I rescheduled in another Test Center as I didn’t trust the TA for that Test Center.

The problem you face with the VCAP exams is that they are delivered in fewer Test Centers, therefore, there are  less available spots to take it. I found another Test Center here in Barcelona, so I scheduled there even I didn’t know that one.

Well, my exam started at 10:00 am, the server’s console loaded correctly after the lab was deployed (nice!) but, the manual didn’t appear, there was only a grey window without content.

After waiting for 5 minutes, I spoke with the TA, and he told me to wait another 5 minutes. So, as expected, the manual was stuck loading and even trying to stop and start the exam didn’t fix the problem.

Hence, the TA contacts Pearson VUE and Pearson VUE fixed the problem this time! But what happened with all the time I lost in my exam? Well, the TA told me Pearson VUE would contact with VMware and the time will be added meanwhile I am taking it.

At that time, the exam started again but I had a weird feeling about.

In the exam, I finished writing down each question number and a brief description on the erasable board, in this manner, I could check quickly which questions I can take first and cross out which I have done.

It was curious that at times, backspace and shift keys worked in Putty. Also, occasionally, during 5-10 minutes I experienced quite delay with the Web Client. I continued with the exam, contacted with the TA about the time but no response from Pearson VUE and time were running out…

The time isn’t going to be added, hence, I had to left like 4 or 5 empty questions because I didn’t have more time (I lost 30 minutes) and the exam finalizes automatically. I felt bad because of the 30 mins. would be nice to try other questions.

After that, I spoke with the TA and he opened a case with Pearson VUE about the time lost. One hour later, I received my score report, 278/500 (almost got it!).

After a few days, Pearson VUE reviewed my case and, as I was close to passing the exam (remember that you need 300/500), I suppose they decided to give me another voucher code, so I felt good about the free re-schedule but bad for the score and the time lost.

3rd attempt (Redeployed lab and final attempt)

Well, this is really a lie, because I “took” 2 exams in a row. Let me explain…

On October, 16th, my exam was scheduled at 10:00 AM, I studied a bit the previous night just to remember some things. My last attempt was 11 days ago and I was focused on other things so, it’s always good to brush up some concepts.

Well, the exam started and the lab was deploying itself… then, it appeared a notification like “Query not found”. This time the manual loaded correctly, but the pop-up appeared all the time, appearing and disappearing, and the console didn’t load as the error appears instead.

Therefore, the TA (Test Administrator) contacted Pearson VUE and for my surprise, Pearson VUE this time could contact VMware quite fast. The TA told me that VMware was going to redeploy another lab (Now my time wasn’t wasted at all!) and I could try in 30 minutes.

Finally, I tried again and it worked correctly, the manual and console loaded correctly so, I took the exam. The connection seemed a bit better so I can’t complain about. Also, the backspace and shift keys worked as in my previous exam, therefore, I took advantage of it.

Now, I tried to answer all questions (I left 1 answer empty because I didn’t want to lose more time) and I finished my exam (well the lab finished and it closes automatically) with a good feeling.

In 1 hour approximately I received the email and…a PASS! Couldn’t be happier! Finally, a full exam without issues made me pass the exam!

Conclusion

I can do a recap of what I learned about my experience with that exam and all the issues I experienced:

  • If you have any problem, contact your TA, don’t waste time to wait for the manual or console to load.
  • Test if backspace and shift keys work! I was concerned that these keys were blocked but I was able to use it and avoid the On-Screen keyboard, maybe it can work for you.
  • Manage your time, manage your time. Everything you will read about this exam (or new ones) is about managing your time and I couldn’t agree more.
  • Use the erasable board! I used to write down each question number and a brief description, it helped me to know if I was running out of time and focus in the “easy” questions.
  • Be aware of the dates, it was like a month ago since I scheduled the first attempt, so, if you are going to take it because your certification is expiring, be sure to schedule it in advance.

I am not going sugar coat the fact that I was happy with the exam’s delivery because I suffered many issues…but, finally, with some patience it was paid-off.

I hope this can be helpful for someone and I will write another post about the resources and how I prepared my self about this exam.

 

Thanks for reading!

Dan Belmonte

VCP6-DCV achieved!

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I am going to start talking about the exam VCP6-DCV from VMware. The main resource you should use is the VMware site: http://bit.ly/1PLshWR

There you can check a path to achieve VCP6-DCV (there is a newer version VCP6.5-DCV). I took path 1, as I wasn’t certified.

Later, I took one official training course, VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V6].

Next, I passed the vSphere 6 Foundations Exam (2V0-620) months ago and finally I did VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Exam (2V0-621).

And finally, last week I passed!

The first exam is an introduction of VMware and I didn’t find it difficult. The second one is more difficult and there is a lot of content to study..

Here you have a list of the resources I used for VCP6-DCV (2V0-621):

Paid resources:

You can use the free trial period and try to study as faster as you can.

Free resources:

But, In fact, what really helped me was to do the Hands-on-Lab (HOLs) and test things in my own lab (create your own ESXi hosts, vCenter, create a cluster, test DRS, HA, FT and so on).

And well, that’s all!